The question of whether to build new schools in Southeast Raleigh is becoming a political issue that could have a major impact on Wake County's magnet school program.
As noted in today's article, school board member John Tedesco wants additional schools in Southeast Raleigh to accommodate the return of neighborhood kids and to leave open seats at area magnet schools. A News & Observer analysis shows 5,244 Southeast Raleigh kids now live at addresses bused for diversity.
But school board member Keith Sutton and some of the other leadership of Southeast Raleigh aren't so thrilled with getting new schools. They're worried that the new schools won't provide a good quality education.
“As I see it now, the plan just throws a carrot or a bone to District 4,” said Sutton, who represents Southeast Raleigh based District 4 on the board. “Just because it's new doesn't get it for me and it doesn't get it for people in Southeast Raleigh.”
Sutton made a similar argument on Aug. 22 while speaking at a back-to-school meeting at Compassion Tabernacle of Faith Missionary Baptist Church, across the street from Southeast Raleigh High.
“It doesn't help us to have a shiny new school if at the end of the day it won't be a good school, if you're not providing a good quality education with good teachers,” Sutton told church members. “It shouldn't be an attempt to simply house students in District 4 rather than having them in other communities, which is what some of my colleagues want to do.”
Tedesco says a new community zone system will have to include much more capacity for Southeast Raleigh. He says he believes many Southeast Raleigh students will want to return under the new community schools model.
“I think that they deserve the same opportunity that other parts of the county have," Tedesco said. "The current system force-buses kids to other parts of the county and brings in kids to their neighborhoods. That doesn't seem fair to me.”
If there isn't enough capacity then you're going to put a major limitation on the number of kids who can attend the downtown and Southeast Raleigh magnet schools.
It's possible that some of the current magnet seats will be reduced to increase base attendance. It's something that school board chairman Ron Margiotta said he could accept at last week's Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce meeting.
“Why should students be bused out of schools across the street from them so that some rich kid can come from Cary, or from my district?” said Margiotta, whose district includes Apex and Holly Springs.
Margiotta added that they'd still need to maintain enough magnet seats at the schools to keep the programs viable. He said he doesn't want the magnet program eliminated.
“Magnet schools will be here forever as far as I’m concerned,” Margiotta said. “They serve an excellent purpose.”