Quick vote may change Wake's school calendar

© WTVD

January 6, 2010 5:34:33 PM PST
Following Tuesday night's vote to end mandatory year-round schools, some are wondering if the new majority on Wake County School Board is violating open government laws.The new majority argues that the resolution to end mandatory year-round schools is what voters wanted and it was the reason they were elected.

But it's the way the resolution was introduced that's caught up in controversy.

"Beginning with the 2010-11 school year, there will be no mandatory year-round assignments," Newly-elected school board member Deborah Prickett said.

Prickett's resolution to end mandatory year-round schools Tuesday, caught a lot of people off guard and was only added to the agenda moments before it was read.

"At this very moment, I have never been as ashamed to be a Wake County resident," one parent said at the meeting.

But does the last minute move violate open government laws?

"The spirit of the law calls for agendas to be published ahead of time and with enough time to give the public a chance to talk about it," said John Bussian, an open government lawyer.

Bussian says the bigger issue would be whether the new majority of the board discussed the resolution privately before the meeting.

Newly-elected school board members; John Tedesco, Chris Malone and Debra Goldman, all tell ABC11 Eyewitness News that Prickett discussed with them during individual phone conversations her desire to end mandatory year-round schools.

Board member Ron Margiotta says they've talked about it before, but couldn't recall Prickett saying she was going to put it on the table Tuesday night.

They all argue it should have been no surprise to anyone since it's what they campaigned on.

Still, each board member signs a code of ethics that says they, "...commit(s) to make policy decisions only after full discussion at publicly held Board meetings, including committee meetings."

On Wednesday, the "Great Schools in Wake" coalition, made up of groups opposed to the new majority, and afraid of new reassignments, and re-segregation, vowed to keep a close eye on the board.

The coalition says its mission is to "educate the public about policy initiatives that would impact the quality of education, foster well-informed discussions about critical education issues, and advocate for policies that improve public education in Wake County."

Legal eyes will also be watching.

"It raises suspicions about why it's being done that way," Bussian said.

However, a coalition that supports the new leadership issued a statement Wednesday applauding the board's changes.

The Wake Schools Community Alliance said in part that they "are gratified that the efforts and contributions ? to elect new leaders have helped put (them) on the path to school choice for all Wake County families."

The school board does want to make it clear that no school calendar is changing right now.

They'll be conducting an online survey next week and that feedback could determine which schools stay year-round and which ones may switch to a traditional calendar and vice versa.

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