Wake school board bracing for protest

July 19, 2010 9:04:46 PM PDT
The Wake County school board is preparing for what is expected to be a mass protest on Tuesday.Opponents of the school board's new majority, which has gotten rid of socio-economic diversity busing, are expected to march around 10 a.m. in downtown Raleigh and later protest at the school board meeting.

"It's a good opportunity to show the way that we feel about this," AME Zion Church Member Mike Lisby said.

School board chairman Ron Margiotta says he's been in close contact with the Raleigh police chief, the county sheriff, and the school board's security director to make sure the Wake County public school board can get things done despite a planned protest that is being organized by the NAACP.

"We have to complete our meeting," Margiotta said. "We just cannot tolerate a disruption as we did at our last meeting."

Last month, four protestors, led by North Carolina's NAACP President, Rev. William Barber, were arrested after disrupting a board meeting with songs and a sit-in. Barber, along with Tim Tyson, Nancy Petty and Mary Williams are facing trespassing charges.

"They pushed through our security, security guards and they actually took over the podium and board member seats while we were at a recess," Margiotta said.

The four are banned from school property, but Margiotta says they were willing to make an exception for them and allow them to return to the meetings, if they promised in writing to stop causing disruptions.

"Just to try and quiet things down," Margiotta said. "It has nothing to do with agreement or disagreement on the issues."

Margiotta says they never heard back from any of the four. In the meantime, he says his message to Reverend Barber is simple.

"Let's be concerned with the important things," Margiotta said. "Let's be concerned with academic achievement for students. That's something we did not achieve during the time that we were bussing kids all over this county."

Meanwhile, members of the Wake County Republican Party, also have plans for Tuesday. They hope to be at the board meeting, not to protest, but to support the new school board majority.

"They've taken some heat from the other side for actually done what they ran and said they were going to do during the campaign," Wake County Republican Party member Claude Pope said.

There will be a limited number of tickets available for Tuesday's board meeting and they will be distributed at school board headquarters starting at noon. Officials say security is expected to be very tight.

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