The WakeEd blog is devoted to discussing and answering questions about the major issues facing the Wake County school system. How will the new student assignment plan balance diversity, stability, proximity and stability? How will Jim Merrill replace Tony Tata as the new superintendent of the state's largest district? How will voters react to a $810 million school construction bond referendum on Oct. 8 ballot? How will this fall's school board elections impact the future of the district?

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New school board members calling for delay in student assignment plan vote

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The three new Democratic members of the Wake County school board are all saying that Tuesday is too early to adopt the new student assignment plan.

New board member Susan Evans said additional study time might mean the plan would not be implemented until 2013, but might well be worth it.

“Do we have to have this in place for 2012-2013, when 94-95 percent of parents are happy where they are?” Evans asked. “I think we could take the time to vet it out and get it right. We definitely need to continue to work on a long-term plan.”

Evans was joined at tonight's student assignment public hearing by Christine Kushner and Jim Martin. Most of the speakers either asked for a delay or changes to the plan. More on that tomorrow morning.


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Are nodes gone once and for all?

Does anyone know if the concept of nodes has been expunged from the software?

I asked about that at the BAC meeting Monday night

And nodes are still there. When they talk about high performing and low performing areas in the assignment plan, they will be using nodes as the area unit of measurement.

My understanding is that the

My understanding is that the center of the node is used to determine your school choices.


Thanks Parent and RaleighLaura. This makes me terribly nervous that social engineering in the assignment plan has a fighting chance to rise, zombie like, from the dead. 

Well... That's interesting

Interesting to see Democrats mimicing the same Republican behavior they complained about in 2009.  This is exactly the sort of intrusion that they complained about when the incoming board asked the outgoing board to stop work on the H6 school site.  

Wouldn't it also be the same

Wouldn't it also be the same sort of "don't waste your time, we're changing it anyway" thing that the republicans said made sense?

That logic works both ways.

The letter beside the winners' names will always change the way people view this process.

I thought the democrats were dumb to keep pressing on H6 when it was obviously going to be scrapped.  I think it's equally dumb to pass the new assignment plan prior to seeing details, and that opinion has no bearing on what the newly-elected board members think.

I agree

The logic certainly does work both ways.  Personally, I think that the new board members are wrong and, potentially, dangerously so for their hopes of a majority.  This gives Losurdo an opening to say "They're already talking about scrapping 2 years of work and going back to busing kids long distances.  If you elect me, I can stop them."

I'm not completely clear on what details are still lacking.  If, this year, you're in grades K-4, 6-7 or 9-11, next year you'll go to the same school.  If you're in 5 or 8, then you'll go to your 'feeder' school.  If you're about to be in Kindergarten or want to switch schools or don't like your feeder school, then there is a choice process -- at the elementary level, you rank a minimum of 5 school choices and, based on a set of already published criteria, the district assigns you to one of those schools.  (But, you do get the option to say 'no, I'm staying here'.)  At the MS and HS level, there's a minimum of 2 school choices.  The magnet choices remain intact.

Recall that the winning candidates did not run on blocking the new student assignment plan -- that's just pulling a bait-and-switch on the voters.  In contrast, the H6 school was at issue in the '09 election.

I'll Give You A Couple...

I'm not completely clear on what details are still lacking.

.....just a couple examples
1)  Actual honest to god estimates of transportation costs.
More importantly, because it has a direct bearing on achievement:
2a) A mechanism to  prevent the formation of high-poverty schools OR
2b) A serious, believable commitment to raise the extra money needed to extra resources for those high-poverty schools that are created
I don't think the new majority (assuming there is one, which is of course not a given) is going to "scrap everything and start over". And I think the plan on the table will be the basis of what we end up with.   You can bank on that.
But it is pretty obvious that the changes to that plan to address the issues the current majority frankly didn't give a damn about addressing will necessarily be significant enough to render passing it as is now an excercise in wasteful petulance.

Well now...

We've heard about the number of new buses needed -- you can get from that number to a decent idea of what transportation costs will be.  They'd be fools to give exact numbers because the numbers depend hugely on fuel costs. 

