Is it good or bad for Wake County to be compared to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system?
On one hand, Charlotte-Mecklenburg received on Tuesday the 2011 Broad Prize, earning $550,000 in scholarships in recognition of its efforts to help low-income and minority students succeed and graduate.
On the other hand, you had Wake school board member Keith Sutton wanting reassurances on Tuesday that the new student assignment plan won't have Wake "wind up like Charlotte-Mecklenburg."
During the student assignment update, Sutton said he had to address “sort of the pink elephant in the room."
“We’ve heard over the last year, almost two years I guess, the comparisons to Charlotte-Meck in terms of a choice model," Sutton said to James Overman, head of the student assignment task force. "What is it about this plan that gives you the assurance that we won’t wind up like Charlotte-Mecklenburg?”
Overman delicately answered Sutton's question.
"The short answer would be we’ve studied Charlotte-Mecklenburg," Overman said. "We’ve talked with the people in Charlotte-Mecklenburg that were part of the process of building their program. They started in a different direction and kind of transitioned into what they have now.
Not being negative about Charlotte-Mecklenburg, I have a lot of respect for them. I attended Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools so I have a lot of respect for them. We have designed our plan differently.”
Overman said he could share details about the differences but they were in a rush to start the specially called board meeting.
Sutton said he wants to see the similarities and difference between the assignment plans in the two districts "that allow them to sleep at night."
Charlotte has frequently been brought up as bogeyman by supporters of the old diversity policy. For instance, former school board member Susan Parry said at Thursday's Wake County Democratic Party campaign event that they didn't want Wake to become like CMS with all its very expensive high-poverty schools.
But critics of the old diversity policy point out that CMS outscores Wake among many subgroups on state exams.