Parents still confused after assignment hearing

October 14, 2011 4:09:38 AM PDT
Wake County Public Schools heard from the public Thursday on a contentious student assignment policy two days after elections that could change the political direction of the school board for the next two years.

The plan would replace the district's longstanding practice of busing students and allows parents to choose from a variety of schools based on their address. It also takes into account achievement balance and capacity at each school.

The hearing began at 5 p.m. at Broughton High School. A vote on the plan is expected Tuesday.

"My take away is that I think I know less now than what I did before I attended," parent Maria Fitzgerald said.

With three children in Wake County schools, she has a lot at stake. And with the confusion she says she experienced at Thursday night's meeting, the stakes are higher.

"The public, or at least those people who were here today, really want the board to slow down," Fitzgerald added.

About 80 people attended, and a short list of parents and concerned resident commented.

Parent Wendi Watson says she received general information with no depth on her concerns.

"I mean, we're not even sure of what our choices would be for high schools and the middle schools," she said.

The new assignment plan would allow parents to choose among at least five elementary schools and two middle and high schools based on their neighborhood.

The problem is, a lot of parents say, they don't know exactly where their children may end up. What if they can't get into their schools? What if the quality diminishes? What if they want to transfer?

"I just hope they listen to the public," Watson added. "I really do because, really, the majority of parents are not happy."

Also, there's uncertainty in District 3. With the race between incumbent Democratic school board member Kevin Hill and Republican challenger Heather Losurdo likely slated for a runoff, many wonder what's next? The winner could tip the majority on the board towards Republicans or Democrats.

The new assignment plan is at the heart of more than a year of debate over race and diversity in the classroom that had the Republican-backed school board majority abandon a decade-old plan that tried to increase diversity by busing students.

Hill is against the new plan. Losurdo is somewhat in limbo.

"There are too many questions for me right now, if I were on the board, to pass the plan," Losurdo said.

It's a sentiment shared by some parents.

"My concern is that next Tuesday, it's going to pass and us parents with the kids are going to wondering what just happened," Fitzgerald said.

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