I think (or, at least, hope) that the concept of getting rid of "high-poverty" schools by prescription is dead.  If you give parents choices among schools and all those parents decide that their kids are better off at a nearby "high poverty" school, then I don't think the district should take an attitude that effectively says "What do you know?  You're just a poor, black parent.  We know what's better for your kids than you do."  Not only is that approach offensive, it has also failed -- witness the scores of "schools of progress" (and worse) scattered throughout the district and the abysmal passing and graduation rates of poor students.

In any case, that's not a missing detail -- that's just something you wish the plan had.  I have a few issues with the plan also (transparency being a big one), but those aren't really missing details.

In my view, Tata is taking the right approach here by trying things, like single-sex academies, that have worked in other districts.

The missing detail you say

The missing detail you say isn't a missing detail and the detail you say is missing actually are combined, IMO.

We may very well be told that school x is 80% poverty, but we won't know if people are there because it was choice #1 or choice #4.

Until we really know (if we ever do) just what criteria will be used to weight the choices, we don't really know how much choice there really is in this plan.

For example, suppose they offer me 5 elementary options.  But, suppose they can't really send 5 buses through my area, so there are only 2 choices that anyone near me is actually awarded.  Have I really had "school choice"?

Since they won't let us see behind the curtain, we may never know.


According to the plan, transportation options will be available to all schools on your choice list. It is wrong and misleading to say "they can't really send 5 buses through my area, so there are only 2 choices...".


The district will determine what form of transportation (neighborhood or express) will be available to each family at each school. When families are making their choices, they will be informed as to what type of transportation they can expect to each of the schools on their list to help them make a fully informed decision for their rankings of schools.

OK...this particular

OK...this particular situation is very unlikely to affect my family, so I'm not really interested in a long, drawn-out argument.  Plus, I made it very clear that it was a hypothetical.

But, don't act like people haven't been accusing school boards and staff of being less than 100% up-front about their intentions for years in this county.

All it would take is a quick elimination of (neighborhood or express) to make that statement much different.  There are plenty of options now that don't come with a ride, and I'd still consider them "choices". 

Are you saying (since you have a connection to Margiotta) that it is 100% guaranteed that the county won't end up offering choices #1 and #2 with neighborhood busing, choice #3 with express busing, and the rest with no busing?  Or some other combination of that situation?  That would be the easiest, quickest "nod to the current budget situation" that would at the same time drive people toward certain choices.

Even the "express busing" is a choice driver, because it isn't a realistic option for everyone.

The question remains:  If 49% of a neighborhood chooses option 1, and another 49% chooses option 2, does that impact the chances of acceptance for the other 2% if they want other options.  Would the county consider the fact that giving the 2% their first choice would mean an SUV/contract transporter/extra bus going into a neighborhood for one or two kids?

To be perfectly honest, I think that transportation costs should factor into choice allocation.  I just think they should tell us for sure whether or not it will in the actual plan.

The question remains:  If

The question remains:  If 49% of a neighborhood chooses option 1, and another 49% chooses option 2, does that impact the chances of acceptance for the other 2% if they want other options.  Would the county consider the fact that giving the 2% their first choice would mean an SUV/contract transporter/extra bus going into a neighborhood for one or two kids?

I think it's pretty clear from the plan, and from Tata'a op-ed piece in today's paper, that the answer to this question is NO. Transportation costs do not factor into the allocation of choices. The plan will offer regular transportation to all choices. The administration's cost analysis shows a need for an additional 25 buses (which can be rented from the state at no cost) during the transition from the existing plan to the new plan.

But, here's the issue..

Initially, what you said may be true. How long, though, would it take before transportation costs DO factor into the allocation of choices?

That's the transparancy issue -- the administration could make that change, not tell anybody, and nobody would be the wiser.

Here's a scenario I brought up before to illustrate the transparancy problem:  Mike is an 8th grader at Wakefield Middle School who is an absolutely fantastic quarterback.  Mike's choice options for high school next year are Wakefield (his feeder school) and Millbrook.  The Millbrook coach has been recruiting him quite heavily, and Mike decides to choose to go to Millbrook.  So, he puts his name in.  However, there are lots of people choosing to go to Millbrook and Mike isn't one of the lucky ones chosen.  But, it turns out that the administrator in charge of the lottery is friends with the Millbrook football coach and pushes Mike over to Millbrook, and pushes some other kid (George) over to Wakefield.

