School board's smoother sailing

November 15, 2012 

The Wake County school board met Tuesday.

Why does that innocuous sentence make you want to duck? It's because calling a meeting of the fractious, nine-member board has been like shouting: Let's rumble!

Over the past three years, the board's meetings have brought the arrest of demonstrators, a stream of angry and exasperated statements from the public, bitter splits over one superintendent’s resignation and the firing of another. And lately there has been a bizarre and uncomfortable subtext to the meetings created by questions about what really went on between board members Debra Goldman and Chris Malone.

But this week, tranquility prevailed. The board reached easy agreement on an interim student assignment plan that will entail a minimal shuffling of students. For the first time in memory, no one signed up to speak during the public comment session.

The calm reflects the muting of the board's restive Republicans who took the board by storm in the 2009 election, but lost their majority in 2011. Last week, two of the board's four Republicans — Goldman and John Tedesco — lost their respective bids for state auditor and state schools superintendent. A third Republican, Malone, won a seat in the state House and will soon leave the board. He will be replaced by a new member selected by the board and likely more in sync with the majority.

Tedesco, who was absent Tuesday, may not seek another term. Goldman remains abashed, or as abashed as she gets, by the recent emergence of a 2010 police report in which she told police Malone may have burglarized her house. Malone, who was cleared, told police he had a "heated" physical relationship with Goldman, who denies it.

After those embarrassments and defeats has come a calm. It’s welcome. The board has a big to-do list for the next year: Hire a new superintendent, get a proposed school bond on the 2013 ballot and pass a comprehensive plan for student assignment that restores economic diversity as a desirable element of every school's population, in the interest of boosting student success.

Newly humble, the Republicans no longer want to rumble. Here's hoping the peace endures and the board can get on with its work, effectively.

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