Midtown Raleigh News

Wake school board puts off assignment changes, promises harder look

Wake County school board members – some projecting substantive changes for the 2013-14 year – agreed to put off until next week any modification of the still-shifting student assignment plan for the coming term.

Tuesday’s board meeting followed heated statements by opponents of the choice-based plan, who protested it outside and inside system headquarters. During a break, some Democratic members said they haven’t gotten enough data to amend the plan for students starting school as early as July but vowed to work on further changes.

A new approach could merge aspects of the new plan and the address-based approach, board member Christine Kushner said. “I want to explore a hybrid model, some residence-based assignment with expanded choice,” Kushner said.

Said Kushner’s fellow Democrat Susan Evans, “The families seem quite frustrated at being in limbo for quite a long time. The main thing I want to know is, how is the plan working for the people who entered the choice process?”

Chief transformation officer Judy Peppler said the staff plans to survey parents’ reaction between May 15 and June 15. Moving further discussion of the plan until next week will allow for a more “robust” discussion using data from the second round, Peppler said.

Wake schools Superintendent Tony Tata said the plan has worked well for many families.

“There’ve been a lot of success stories,” Tata said. “Of course, we’ve got some parents who are anxious right now. We are trying to work through this.”

Parents who took part in the second round of the choice-based plan learned Thursday where their children will attend school.

The system still faced unresolved questions last week, including whether to open Abbotts Creek Elementary, an underenrolled North Raleigh school that few families chose. Staff members said that they probably will recommend that Abbotts Creek, where classes were planned in mobile classrooms, not open until the 2013-14 year.

“The consequences of this plan were not thought through,” Cary parent Beth Graff said in a public comment period. “Don’t tell me I have five choices when only one of the schools has any capacity.”

Some don’t know whether their children will have transportation next year, school board member Jim Martin said. “What commitment can we offer them? Wait and see?” Martin asked Peppler.

A group of parents and children, many from western Wake, asked for a return to an address-based system. That message came from those chanting at an outside protest that drew about 50 people. During the meeting, Apex parent Karen Meier said her family likely wouldn’t have moved to Wake County had they known the plan’s details.

“In an area where you have highly educated people, … those people moving into this area are going to want to know where their kids are going to school and what kind of education they are going to get,” Meier said.