Unless somebody spills the beans, everything looks normal from the outside. There's no way to know.  The situation isn't really that far-fetched -- that's the sort of cheating we've come to expect from football.

Now, move it away from football: the same administrator just starts thinking "hey, I need to reduce transportation costs" and starts accepting people based on reducing those costs.  Just like in the football example, everything looks normal from the outside, but people are being turned down due to a factor that was never made public.

Exactly. The only thing that


The only thing that will matter is exactly what is stated in the plan that actually comes to a vote.  The quote from the assignment website that sideburns quoted won't matter.  Nothing in the op-ed will matter. 

I'm having a hard time with so many people saying "It won't be that way.  Trust Tata and the board."  Especially since many of those same people have constantly told me how crooked the assignment process was in the past. 

Maybe if we rename the selection algorithm Chuck Dulaney we'd get their attention. 


So you want the plan to include everything that won't be done?


The assignment plan should not depend on the people implementing it -- the precise algorithm should be set in stone.

This is uber-geeky, but I'd have the board vote on the source code to a computer program that implemented the assignment plan and then forbid changing that program without board consent. 

Didn't Tata say that

Didn't Tata say that software had to be written to implement the plan?

I have no idea whether it will be humans or software making the choice, but either way, won't the process have to obey the priority scheme. If it is software, then it should be easy to document it. Or it might be subject to "Freedom of Information" requests.

So Charlie...

you think the plan should not be voted until this new board is in place.  Do you realize that it will take until 2014 before anything could be put in place.  If they wait until the spring nothing will be place for 2012-13.   Are you willing to spend the time between now and then on assignment and reassignment instead of the more important issues like student achievement and the achievement gap?   That is exactly what will happen.  Another wasted few years like we've had for the past  7 or 8 years.  What about voting on the plan if it's the basis and then 'tweak' it where needed?  

I Don't Buy Accept Your Premise

The idea that it "now or spring" is a false dichotomy.   The current plan on the table WILL be the foundation.  It's sure as hell not ready for a vote right now.....but it's also not all that far away. There's nothing - other than their own damn ego - to prevent the *current* board from starting work on the pieces they know are not acceptable. 

The only thing standing between now and a completed plan capable of winning a 9-0 vote by the new board in 7-8 weeks is the unwillingness of Tedesco, Prickett & Malone to compromise on the points that matter a lot to the people who won landslide victories last week.  I firmly believe that.

That said, if your dichotomy DID hold and those were the two choices.....frankly I dont see much logistical difference between voting in a plan this week and then significantly modifying it in the spring and voting on it in the spring in the first place.  I'm open to argument on that point but given the nature of the things that need revisiting I don't see that a lot of implementation can be done beforehand.


I Doesn't Really Matter

If you accept my premise or not.  If the plan is delayed until the Spring based on the ego of the new board members, then they will be tasked with reassigning kids until 2014.  I would personally like to see that because they will have to endure the scrutiny that this board has had to face.  I guess the premise of paybacks and political friendships won't come up at all...right?  If this new board naive enough to think they can roll it out during the summer and not have some upset parents, they really need to read the history book on WCPSS. 

Please do share what is missing?  You seem to know it's not too far away so you must have some details.  What would those exactly be?

Personally, I thought the

Personally, I thought the plan was being rushed anyway.  I wouldn't want this vote to happen no matter who won the elections.

The plan needs to be finalized before it is voted upon.  Any vote on a "framework" is a mistake.

They could discuss the plan

They could discuss the plan for the next 10 years and not come up with a perfect plan. A good plan acted on now and perfected as you go is better than continuing to discuss and try to develop the perfect plan.

No plan will be perfect. 

No plan will be perfect.  No plan will please everyone.  But, if this plan is started with huge warts, some kids are going to be assigned to a kindergarten (or some other school) based on those warts.  After that is done, the process for switching schools becomes more difficult.

