You apparently had to be among the lucky few to know before Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights was going to investigate the complaint against the Wake County school system.
As noted in today's article, at least two school board members who didn’t back the student assignment changes said they first learned of the federal response Wednesday through news accounts. This is despite the fact that the OCR letter is dated Nov. 5.
The official notification to the full board came in an e-mail message shortly before 6 p.m. from interim Superintendent Donna Hargens.
Hargens told board members that they had officially received the letter in early November and that it had, as standard operating procedure, gone to board attorney Ann Majestic. Hargens informed board members that the story was getting news coverage because the NAACP had sent out a news release.
At least some board members, including chairman Ron Margiotta and John Tedesco, had known before Wednesday. Margiotta said it hadn't been discussed by the full board yet. He said the impression he had gotten from Majestic was that the decision to investigate wasn't that big a deal.
It was a big enough deal for the case to be among the one-third of the 6,900 civil rights complaints received each year that are investigated, according to Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education.
Both Tedesco and Margiotta said they weren't worried because Majestic had vetted the changes being questioned by the NAACP in the Title VI complaint.
“I have much more confidence in Ann Majestic and Tharrington Smith than I do in the random complaint of some naysayers,” Tedesco said.
Here's the e-mail notification that school board members received Wednesday after the NAACP press release and the first media accounts were out:
From: Donna Hargens/InstructionalSvcs/WCPSS
Date: 11/17/2010 05:52PM
Subject: Fw: Status of Dept of Ed. OCR Complaint
You will recall that in late September a complaint was filed with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The complaint was covered by the media at that time. We received notification in early November that the complaint would be investigated. This was sent to Ann Majestic per our normal operating procedure.
This afternoon the NAACP released a copy of the letter they received (see attached) as part of a newsletter and it is being covered by the media again.
We have referred all media questions regarding this to Board Attorney Ann Majestic.
Donna M. Hargens, Ed.D.
Chief Academic Officer/Interim Superintendent
Wake County Public School System