Is the Wake County school board still set to adopt a community-baaed schools plan?
As noted in today's article, school board vice chairwoman Debra Goldman repeatedly said during Tuesday's meeting that the board is still moving to community based schools. She said the only question is what plan they'll pick so she backed the proposal from Kevin Hill to have the full board embark on a consensus-building approach.
"You’ve now had a commitment from all nine board members to work on a community-based school plan," Goldman said during the meeting. "It will be a community-based school plan. It needs to go in my opinion, the board can discuss it, and then the board can craft the plan and then the board can vote.
Hopefully after everyone feeling that there’s been discussion and there’s been work together in building that plan, hopefully there will be more than a 5-4 vote. But if it comes down to a 5-4 vote for which community based school plan we pick, then that is what it will be. But at least the entire board will have had a piece of that discussion."
After the meeting, Hill said he wasn't going as far as Goldman in saying they had all agreed on going with community-based schools.
"I'm hoping we can all come together without prejudging things and come up with something we can agree upon," Hill said.
Also after the meeting, school board member John Tedesco argued that Goldman's votes on Oct. 5 and Tuesday have put the move to community-based schools at risk. He said that Hill's approach will delay adoption of a new plan to after the 2011 school board elections when control of the board might shift back to supporters of the old diversity policy.
Tedesco also said that in the process of trying to develop consensus that support for community-based schools could be watered down.
"For the past 11 months, the Democrat members of the school board have tried to stall, stop and hinder what the people elected us to do," Tedesco said. "They've found the support of Mrs. Goldman to help them."
Tuesday's vote came after a contentious round of bickering by the board.
The vote almost never took place. School board chairman Ron Margiotta had moved up the closed session to accommodate board attorney Ann Majestic's schedule. His plan had been to end the meeting with the closed session without getting to Hill's proposal.
But Hill demanded that the board discuss it, prompting Margiotta to agree to reopen after the closed session.
Much of Tuesday's debate revolved around whether the full board or the student assignment committee should tackle Hill's proposal.
Hill argued that the full board needs to tackle the issue. He also noted that Margiotta hadn't placed him on any of the standing committees.
"While I do not serve on any standing committees that have met since December 1, 2009, I have attended many committee meetings and it has been made clear that since I am not a committee member, my thumb does not count," Hill said. "I believe that all nine board members must be included in the discussion."
Hill pushed for the board to hold work sessions dedicated solely to student assignment to discuss how to implement the new model.
Margiotta responded that he still feels the student assignment committee is the best place for his proposal. He argued that the board already has a busy schedule of meetings coming up, pointing to student reassignment, the next bond issue and the budget.
(I think it's fairly safe to say that most of the members of the former majority wanted it in the student assignment committee to have more control of the process rather than them saying they wanted to adopt Hill's approach.)
This is where Goldman first made her presence felt by saying she felt it was really important for the entire board to work together.
School board member Deborah Prickett then made her pitch to rescind the Oct. 5 resolution halting work on the zone plan. It didn't get much traction.
Tedesco said that he's concerned that Hill wanted to start a consensus-building approach Tuesday without consensus on the board to do so.
Board member Chris Malone questioned the consensus that would emerge from a 5-4 vote to adopt Hill's approach. He argued it was Hill's approach that was delaying things.
"I don’t think how we can all come to consensus here when we can’t come to consensus out there," Malone said.
Malone brought up the Alves plan, saying how people have criticized the board majority for speeding things up while not objecting to Alves getting a plan done in 60 to 90 days.
Board member Anne McLaurin said no one has said anything about the Alves plan.
Goldman said she "can not fathom" wanting to do anything that affects the entire county without having all nine board members involved in the discussions.
Malone said they want to hear from all board members. He also argued they had a process to hear from all stakeholders down the line through the community meetings that would have been held on the zone plan.
Malone challenged Goldman whether she's suggesting that her policy committee and other committees should have all nine board members because their decisions affect everyone.
Hill responded that some issues transcend the committee level. He also challenged Malone for his prior remark about consensus being a lack of leadership.
Tedesco argued that every board member has had an opportunity to participate on the student assignment committee. But Hill responded that there's a difference between sharing your opinions and being able to vote in the committee.
Malone said he felt he needed to explain his consensus remark.
"When you've had the majority, you’ve always led," Malone said to Hill. "And consensus was never asked of Mr. Margiotta, whether or not it was all right that 6200 was written the way it was and would he like to have diversity taken out. Nobody ever asked him that question.
And then when we win, all of a sudden, whoa you won, let’s see if we can pull back some of that victory and we don't want you to do all the things you wanted to do. We want you to give us back some of the things that we're not going to able to do because we're now in the minority."
At this point, board member Carolyn Morrison said they really need a mediator. "We need to be of one accord and be a good role model for the community," she said.
Malone said that he has respect for all of his fellow board members and likes them all.
"I appreciate that," board member Keith Sutton quipped.
"Don’t be a wise guy," Malone fired back. "Disagreement doesn’t equal disrespect."
Malone said they don't need a facilitator.
Prickett echoed Malone's earlier comment that if some board members are concerned about participation then every committee should have all nine board members as voting members.
Prickett and Hill got into a wrangle about the value of the monthly work sessions.
After complaining that her turn had been skipped by Margiotta, Goldman was given the floor where she talked about how student assignment has divided the board and the county.
"It’s really important that every inch of this county, every person in this county, every stakeholder, every parent, every taxpayer feels that they are being represented in this discussion," Goldman said. "I think the only one way to do that at this point is to have every board member part of the final steps in creating the plan."