Wake reassignment vote takes unexpected turn

February 2, 2011 10:51:39 AM PST
The vote for the proposed student assignment changes for the third year of Wake County schools current assignment plan took an unexpected turn Tuesday night leading to the tedious task of voting for each of the 50 changes.The Wake County School Board was suppose to vote on them all at once, but instead they ended up considering each one after board member Kevin Hill raised concerns over the necessity of some of the changes.

"If the board is going to be putting together more of a comprehensive plan ... I think the fewer changes we can make to allow us to open Walnut Creek the better, so we don't turn around next year and say 'Hey, we messed up,'" Hill said.

The board spent more than an hour considering each of the proposed changes and voted on each one.

In the end, the school board approved the plan to send about 3,500 students to different schools in the fall after three of the proposed changes were taken off. Two of those changes dealt with Walnut Creek Elementary -- a new school in southeast Raleigh that is expected to open next year.

The changes that were approved are final and the school system will be notifying parents affected within the next week.

Critics of the board say they believe the move will lead to high poverty and segregated schools in southeast Raleigh. Walnut Creek is expected to have about 80 percent of its student population on free and reduced lunch.

Before the plan was approved, the school board got an earful from dozens of people who signed up to speak.

Critics let the board know that they are concerned that too many students are being moved this year when next year they'll be moved again once the reassignment process is overhauled.

"The public will recall that part of the outrage that pushed for the new election was two years ago when 24,000 kids were reassigned," School Board Member John Tedesco said. "This year there's little over 3,000 kids that are being reassigned, so a significant reduction there."

"Most of the big moves in the past were designed to fill several new schools," Patty Williams of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition said. "This year we're only opening one new school so moving more than 3,000 kids is a lot."

The Coalition also called on the school board to make sure it has an open process as it begins to look at redistricting.

"In the past we've seen districts be gerrymandered or not contiguous or just seem to favor one political group over another political group or one community over another community," said Yevonne Brannon, Chairwoman of Great Schools in Wake.

Tuesday's meeting was Tony Tata's first as superintendent following his swearing in that afternoon.

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