Website ranks Wake schools number one

WAKE COUNTY Although the district is plagued by controversy right now, the website called Great Schools ranks Raleigh as the nation's number one destination for public schools.

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The website, which provides information on school performance nationwide, says Wake County public schools are among the best in the country.

"Good for us, good for the kids too," Wake County resident Elena Thomann said.

Thomann says before switching to a private school for religious reasons, she sent her children to a Wake County public school. She says the education in Wake County is above average for a number of reasons.

"The schools are newer," she said. "They try to attract good teachers. They always encouraged the parents to get involved in what's going on in the classrooms."

The executive director of the North Carolina Parent Teacher Association, Debra Horton, says that is the key to the success seen in Wake County in recent years.

"There is a community commitment to education," she said. "There's no magic bullet or perfect system, but they certainly seem to have something that's working in the right direction."

The rankings also include another Tar Heel town -- Cary ranked third among mid-sized cities in the country.

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Test results and unemployment rates were some of the factors involved in the rankings.

However, editors also praised the Wake County system for the old socio-economic diversity policy and cautioned that, "the future of this stellar district is in doubt. An election last fall changed the makeup of the school board and the new board recently voted to end the diversity policy."

John Tedesco, one of the board members responsible for that change, disagrees with the comment and says he feels the move toward community-based schools will make things better, not worse.

"I think it gives us the opportunity to show them what'll happen when we take a good school system and make it great," Tedesco said.

Thomann says there's always room for improvement.

"I think diversity is really crucial to a lot of this, because different cultures bring so much to the school environment," she said.

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