Fletcher's challenge is to bring stability to Wake school board

March 11, 2013 

Bill Fletcher, who has just returned to the Wake County school board to fill out Debra Goldman’s remaining term, is a thoughtful fellow with good instincts about public education. He’s also open-minded, which he proved during 12 years on the school board between 1993 and 2005.

At the beginning of Fletcher’s service, which then as now included some contentious discussions on diversity in school assignments, some who judged him by his Republican Party pedigree assumed he would be a predictable naysayer, a board member resistant to others’ ideas, particularly busing for diversity.

Fletcher proved those people wrong. In the course of his service, he acknowledged he’d come to see the wisdom in diversity in school assignment, and he became an enlightened and accessible board member.

He is a member of one of Raleigh’s most respected families, the son of the late Fred Fletcher, a former head of Capitol Broadcasting, and grandson of the company’s founder, the late A.J. Fletcher. He knows Wake County as few do.

Fletcher will be an asset in the board’s dealings with Wake commissioners, who have clashed with the Democratic-majority school board. Now the commissioners are asking the General Assembly to allow them a new system of electing school board members that would be favorable to deep-pocket Republicans.

The transformation of Fletcher in his earlier school board terms speaks well of him as an elected official who was not a prisoner of ideology, and that proved valuable as Wake sought to maintain diversity in school assignments.

The challenges for the school board are daunting. A new assignment plan, the need for a large bond issue to answer over a billion dollars’ worth of needs, the battle with commissioners over issues such as ownership of school property (commissioners believe the county should own school property; school board members want to maintain control) all add up to a need for clear thinking and calm voices.

Fletcher was known for keeping his cool. He also was known for valuing contact with parents and school personnel to make sure he knew what was going on in individual schools and in the system.

The members of this school board or any other share a common goal of developing and protecting excellent public education in their jurisdiction. With that as a starting point, the school board should never become, as it did during the previous board’s reign, a playing field for political sport. Party affiliation, prior to the Republican takeover in 2009, never seemed to matter much to voters or board members. How productive it would be if those nonpartisan days could return.

Fletcher could be a healing force for the board and the school system. Though he says he has no plans to seek another term, it would be a good day for the schools if he did.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service