RALEIGH — Dr. Anne McLaurin, a Democratic Wake County school board member who supported the system's discarded diversity-based approach to student assignment, said Wednesday that she would not seek re-election after her term ends in December, noting that the often-controversial panel is now headed in a better direction.
McLaurin's decision becomes part of a slowly evolving picture of the slate of candidates who will vie for five slots on the nine-member board in Oct. 11 elections.
Chairman Ron Margiotta, a Republican, and Democratic board members Kevin Hill and Keith Sutton have said they will attempt to retain their seats, while another Democrat, Carolyn Morrison, has said she will step down.
McLaurin, who is married to Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, has represented District 5 for almost four years.
During the past two years, the board has bitterly bickered over the use of families' socioeconomic background as one deciding factor in balancing school populations.
The debate has gotten heated with protests, arrests at school board meetings and a federal civil rights complaint.
But lately, McLaurin has been encouraged by the board's increasing emphasis on student achievement, the development of potentially workable student assignment plans, and a recent decision to ask the state for additional funding.
"The board took a stand on requesting that the governor and the legislature increase the funding for education and that was not something the board agreed to do when we were talking to the county," said McLaurin, 63, a physician at Alliance Medical Clinic, a facility for the working uninsured. "I think we are in a better place.
"The other thing that's important to me is that the whole community is engaged and is understanding what a great system this is. Sometimes you have to be shaken a little bit before you know what you're losing."
McLaurin ran unopposed in 2007 for the District 5 seat, which at the time represented a larger portion of the area inside the Raleigh Beltline. After a recent redistricting, McLaurin now represents an area from near downtown to Fuquay-Varina.
She remained even-tempered and attentive during the controversies, and on Wednesday she expressed concern that a new assignment plan is not in place.
Democrat Jim Martin, a professor at N.C. State University, has told McLaurin that he's interested in running but has not committed.
"While she has been insightful across a comprehensive range of issues, as a physician Anne has brought an invaluable health perspective to board decisions and initiatives that has benefited countless students and families," Martin said in a statement Wednesday. "I am honored to be considered as a potential candidate to fill her shoes as a representative of District 5."
McLaurin is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Rice University.
She laughed when asked about the charges some have leveled, that she served as Meeker's voice on the school board.
Meeker, who in April said he would not seek a record sixth consecutive mayoral term, also has spoken in favor of Wake's former student assignment policy.
"I think Mayor Meeker stated his own views pretty clearly, didn't he?" she said. "I don't think he ever thought he needed me to make up his mind, and I didn't need him to help make up my mind."
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