Wake school board requests more voting power for chairman

In a tie isn't enough, school board will say

Staff WriterMarch 2, 2011 

  • Wake County Schools Superintendent TonyTata will have a private meeting this afternoon with the Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP.

    Barber had requested the meeting with Tata in a letter saying he wanted to build a strong working relationship with him. But Barber also reminded Tata that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was still fighting Wake's elimination of the socioeconomic diversity policy, including filing the complaints that have led to a federal civil rights investigation and a probe by an accreditation agency.

    Tata agreed to the meeting last month, saying he looked forward to "having an open and honest conversation." Tata had initially requested a one-on-one meeting but relented when Barber said he wanted to bring people with him to the meeting at the central administration building on Wake Forest Road.

— The Wake County school board voted 5-3 on Tuesday to ask state legislators to give the board's leader power to vote more often.

The board will ask the General Assembly to change the state law that now allows the chairman to vote only to break ties. The restriction was imposed as part of the state law that resulted in the merger of the Wake County and Raleigh City school systems in 1976.

"It lets the public know where the board chair stands," said school board member Chris Malone, who supported the change.

But other board members argued that the policy of only allowing the chairman to break ties helps make the position more impartial.

"I felt the policy we've had since 1976 has served us well," said school board member Kevin Hill, who opposed the request.

School board Chairman Ron Margiotta has found himself breaking a number of ties over the past 15 months as the Republican board majority has passed changes such as eliminating the use of diversity in the student assignment policy.

Margiotta said not being able to vote on all issues limited his ability to let the community know where he stands on issues.

Board members had initially planned to delay the vote for two weeks but supporters of the change raised concerns about missing the March 31 deadline to file new legislation in the state House.

The request for more voting power for the chairman is part of the school board's 2011 Legislative Agenda, which lists the things the school board will lobby legislators on this year.

Other items on the agenda include supporting the ban on collective bargaining by public employees, raising the cap on charter schools, opposing giving school boards taxing authority, requesting more state funding and giving school districts more calendar flexibility.

One addition to the agenda this year is a request that the state review the school accreditation process and provide clarification for school systems. The state used to provide accreditation to school districts.

Accreditation could become useful if Wake's high schools were stripped of their accreditation by AdvancED, the Georgia-based accreditation agency reviewing the school system.

Initially, the board voted to add to the legislative agenda the issue of the chairman's voting and a set of recommendations from the Public School Forum of North Carolina, a nonprofit education think tank. The group had proposed Monday asking state legislators to back ideas such as preschool programs for all at-risk children, remedial help for struggling third-graders and longer school days for struggling schools.

But the board voted 5-3 to reject the entire revised legislative agenda. Some board members raised concerns about giving a blank check to all of the Public School Forum's recommendations, saying they can look at them individually later.

A new motion to approve the legislative agenda, with the recommendation to allow the board's leader to vote, passed 5-3 when Democratic board member Carolyn Morrison crossed party lines to back the resolution.

"We have to have a legislative agenda," Morrison said.

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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