The fact that Garner has taken on the school system in a very public way over the diversity policy led to one of the more heated moments of yesterday's roundtable.
As noted in today's article, Garner municipal and community leaders said they've had to take a public stand to force the school system's hand. Diana Bader, a Cary resident, suggested yesterday that the town take a different approach.
"Stop complaining about your schools," Bader said. "You need to support your schools."
At that point, the roundtable had officially ended. But about half the people, mostly consisting of Garner residents, hung around for another 90 minutes to talk in a more informal setting.
Bader said the school district has looked for ways to reduce the percentages of low-income students in Garner's schools. As proof, she pointed to the work that's been done by the student assignment advisory committee, which helps staff put together assignment plans.
Bader is a longtime member of the advisory committee. which consists of parents and other community members. Bader is the committee's leader/organizer.
Bader added that you don't see other towns complaining as much as Garner. She said the town needs to be boosters for the schools.
Garner residents didn't take kindly to the suggestion that they're not supporting schools. They cited how they raise money through the Garner Education Foundation and organize events at town schools.
David Williams, who is also a member of the student assignment advisory committee, said Garner residents like himself had for years quietly lobbied school board members. But he said those unpublicized efforts had been ignored.
Buck Kennedy, Garner's mayor pro tem, said it's unfortunate that the town's threats to withhold site plan approval has cost the school district hundreds of thousands of dollars. But he said the town hasn't had a choice.
Since Garner went public, the school board has tentatively given approval to magnetize Smith Elementary School to lower its F&R rate and delayed building a new elementary school whose timing was criticized by the town.
But the town wants the school board to do even more to reduce the high poverty percentages that residents say don't truly reflect the conditions in Garner.
"Things are happening, but we need a jumpstart," Williams said.