Residents chide Wake school board members at hearing

The school board wanted policy talk. Instead, members got an earful.

Staff WriterJanuary 20, 2011 

  • The reassignment plan would move 4,703 students to different schools for the 2011-12 school year. Much of the plan revolves around filling the new Walnut Creek Elementary School in Southeast Raleigh and allowing students to go to schools closer to where they live as part of a policy that stresses neighborhood schools.

    The last two hearings on the plan will be held today at Garner High School and Monday at Cary High School. The hearings start at 6 p.m.

— Wake County residents on Wednesday loudly criticized the Wake County school board's efforts to end a longstanding diversity policy during a hearing designed to discuss specifics of a reassignment plan for students.

In front of a rowdy crowd of several hundred at Southeast Raleigh High School, school board members heard from a few parents and educators concerned about details of the proposed reassignment plan, which could move 4,703 students to different schools this fall.

But most Wake residents who attended wanted to chastise board members' efforts to switch to a neighborhood school system instead of assigning students based on socioeconomic diversity.

The crowd cheered and gave standing ovations when speakers blasted the new board members' plans. Some held up signs calling for an end to "disintegration."

"It's like you don't even care," said Sam Haney, whose 5-year-old son attends Creech Road Elementary School in Garner. "You should never put anything ahead of the kids."

Some brought attention to national scrutiny that the board has received in recent weeks from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Comedy Central satirist Stephen Colbert.

"Colbert was not making a joke; he was making a point," said Dorothy Thompson, a former teacher.

Of those who spoke about where their children are scheduled to attend school next year, most opposed the plans.Many spoke against plans to move their children from Carnage Middle School to East Wake Middle School.

They said their childrenwould end up farther from their homes if the transfers take effect. School officials say it will be closer.

Some floated other ideas for keeping the school system's strong reputation, such as a developing a different kind of magnet program.

Only a few residents supported the reassignments.

"It will really help me and my children," said Irma Pablo, 55, whose two children attend Middle Creek High School in Apex and are to transfer to Southeast Raleigh. "For me, this change is great."

The hearing was the latest of five public hearings on the 2011-12 student reassignment plan, which is almost 50 percent larger than the one originally proposed by staff. Administrators had recommended moving 3,224 students for this fall.

ray.martin@newsobserver.com or 919-836-4952

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