Goldman still supports Wake neighborhood schools

Debra Goldman

October 6, 2010 9:17:29 PM PDT
The day after a contentious Wake County school board meeting that ended with a vote to ditch a controversial student assignment plan, the school board member who split from the majority says the district will still move towards community based schools.

Deborah Goldman’s change of heart Tuesday night put the brakes on the board’s move to scrap the district’s policy of promoting socioeconomic diversity in favor of sending kids closer to their homes.

Goldman has said she felt like her concerns were not being addressed by the rest of the majority, and the board's plan must abide by a policy that guarantees, among other things, a base school assignment within proximity to a student's home.

"We are going to get one chance as a board to get this right -- one chance to do this plan," Goldman said Wednesday, the morning after the meeting that revealed a fracture in the previous GOP majority. "Any time you start moving children, it just creates turmoil. It's not like you move them and then say, you know what, let's move them back. So I would question why you wouldn't want feedback from the public and other board members."

The Wake County board has nine members -- four Democrats, four Republicans and a GOP chairman who votes if there's a tie. The board voted 5-3 Tuesday night to reject a 16-zone assignment plan after Goldman decided to vote with the Democrats.

The board approved a motion, made by Goldman, that said: "Any and all efforts to create a zone-based assignment model will cease effective immediately." She reiterated her support for community-based schools but said the board must adhere to its own policy on assignments and must listen to parents, students and all board members, not just those on the committee.

"Yes, I absolutely believe in community-based schools, but I do not believe we need to totally tear down the system and create a different plan," she said Wednesday. "I believe a lot is working.

But Goldman's move angered her former allies on the board. John Tedesco even resorted to name calling - labeling her a 'prom queen' during the meeting and then posting more on his Facebook page.

"Well we all knew it was coming - Goldman was always the flip-flopper. She was for Mandatory YR then against then for and then said "I just want to make every one happy". Then tonight Benedict Goldman voted with the 4 minority members to do away with our efforts for Community Based Assingments and declared things should stay as is with the forced busing diversity model in place" he wrote.

"I don't think that's the most professional thing to do or the most courteous thing to do," Wake County school board member Keith Sutton said.

Tedesco told ABC11 Eyewitness News he apologized Wednesday on the radio.

He said he let his zeal for children override his diplomacy, but believes Goldman's idea doesn't take long-term growth into account and the inevitable reassignment necessary once guaranteed base schools overcrowd.

Tedesco says he wants to give parents three possible choices.

"You could theoretically have three neighbors put down the same three choices for schools and all end up at different schools," Goldman said.

Meanwhile, members of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, which supported the diversity plan, said the vote Tuesday encouraged them. "We don't want this to be a 'stay of execution,' after which we move to a plan that resegregates students and creates more high poverty schools," said Yevonne Brannon, the coalition's chair. "Rather, we hope this vote signals a reinvigorated dialogue between the school board and the community. Many in our community have felt that the zone process was too much, too fast and with serious intended and unintended consequences."

Reverend William Barber, the state NAACP president who's pressured the board reverse its decision to discard its diversity policy, also responded Wednesday to the vote.

"We believe yesterday's vote to stop the student assignment process is a step in the right direction," he said.

In the meantime, Goldman says her vote doesn't change her priorities.

"I stand firmly behind the idea of community based schools," she said.

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