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Allison Backhouse on the AdvancED investigation of the Wake County school system

Allison Backhouse now has her own blog and her focus today is on AdvancED's  accreditation investigation of the Wake County school system.

Backhouse criticizes the "ridiculous complaint" by the Rev. William Barber of the state NAACP that led to the review. Noting the recent positive AdvancED report, she writes that the organization's concerns were addressed "due to the hard work of the previous Board and Supt. Tata."

"But, what has really changed – besides the political majority on the School Board?" Backhouse writes. "Are our high schools and their students better in some way? Even the Wake Education Partnership came to the conclusion that accreditation is just a public perception issue. We think it’s important only because we’ve been told it is."

Fred Foster in Durham commissioners race

Fred Foster, president of the Durham NAACP branch, has become the third official unofficial candidate for the Board of County Commissioners.

Candidate filing does not open until Feb. 13, but this week Foster (right) registered a campaign committee with the Durham County Board of Elections.

A long-time Democratic Party activist, Foster ran unsuccessfully for a commissioners' seat in 2000 and 2008, and for the state House in 2010.

He joined Duke University biologist Will Wilson and former Durham Planning Commissioner Wendy Jacobs, who had already registered their campaign committees. Both are registered Democrats.

Political newcomer John Owens, also a Democrat, registered an "exploratory committee" this week, but has not specified an office he is seeking.

Great Schools in Wake Coalition activist slams school choice in national article

A member of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition is quoted in a article critical of school choice.

In an article originally published by Alternet, a liberal online newsmagazine, GSIW member Karey Harwood charges that school choice supporters are out to create a "divided society of winners and losers." The article, originally titled "5 Biggest Lies About the Right-Wing Corporate-Backed War on Our Schools" was reposted Tuesday by Salon.com for National School Choice Week.

"When they talk about choice, whose choices are they referring to?" Harwood says in the article. "Are the children of people who are savvy enough to get out of the public schools the only children who are worth educating in our society? What happens to the children who don’t get out?"

Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata called "stabilizing force" in AdvancED report

Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata is getting a lot of credit for AdvancED upping the accreditation status of the school district's high schools.

As noted in today's article, AdvancED said in its new report that the school system has made "significant" progress to address the issues it had raised in its March report. Throughout the report, AdvancED cites Tata as being a major factor for the change.

"A common theme during interviews was the significance of the Superintendents’ influence on the direction of the system in providing governance and leadership focused on student learning and system effectiveness," according to the report. "Described as a 'calmer' Board, stakeholders attributed this change unequivocally to the Superintendent’s leadership."

Wake County school board attorney Ann Majestic profiled in North Carolina Lawyers Weekly

Longtime Wake County school board attorney Ann Majestic is the focus of a front-page article in last week's issue of North Carolina Lawyers Weekly.

The profile details how Majestic started a legal career that will lead to her in April receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National School Boards Association Council of School Attorneys.

Much of the article focuses on Majestic's work in Wake, including her successful efforts to win over the initially suspicious Republican board majority in 2009. The article also talks about her personal views on the role of socioeconomic diversity in student assignment.

Wake County school board sticks with prosecution over mediation with protesters

It looks like protesters were wrong if they were hoping that the new Democratic majority on the Wake County school board would be more sympathetic that the Republicans were on the issue of mediation instead of prosecution.

As noted in today's article, the school board met in closed session last week and agreed to stick with the decision made by the former majority to recommend that the protesters who disrupted board meetings in 2010 go to trial.

Since it was discussed in closed session, neither the board members or board attorney Ann Majestic are saying why the board decided not to go with mediation.

North Carolina NAACP calls for delaying Wake County's new student assignment plan

The state NAACP is joining the Great Schools in Wake Coalition in calling for a delay in implementation of Wake County's new student assignment plan.

In today's open letter, the NAACP says "we believe it is in the best interest of all children of Wake County to delay implementation." The NAACP says there are too many unanswered questions to implement the plan for the 2012-13 school year.

