RALEIGH — Three newly elected Democratic Wake County school board members think next week is too early for a final vote on a sweeping new student assignment proposal - even if a delayed decision puts off the plan for a school year.
A vote on the plan is scheduled for Tuesday. If approved, it could go into effect during the 2012-13 school year.
While the newly elected board members won't be sworn in until December, their opinions eventually could affect the plan.
On Thursday, at a public hearing about the plan, District 8 representative-elect Susan Evans said waiting until a new board takes office might be worthwhile.
Her comments echoed those of most audience speakers, who said too many questions remained about feeder patterns, the plan's cost, and the fate of students in low-income neighborhoods under the choice-based plan.
"Do we have to have this in place for 2012-2013, when 94-95 percent of parents are happy where they are?" Evans asked. "I think we could take the time to vet it out and get it right."
Outgoing board Chairman Ron Margiotta, whom Evans ousted in Tuesday's election, said he still plans to call for a vote next week.
"The staff has a lot of work to do," Margiotta said after Thursday's hearing.
"If we delay, we'll lose next year."
Under the new plan, families would choose from a list the schools they want their children to attend.
Most of the choices would be the schools closest to a family's home.
The new plan is supposed to promote diversity by giving all families, particularly ones from low-income and low-performing areas, the ability to apply to higher-performing schools.
About two dozen speakers addressed a crowd of about 80 people at Broughton High School.
Every member of the nine-member board except Cary representative Debra Goldman showed up, while newly chosen members Evans, Christine Kushner and Jim Martin sat in the front row.
Control of the board beginning with a meeting Dec. 6 remains undecided pending a likely runoff Nov. 8 between District 3 incumbent Kevin Hill and Republican challenger Heather Losurdo.
Hill has been in the minority since a Republican-backed group took control in 2009.
He says he is not advocating a return to a former diversity-based plan.
"The old plan is water under the bridge," Hill said. "We've got one chance to get it right."
Some speakers complained the school district still hasn't posted information on the specific options families would receive.
"Why is the Board of Education and the student assignment task force trying to keep this a big fat secret?" Raleigh parent Jody Gross said.
Some speakers also brought up Tuesday's election results, asking for the vote to be delayed until November or December.
"I believe that the board will begin to come together in a much more dignified way," the Rev. Tom Rhodes of Raleigh said.
Margiotta said the current board has to do what it feels is in the best interest of the state's biggest school system.
"Do we stop doing business because of an election?" he said. "I don't think any government body does that."