Student assignment committee disbanded

February 16, 2011 3:17:41 AM PST
The Wake County Board of Education disbanded a student assignment committee Tuesday, saying it'll wait for new superintendent Tony Tata to look at the issue.

Tata formally requested the responsibility to create a new school/student assignment plan.

He said he would create a task force of school system personnel which will have the responsibility of taking a plan submitted by the Wake Education Partnership and The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, and other plans discussed during a listening tour, to create a long-term student assignment plan by late spring. The group will also address under-enrolled schools and bring monthly updates to the board for input.

"It is the school system's responsibility to establish a plan that will stand the test of time going forward," Tata said. "It's my responsibility to develop this plan. Going forward, the school system should own this plan."

The fight over school assignment and diversity has been hot ever since a new majority on the board committed to doing away with the old district assignment policy came to power in 2010. The board and the community have split over the issue and groups like the NAACP have held protests and taken legal action.

The coalition most critical of the school board, says it believes Tata's request is a positive move.

"He also mentioned he'll be working with staff and the staff here is very experienced and very professional and I think that's a good thing," said Lynn Edmonds with Great Schools in Wake.

On Tuesday night, the board approved the Renaissance Schools Bonus Plan, which Tata supports. It calls for the re-hiring of teachers and most staff at Brentwood, Creech Road, Wilburn and Barwell Road elementary schools, all with the hope of of attracting the best staff members to improve student achievement.

"I think it's a great thing," Tata said. "Those schools that are below 60 percent student achievement right now really need to provide the best human capital we can for those students."

"The staff members from some are feeling a lot of anxiety and they are just uncertain what their futures are going to be," said Tama Bouncer with Wake NCAE.

Some who are re-hired or newly hired will receive a signing and/or performance bonus.

A $7,000 signing bonus is also being offered to the person who becomes principal at the new Walnut Creek Elementary School in southeast Raleigh. It's expected to open as a low performing, high poverty school.

Money for the "Renaissance schools" program will come from "Race to the Top" federal funds. School Board Member Kevin Hill cast the lone dissenting vote Tuesday, citing concerns over the sustainability of the project.

"This is Race to the Top money so it's not sustainable funding," Hill said. "It's almost $940,000 a year for the four schools. So we got to figure out what we're going to do in 3-4 years to cover that."

But the superintendent says that if the program works, they'll have to find other ways to fund it in the future.

"If this is successful and working, we'll figure out a way to keep the programs," Tata said.

In the meantime, there is also big news with the school board. AdvancED investigators will be arriving Thursday and Friday to interview board members and the superintendent individually about how policy changes were made and where the school system is headed in the future.

The accreditation agency is responding to a complaint filed by the NAACP.

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