The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce is also "disappointed" today with the Wake County school board's change in direction on student assignment.
In an email this afternoon to the group's members, Chamber CEO Harvey Schmitt writes how he unsuccessfully tried to dissuade the board from passing the directive. In that email, Schmitt told board members "we are concerned that too much time spent on options that further divide the community or add additional anxiety and unknowns to the assignment process is not good for parents."
"Additionally, we are very concerned that continued examination of an unknown number of options will erode confidence in the direction of the WCPSS and in turn impact our ability to help you gain the financial support our students deserve," Schmitt continues.
In today's email, Schmitt tells chamber members that "based on our research we believe that an address based approach advocated in the directive will require mandatory assignment to fill schools."
The Chamber was a big player in the choice plan, having been the one who paid Michael Alves to come to Raleigh.
Here is today's email from Schmitt, which has the email to the board at the bottom:
From: Schmitt, Harvey <HSchmitt@raleighchamber.org>
Date: Wed, Jun 20, 2012 at 5:29 PM
Subject: Student Assignment Update
Dear Chamber Board of Directors, Board of Advisors, Government Affairs Department Board, and Education Committee members:
As you may know, the Wake County Board of Education (BOE) voted last night to begin exploring a new student assignment plan for the 2013-14 school year. In a motion passed 5-4, the BOE directed staff to begin researching student assignment plans that creates address based school assignments while promoting student achievement, proximity and stability. The proposal should also contain targets for academic performance and socioeconomic status. Staff must bring an assignment proposal to the BOE in September 2012.
The long and oftentimes heated discussion brought up numerous notable points, many of which remain unaddressed:
- Community unrest and uncertainty
- Need for additional capacity
- Lack of data for choice plan effectiveness
- Need for more focus on achievement
- Costs and staff resources
- Stability and sustainability
Earlier in the evening, most of the 25 speakers during the public comment section addressed the assignment issue. The crowd was mixed with supporters of the choice plan and supporters of a new base plan.
Prior to the meeting we shared with the Board our concerns about reopening this discussion without giving the current plan an opportunity to be thoroughly evaluated and creating new community uncertainty. Based on our research we believe that an address based approach advocated in the directive will require mandatory assignment to fill schools. As you will recall this was a major sticking point under the old plan as parents were concerned about stability and about arbitrary assignments. With a sizeable majority of parents satisfied with the current choice plan we anticipate a change will create disruption among a new group of stakeholders. The problem remains inadequate school capacity, an issue to be discussed in the months ahead as we look at school construction bond in 2013.
While very disappointed in this recent action by the Board of Education the Chamber and Wake Education Partnership remain engaged in this discussion and seeking the best solution for our community going forward.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss the issue in further detail, feel free to contact Drew Moretz (919-664-7061) or Emily Atkinson (919-664-7023).
Wake County School Board Votes to Pursue Diversity Based Assignment Plan
Wake School Board Votes to Change Student Assignment Plan
Wake Votes to Revise Assignment Plan - Again
Wake School Board Changes Assignment Plan Again, Also Adjust Budget
E-mail to the BOE
Today you have on your agenda a “directive to staff” to develop a 3 year assignment plan that includes base schools. We share your interest in building an assignment system that is parent friendly and focused on student achievement. We are however disappointed that we are again reopening the assignment discussion.
When we invested 6 months fashioning a Wake School Choice proposal presented to the Board of Education in February of 2011, we spent considerable time in exploring the potential for base schools. Our findings were that a base school assignment plan will require mandatory reassignments to populate new schools and fill empty seats in the county. We found no pathway to stability in assignment with base schools.
It is unclear to us how a "home-address" mandatory assignment plan to a school within "a proximate distance" of a student's home address will provide stability and avoid re-assignments in the face of continued enrollment growth. It is also unclear to us how such a plan would promote socioeconomic diversity and avoid racial isolation. And, it is unclear why the directive does not include "choice" except for magnet and special theme schools. Will students be mandatorily assigned to a year-round school? Will students be allowed to voluntarily transfer to another school? Will mandatory assignment simulations be conducted and assessed against the results of the choice-plan before the new plan is adopted?
We, like you, know that there are voices of concern over the lack of capacity in certain parts of the county that limit your ability to give parents their first choice. We anticipated that there would be 15% of parents who could not get into their first or second choice and your work far exceeded our projections. We also know that capacity issues have driven mandatory assignments in previous years forcing parents to accept assignment decisions determined by the System. WCPSS has capacity challenges and the underlying question is whether the parents can make the best choice surrounding the WCPSS’s capacity issues or WCPSS? Our belief is that parental choice was the very best way to handle the challenge while we as a community work to build additional capacity.
We respect your interest in a thorough review of alternatives that would make the WCPSS more parent and newcomer friendly. We are concerned that too much time spent on options that further divide the community or add additional anxiety and unknowns to the assignment process is not good for parents. Additionally, we are very concerned that continued examination of an unknown number of options will erode confidence in the direction of the WCPSS and in turn impact our ability to help you gain the financial support our students deserve.
If you do proceed with this directive, please do so quickly so our county can move to closure on this issue and focus on student achievement and additional investment in WCPSS.