RALEIGH -- Wake County school board members have just agreed by a 6-2 vote to cooperate with a national accrediting agency's review of the system's high schools.
Board member John Tedesco, who had strongly opposed the review by Georgia-based AdvancED, offered a statement in support of cooperating, saying that the agency had clarified the scope and process of the review. Republicans Tedesco and Debra Goldman joined Democrats Dr. Ann McLaurin, Kevin Hill, Keith Sutton and Carolyn Morrison in supporting the move.
The review by AdvancED was sparked by a complaint by the NAACP, which accused the board of failing to follow its own policies and not acting in the best interest of the community when making changes including discarding Wake County's socio-economic diversity policy. Accreditation is taken into consideration by some colleges, scholarship funds and special programs when considering student applicants.
"With our continued commitment to student achievement, I am encouraging my board colleagues to seize this opportunity to send an unanimous message to our accrediting services that we welcome you to Wake County and look forward with pride to be fully engaged participants in your investigation," Tedesco said in a prepared statement.
The vote to cooperate with AdvancED, which accredits more than 25,000 schools nationally and internationally, came after a 50-minute closed session in which board members heard legal advice about the accreditation review as well as information about an ongoing review by the federal Department of Education.
"I'm glad Mr. Tedesco had a change of heart," said board member Sutton.
Republicans Deborah Prickett and Chris Malone opposed the move, with Malone citing the example of Burke County schools, which recently learned their high schools would likely lose accreditation despite attempts to cooperate with AdvancED. Since the election of four new members in fall 2009, the board has been caught up in controversy about the system's former diversity-based student assignment system, about accreditation, about developing a new assignment plan and the choice of a new superintendent.
During a public comment period, a lone speaker, North Raleigh resident Diana Young-Paiva, gave impassioned remarks in favor of cooperating with AdvancED. Her middle son, a junior at Leesville Road High School, will be applying to colleges in a year or so.
"I have been watching with increasing disbelief the path we are going down," Young-Paiva said. "The thought of him graduating from a school without accreditation is very scary. "
Early on, vice chairman Debra Goldman and Democratic members voted to disapprove the agenda for this morning's meeting. The document gave little specific information about the nature of agenda items and five members voted against approving it without more information.
"It would be very helpful to know what it is we are going to discuss," Goldman said.
Chairman Ron Margiotta said the closed meeting would allow school board lawyers to get the board up to date on two investigations of the system, one by AdvancED, the other by the Office for Civil Rights of the federal Department of Education.
"My personal intention is that the meeting be very short," Margiotta said, adding that he found it difficult to believe that Goldman didn't know what the closed session was about.
"Mr. Margiotta, your condescending comments are not appreciated," Goldman said, getting a response from Margiotta that he felt the same about her remarks.
After discussing the matter, members agreed to hold a short closed session to receive legal advice.
The closed session lasted for 50 minutes.