Group files complaint against Wake school board

khui@newsobserver.comSeptember 20, 2012 

The Wake County Taxpayers Association announced Thursday that it has filed a complaint asking the group that accredits Wake County’s high schools to investigate the actions of the new school board majority.

The taxpayers association charges that the Democratic board majority is mismanaging the school system and creating “unnecessary fear and uncertainty” with actions such as scrapping the choice-based student assignment plan. The taxpayers association, which had backed the former Republican board majority, contends that the new majority is being unduly influenced by the Great Schools in Wake Coalition.

“The taxpayers of Wake County are disturbed by the dysfunction of the Wake County school board,” said Russell Capps, president of the taxpayers association, in a written statement. “We have witnessed too much damage from certain Board members this year; and we, as well as citizens all over Wake County, are now fearful of the impetuous actions of this Board and its effect on the education of thousands of students.”

The complaint was filed Wednesday with Georgia-based AdvancED, a group that is already investigating the school system. Following a complaint by the state NAACP in 2010 about the former board majority, AdvancED lowered the accreditation of Wake’s high schools to “warned” status, meaning the group had identified serious problems that it felt needed addressing.

Wake had made several changes requested by AdvancED, resulting in the accreditation status being upgraded this year to “advised,” meaning the district was making progress in addressing the problems. School leaders are hoping that AdvancED, after receiving an update in November, will fully restore the accreditation status of the high schools.

In advance of the new review, the taxpayers association is asking AdvancED to look into several allegations, including:

• The “complete lack of transparency” in the 5-4, post-midnight vote by the board majority on June 20 to direct staff to develop a new student assignment plan to replace the choice plan.

• Democratic board member Jim Martin asking staff to create provisions so that the children of people such as his fellow N.C. State University professors can return to their old schools after their parents return from sabbaticals. While Martin was asked to look into the issue by N.C. State’s provost, he says that there was nothing inappropriate in his actions.

• The private meeting arranged by board chairman Kevin Hill between education consultant Michael Alves, who worked on the choice plan, and the three new Democratic board members without notifying the Republican members.

Several of the allegations involve the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, a group that backed the old policy of busing students for socioeconomic diversity and criticized the choice plan. Superintendent Tony Tata apologized after publicly questioning whether two new Democratic board members – Susan Evans and Christine Kushner – were being unduly influenced by Great Schools.

In the complaint, the Taxpayers Association charges that the choice plan was changed “with extreme influence” from Great Schools. The complaint points to how Evans and Kushner were leaders in the group before the election. It charges that Martin is also a member.

The complaint alleges that Hill allowed “offensive and intimidating behavior” by members of Great Schools in Wake at board meetings. The complaint charges that this resulted in people not wanting to attend the meetings.

Jennifer Oliver, a spokeswoman for AdvancED, said the organization hasn’t received the complaint yet.

Hill and Kushner declined comment Thursday, saying they hadn’t read the complaint yet.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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