Tempers flare at Wake student assignment hearing

khui@newsobserver.comNovember 28, 2012 

  • Have your say Additional public hearings on the 2013-14 student assignment plan will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Monday at Davis Drive Middle School, 2101 Davis Drive, Cary, and Wednesday at Rolesville Middle School, 4700 Burlington Mills Road, Rolesville. Go to wcpss.net/blog/2012/11/student-assignment-plan-proposal-for-2013-14 to view the plan, make comments or register to speak at those hearings.

— Anger over Wake County’s latest student assignment plan boiled over Wednesday night at an unscheduled give-and-take session between school board members and parents who don’t like what’s in the proposal.

Around 50 people attended Sanderson High School for the first of three public hearing on the proposed 2013-14 plan. But after the meeting ended, parents wanted assurances that their concerns would be heard even though the plan is small in scale, compared to others in recent years.

“Will you take the comments into consideration or are you just letting people vent?” asked Bennette Arnold, a North Raleigh parent and president of the Durant Trail Homeowners Association.

Board members assured parents they would heed their concerns before the final vote on Dec. 11.

During one heated exchange after the hearing, Republican school board member Deborah Prickett started to ask the crowd whether they were satisfied with the controlled-choice plan that’s being phased out for next school year. Democratic school board member Susan Evans, however, yanked the microphone from Prickett’s hand, saying it was an inappropriate question.

The new plan calls for moving 1,479 students to different schools for the 2013-14 school term. In prior years, as many as 10,000 or more students were reassigned.

The proposal reflects the school board’s instructions for staff to develop a plan that would move relatively few students and focuses primarily on filling new schools and dealing with overcrowded schools. Most of those moved would be sent to Richland Creek Elementary in Wake Forest, Rolesville Middle and Rolesville High – three new schools in northeastern Wake County.

Board members have called the new plan a “stopgap” measure before a more comprehensive plan is developed for the 2014-15 school year.

“We don’t’ need a temporary plan followed by another plan. We need stability,” Raleigh parent Lynn King said.

This would be the third plan in three years as political control has shifted several times in the state’s largest school district.

The Republican board majority, with the votes of some Democrats, discarded the prior plan that tied addresses to specific schools and promoted socioeconomic diversity. That board put in its place for this school year a controlled-choice plan in which families were given several options for schools.

The Democratic board majority that took office in 2011, however, voted along party lines in June to scrap the choice plan in favor of a new plan that resumed tying home addresses to specific schools.

“Stability is not being provided by constantly reassigning students,” said Raleigh parent Karen Cronin.

The largest contingent of speakers Wednesday complained about a recommendation to change which optional year-round schools some neighborhoods would apply to next year if some families didn’t want to attend their assigned school.

Several speakers from the Durant Trails area in North Raleigh complained that their year-round school options would switch from nearby Durant Road Elementary and Durant Road Middle to Wakefield Elementary and Rolesville Middle.

“It’s absolutely irresponsible to reassign students to drive 10 miles from their home,” Durant Trails parent Michael Gallagher said.

School board Vice Chairman Keith Sutton said after the hearing that he thought they’d be able to address the Durant Trails issue.

“As I explained to one parent, if we can fix it we will,” he said. “If we can’t, we’ll give an explanation why.”

Hui: 919-829-4534

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