Controlling Wake school transfers

Reassignment and transfers may be the two biggest issues challenging members of the Wake County school board. In a way, the two issues come together.

As the board considers changes to its transfer policy, it’s fortunate its members are not afraid to take on difficult problems in a contemplative way. The board has not approached transfer policies with from-the-top rules or folded its arms against parents who want a say.

Getting a transfer isn’t easy, as it stands, but staff members rightly want to clarify policy and curb them to some degree. Given the county’s need to balance school populations, cutting back on transfers is a good idea. Let’s have the transfer policy follow the spirit of the student assignment policy, which aims to fill schools efficiently and keep them from having high percentages of low-performing students.

Consider just one aspect of the board’s dilemma: Permitting too many transfers to a particular school might allow it to become too crowded, forcing the board to assign students who are members of that school’s population base to other schools. That’s not fair to them and their families.

The board has heard much about Heritage High School in Wake Forest. School assignment staff recommended reassigning students from that crowded school to Rolesville High School. But some parents from Heritage said that wasn’t fair because they were having to move because of the number of transfer students.

The board needs to do something, and parents need to understand the reasons why. There are safeguards in place to protect common-sense transfers. For example, parents who work at a school are able to have their children assigned to that school. And some families whose children are reassigned sometimes are allowed to stay in their current schools with conditions.

But those transfers that are discretionary will come under more scrutiny, and they should. The board has well-documented the problems with too many transfers, and those problems don’t need to grow. Board members note that parents who want more choices can apply to magnets, a sound and viable option.

Public schools are a community endeavor, a “we’re all in this together” issue. That could mean, on occasion, some inconvenience. But it seems this Wake school board has its ears open for parents, and that should make for easier public acceptance of any policy changes.