Wake school board could tweak assignment plan

The new student assignment proposal will be reviewed during a Jan. 3 meeting.

khui@newsobserver.comDecember 20, 2011 

The Democratic majority on the Wake County school board could begin making changes to the new student assignment after the holidays, sparking a potential fight on the divided board.

School board Chairman Kevin Hill has scheduled a work session Jan. 3 to review the choice-based plan approved by the outgoing Republican majority in October.

The meeting comes two weeks before families are to begin the first round of the application process Jan. 17.

"The purpose of the work session is for the board to come together to talk it out and try to come to a consensus," Hill, a Democrat, said Monday.

Republican school board member John Tedesco said it's understandable that the new board members want to learn more about the plan.

But he said the board should avoid making major changes considering how families made decisions on whether to apply for magnet schools, whose application period ended Monday, based on the choices they had from the assignment plan.

"It would be very concerning and disrespectful to put in changes after the process has already begun," Tedesco said.

Tedesco suggested that the board review the first year of the plan and make changes for the following year.

But new Democratic board member Jim Martin said the board needs to make sure that the plan is right before it's implemented next school year.

"We have to get real information about what the plan is going to do to capacity and demographics in schools," Martin said. "We have to find it out before we can make a decision."

One of the questions since Democrats regained the board majority after this fall's elections is what changes they'll make to the assignment plan.

The new plan replaces the old approach in which students were assigned to aspecific school based on address, with one factor being to promotesocioeconomic diversity.

The new choice plan going into effect for the 2012-13 school year has families picking from at least five elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools.

The elementary schools would generally be the schools closest to the family.

Existing students would be grandfathered so they wouldn't have to change schools next year and lose their bus service.

The Democratic members have said they want to make sure enough seats are set aside at high-performing schools for applicants from low-performing areas.

Tedesco called it a major change that would lead to a "quota system."

Hill said he hasn't heard any talk from board members or staff about delayingimplementation.

But he said that they'll have a better idea of the plan's status after the work session.

New Democratic board member Christine Kushner said she wants more information on issues such as how Wake will monitor implementation before deciding on the new plan.

"It's my responsibility to make sure that this is the right fit for the community," she said.

Revision likely

Democratic board Vice Chairman Keith Sutton said it's still "more than likely" the board implements arevised version of the plan for the 2012-13 school year.

"We've got one chance to make it right and foreveryone to feel a strong level of comfort," Sutton said.

"The problem is we're not getting that comfort level. To raise that level of comfort will require some give and take."

Hill had requested a Dec. 7 work session on the plan, but it wasn't granted by outgoing Republican board Chairman Ron Margiotta.

Hill said waiting until Jan. 3 will give board members and staff a chance to enjoy the holidays before focusing back on the assignment plan.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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