Is the Wake County school board's new economically disadvantaged student performance task force the right step toward helping those students or just window dressing to cover for the resegregation of schools?
As noted in today's article, members of the new school board majority have high hopes that the task force will come up with recommendations for improving the graduation rate, raising student achievement and reducing suspensions.
The new majority argues that the task force, along with the use of neighborhood schools, will accomplish more than what's happened under the diversity policy.
"We have to reach out to meet the students' needs," said school board chairman Ron Margiotta. "We're not just going to talk about it. We're going to do it."
Margiotta contends that the members of the old board didn't want to address the issue of helping individual low-income students.
"I just saw school board members say, 'let's accept what's going on,'" Margiotta said. "That's not the way I see to do it. We need to address the concerns that are really out there."
The critics of the new board majority acknowledge that Wake needs to do a better job of working with low-income students and that there's nothing wrong per se with the task force. But they say the task force doesn't justify ending the diversity policy.
"We don't want to go back in time where we resegregated schools," said Yevonne Brannon of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition. "It's not a healthy thing."
The Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, said it would be "quite sad" to eliminate the diversity policy while the new board is trying to address how to better serve low-income students. He said it's a "false dichotomy" to believe that "undermining the diversity policy" will improve student achievement.
"We're not saying everything is right with the school system," Barber said. "But focusing on eliminating economic diversity doesn't work."
Barber said that if the NAACP gets the 45 minutes it wants at a school board meeting it will present ways to improve student achievement and the graduation rate and reduce suspensions. He said it's wrong to say that they turned down Margiotta's offer of a private meeting because of grandstanding.
Barber said they wanted a public meeting so that all the information would be on the record and not kept private.
Barber also took a job at school board member John Tedesco, the chairman of the new task force. In a Jan. 10 article by Kristen Collins, Tedesco said the NAACP was mired in the past and a member of the "54 percent club," referring to supporters of the diversity policy and the current graduation rate for low-income students.
"Mr. Tedesco has talked about binding the community together," Barber said. "We've (NAACP) been binding the community for 100 years. He hasn't been in office for 100 days."
But Margiotta contends that critics of the new board don't are about the low-income students. He said they just want to grab the power they've lost since the new board majority took control.