Coble selected to lead Wake Commission

Paul Coble (Image courtesy Wake County)

December 6, 2010 4:39:35 PM PST
Former Raleigh mayor Paul Coble was elected chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners Monday.

Phil Matthews was selected as vice chair.

Coble is part of the new Republic majority on the board that includes outgoing chairman Tony Gurley, former chair Joe Bryan and Matthews.

Some of their first votes are expected to overturn some controversial decisions by the previous board.

The Republicans are rescinding a resolution that basically sounded the alarm that community schools would mean segregated schools in Wake County.

"That resolution was a slap in the face to the school board," Gurley said.

Gurley supports the Republican led school board and its plan to put students to schools closer to home rather than assigning them based on diversity.

However, Democratic community leaders are fighting the move, fearing re-segregation will occur.

"First of all I'm appalled and shocked that the board would even put this on your agenda," Raleigh City Councilman Eugene Weeks said. "It's about the quality of education of all of our students."

"By rescinding this resolution we're sending a message to the world that we're re-segregating Wake County Schools," said Steve Rao, former candidate for commissioner.

The state and national NAACP agree and have vowed to challenge the school board legally.

Democratic Commissioner Betty Lou Ward says the controversy itself is hurting the county's image.

"I have people from all over the country asking me about it," she said. "It's not positive, not positive for Wake County."

The re-segregation debate is expected to spill over from the county commissioners meeting Monday night to the school board meeting Tuesday.

When the Wake County School Board meets, they'll debate whether about 6,000 students in the southeast Raleigh area should go to schools closer to home rather than schools they're assigned to now across the county to create diversity.

"My guess is the vast majority of parents don't even know they're being considered for reassignment, I think it's premature," School Board Member Kevin Hill said.

"Our main goal is that we follow through on the promises we made, that we get kids as close to home as possible," School Board Member Chris Malone said.

The board majority says its main priority is proximity and believes that once kids are in community schools there will be stability for families that have been reassigned to a different school year after year with the old diversity policy in place.

But critics argue thousands of families will have their lives disrupted if the board decides to move forward with changes next year --the final year of a three-year plan instead of waiting until 2012.

"This is going to be such a big change for the county," said Diana Bader with Great Schools in Wake. "Parents are really nervous about what kind of changes are going to be coming about."

Board majority members say the public and parents shouldn't be surprised, they say their goal has always been clear.

"Ultimately get the kids closer to home; it's what we've been saying all year," School Board Member John Tedesco said.

Students are expected to show up at Tuesday's meeting and speak out against some of the proposed reassignments being debated.

The board is not expected to make any changes final until public meetings are held over the next couple of months.

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