New Dems on Wake school board push to modify assignment plan

khui@newsobserver.comFebruary 7, 2012 

— All three new Democratic members of the Wake County school board publicly said tonight that they plan to push for changes this fall in the new choice-based student assignment plan.

The board agreed Jan. 17 to let the new plan move forward while reserving the right to make changes for this fall. Amid increasing calls by their supporters to take action, the new members said they’re hearing the concerns and will push to prevent what they consider to be potential negative changes caused by the plan.

“I want the public to know that it is my intention and that of several other board members to monitor the data as it comes in,” said new Democratic board member Susan Evans. “We will respond to things that we feel warrant immediate response.”

New Democratic board member Christine Kushner said they’ll monitor the plan to make it better.

Fellow new Democratic board member Jim Martin said he still has concerns about the plan and wants the board to discuss Feb. 21 a way to set up a control to prevent schools form having drastic demographic shifts as a result of the new plan.

Board members had planned to talk about the plan during this afternoon’s work session. But they ran out of time after Republican board member Debra Goldman took up a large portion of the meeting raising concerns with what she felt have been procedural meetings violations by the new majority.

All three new members were elected in the fall to help form a new majority. Whether the other two Democratic board members go along with them remains to be seen.

Any changes for this fall would likely be opposed by the members of the Republican board minority who have argued it’s too late to make changes to the plan.

More than 4,000 students submitted magnet school applications in December. In addition, more than 13,000 students have made their school selections in the process that began Jan. 17 and runs through Feb. 24.

For more than 30 years, Wake promoted diversity by assigning some students to specific schools for racial and later socioeconomic reasons.

In 2010, a newly elected Republican majority on the board eliminated socioeconomic diversity from the student assignment policy.

In October, the board adopted a new choice-based assignment plan that replaced the old diversity policy. The plan promotes proximity as a priority.

Democratic board members have raised concerns that the plan doesn’t do enough to prevent the creation of high-poverty and low-performing schools. They’ve also heard complaints from parents concerned that their children won’t be able to get into the school they want for this fall.

Superintendent Tony Tata, whose staff developed the new plan, said they’re working hard daily to monitor the plan.

“We’re going to do everything we can to get parents their top choices,” Tata said today.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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