Meet the 2011-2013 Wake County school board

December 2, 2011 

The members

District 1: (Northeast Wake) -- Chris Malone, a Republican businessman and former Wake Forest commissioner, was elected in 2009. A dependable ally of former chairman Ron Margiotta and John Tedesco, Malone made his non-fuzzy approach clear early with the remark, "Consensus is gobbledygook." He has announced a run for the state House as a Republican in 2012, and a win probably would increase the Democratic majority because board members who step down are replaced by a majority vote of the board, which is officially nonpartisan.

District 2: (Southeast Wake) -- Republican John Tedesco, director of a nonprofit education foundation, was elected in 2009. Lots of change is ahead for Tedesco, who is scheduled to get married in 2012. In addition, he is also thinking about higher office, considering a run for the statewide office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Tedesco remains a tireless voice for neighborhood schools and underprivileged kids, while opposing any attempt to returned to diversity-based assignment.

District 3: (Northern Wake) -- Democratic incumbent and former board chair Kevin Hill came out on top in a let-it-all-hang-out 2011 runoff against Republican activist Heather Losurdo. A career educator who loves to talk things over, Hill says he wants an in-depth look at the new student assignment plan before the system dives into it. The political downside for him and his allies could be discontent from parents who want to see forward motion of some kind.

District 4: (East Raleigh) -- Democratic incumbent Keith Sutton easily won his 2011 election bout with community advocate/businesswoman Venita Peyton in a predominantly African-American district, where several sought-after magnet schools are located. A state employee who is seen as one of the most likely Democrats to succeed outgoing board chair Ron Margiotta, Sutton will have to walk a line between district residents who want their children in schools closer to home and magnet parents who want plenty of seats for their own kids.

District 5: (South Central Raleigh) -- Democrat Jim Martin, an N.C. State University professor and magnet parent, won a convincing 2011 victory over Cynthia Matson, a founder of the Assignment by Choice group, who received much less financial support than many of her Republican running mates. A stickler for detail and diversity, Martin is expected to take strong positions on keeping some sort of balance among schools, as well as pushing for creative curriculum reform. He knows his statistics and wants to base decisions on more than one.

District 6 (Central Raleigh) -- Democrat Christine Kushner had perhaps the least contentious campaign in 2011 and said after she bested three opponents that she wanted a return to board meetings bereft of heated arguments. Kushner, educated at UNC and Princeton, is one of three new members who have or have had children in the magnet system. Just as constant reassignment was a flashpoint in the 2009 election, a perceived threat to the magnet program gave momentum to Kushner and others.

District 7 (West Raleigh) -- Republican Deborah Prickett, an employee of the state Department of Public Instruction, raised some observers' eyebrows at her 2009 swearing-in when she publicly thanked the Republican Party for helping her win her seat on the officially nonpartisan board. Generally a member of former chairman Ron Margiotta's faction, she surprised some with her vote to table a new math placement policy that was a signature effort by Tedesco.

District 8 (Southern Wake) -- Susan Evans, the third new Democratic member with magnet school ties, got a fighting chance against two-term incumbent Ron Margiotta when Democrats heated up the campaign rhetoric. Outside groups funded attacks on Margiotta as a tea party sympathizer who would turn back progress in the Wake schools. Evans won convincingly, meaning her pro-diversity comments will now come from the board instead of being directed to the board in public comment periods.

District 9 (Western Wake) -- Republican Debra Goldman may have cast the most important vote of the past two years when she refused to back Tedesco's zone-based assignment plan. That reversal led Wake powers-that-be to bring in consultant Michael Alves to craft a choice plan that's the basis of the most recent assignment model. A former firefighter, Goldman has kept a close eye on proposed board policies, especially those concerning Cary, even as she dealt with negative publicity about her daughter's outside-the-lines reassignment and her litigation with her husband.

Staff writer Thomas Goldsmith

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