"We encourage the school board to proceed in implementing a new student assignment plan only once they have the data and a clear program to ensure they are making the very best decision," according to the open letter. "We believe thoughtful people who put all our children first and who want high-quality, constitutional, well-funded, diverse education for every child -- as opposed to those driven by ideological agendas and partisan politics -- can always find common ground."

The letter was co-signed by the Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP; and Timothy Tyson, education chair of the state NAACP.

Full text of Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP letter opposing Lee Scholars Charter School

The Rev. Robert Campbell, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, sent this letter to the Office of Charter Schools in opposition to the proposed Lee Scholars Charter School. The school will be considered for approval in the new year. (All text in bold is Campbell's emphasis.)

Dear Application Review Committee:

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP and other concerned citizens of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School District (CHCCS) respectfully request that your Committee reject the application for a charter school written by a Grand Rapids, Michigan for-profit corporation, the National Heritage Academies, Inc. (NHA)  We just learned the application was endorsed by a group of dedicated people from the Triangle area.  We know and respect  many of them.  It is on the fast track and the NHA proposes to open the school in 9 months.  

It is the position of the NAACP and our allies that the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School District (CHCCS) does not need this School.  The Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP stands firmly on the position of no diversion of taxpayers' money from our public schools to support the NHA's profiting from building a new school here. We throw our support behind the new superintendent of our schools, Dr. Thomas Forcella, and our new, duly-elected school board to determine the policies and personnel to meet our shared objective of educational success for every student.  We believe Supt. Forcella, the Board, and the team he is assembling are committed to work with the community stakeholders to forge a new path to end the achievement gap and advocate for diverse, constitutional, and high quality schools for all of our children.

The NHA did not see fit to inform or check with Dr. Forcella and his staff when it developed the proposal.  We urge you to investigate how this proposal was put together, its  purposes other than to make a profit for the NHA, and the impact it will have on the plans of the new Superintendent and his team to improve the educational experiences of all the students in our District.  The NHA application purports to meet three primary needs the NHA has identified in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community: 1) close achievement gaps; 2) prepare students for a rigorous high school and college preparatory program; and 3) alleviate overcrowding in elementary schools.  On information and belief, the Grand Rapids proposal writers have, in other proposals, stated quite similar “needs” in disparate school districts.  Although there are several problems with the application being submitted, we focus on these three “needs” the NHA has identified in our community.

Ron Margiotta says school board protesters should be punished for their "reprehensible behavior"

Former Wake County school board chairman Ron Margiotta says protesters arrested for disrupting school board meetings don't deserve leniency for "reprehensible behavior" that "threatened" public safety and "deliberately created chaos and fear."

In a letter to the editor Sunday, Margiotta contrasts the people who were arrested with those who were not during the last two years. He writes the board "tolerated" the "rude and disrespectful" behavior of people who were "cheering and jeering" and "simply refused to maintain civility and adhere to proper decorum."

But Margiotta writes that the protesters who were arrested went beyond simple acts of civil disobedience or disruption. He charges those protesters used "extreme and intimidating tactics."

SEE UPDATE AT END OF POST FOR RESPONSE FROM STATE NAACP

1324336463 Ron Margiotta says school board protesters should be punished for their "reprehensible behavior" The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

NAACP "welcomes" new Wake County school board

The Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, is welcoming the new Wake County school board taking office today.

In a press release today, Barber writes that "we remain hopeful and optimistic for the new direction of the new Wake County School Board." He notes how the new Democratic majority has said it will review the new choice-based student assignment plan.

"The new majority seems to be willing to review and analyze the current plan," Barber says. "We hope that they will be use the standards of research, the law and lessons of history as opposed to a narrow-minded, regressive, political ideology that undermines public education rather than uplifting public education."

Barber says "any new plan that is implemented needs to surpass the nationally recognized and researched Gold Standard plan that existed prior to 2010." His release lists various concerns the NAACP has with the choice plan and urges the board to consider the guidance issued last week by the Obama Administration on promoting diverse schools.

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