In tight budget times, I don't want them to pass a plan with A, B, C, and D as options, then realize that due to cost concerns C and D aren't actually possible.  If the economy was good, and the budget wasn't a big issue, I really wouldn't worry too much about the ultimate costs.  That isn't our current situation.

As the parent of a 1st and 3rd grader, I'd like to know what happens if we decide to move in a few years and end up across the street from a school that is full.  It doesn't seem fair to think that we wouldn't get in, but I haven't heard of any mechanism to reserve seats for that situation.

As a homeowner in Wake County who may one day like to sell, I'm not a big fan of the idea that the school that is the 4th option for my address my be the only option for someone who one day hopes to buy my house.

I also think that there are two things wrong with the "achievement school" idea that should be addressed prior to the passage of this plan.

1.  I think it's wrong to give parents an "achievement option" as a choice, but then tell them they didn't get in, which sort-of tells them they got into a lesser option.

2.  I think it's wrong to offer a distant "achievement option" to some families, if you're not going to set aside seats for any family who chooses to accept that distant option.....for the same reasons noted above.

And how did changing the

And how did changing the location of H6 work out for the republicans 2 years later?

They should pass the assignment plan, and dare the new board to reverse it. If the new board is smart, they'll let it go, and institute any changes they may want over time. While I supported the H6 move, I have a feeling that if the new board pulls the same stunt, they'll start off on the same path that Margiotta paved in 09, which will likely result in their ouster 4 years from now.

Dare the new board to reverse it?

That sounds like something Stephen Colbert would say.

Come on man, I know you are smarter than that.

Maybe I wasn't clear, or

Maybe I wasn't clear, or maybe you're right, and I am smarter than that.

Assignment has been an issue for far too long. It's time to pass an assignment plan. This plan is not a partisan plan, which was the accusation against JT's plan before it was stopped by Goldman. This plan is a non-partisan. It was developed by Tata and his staff. It establishes the choice and stability desires of the current board. And, bu using the achievemen pillar, it addresses concerns about the creation of high poverty schools shared by the current minority. It enjoys varying levels of support from each and ever current board member.

There is no need to wait until a new board is sworn in. Pass the plan. If the new board is stupid enough to come in with guns blazing, and immediately halt the plan in favor of developing a brand new plan more to their liking, then dare them to do it. If they did, I feel there would be a significant backlash, and as Yogi use to say, we'd have deja vu all over again.

I agree with passing the assignment plan

The plan isn't perfect, but it's a viable solution that can be tweaked as needed.  The BOE has spent two years focused on assignment.  Let's focus the next two years on student achievement.  This obsession with crafting the "perfect" assignment plan is a fool's errand.  I plead with each of the current and incoming board members to leave their ego and ideology at the door, and focus on the real goal- student achievement.


Now to see whether either side understands this message.  Which interestingly seems to have bipartisan support, the support of WEP, and the Chamber of Commerce.

How is this....

plan any different from JT's or the Alves plan? At the core it is still the same. Except no one knows how much more in transportation it will cost. The feeder patterns still make no sense.

Has achievement been defined? How exactly is busing for achievement different from the "forced busing" you keep complaining about? Achievement addresses high poverty schools - how?

Plans developed by previous supers are "tainted" and somehow this one is not? How is this plan non-partisan?

I Would Recommend That You Actually..

read the plan and see what's in it.  They have a lot of that information in there.    I could go into all the detail here, but don't have the time.


I wholeheartedly concur!

In the words of Kermit

somewhere over the rainbow ...  ;)

The three new Democratic

The three new Democratic members of the Wake County school board are all saying that Tuesday is too early to adopt the new student assignment plan.

Right out of the chute they are creating controversy and making poor judgments. "Too early?!" What are they talking about? In 2009 the voters demanded change. We've waited far too long. The board needs to vote on the plan at the very next meeting and be done with it. Heck, even Keith Sutton has said it has been talked about incessantly and vetted and it is time to pass it.

 The board needs TTheThe boardThe board need to vote for the plan at the never next metting and be done with it.Wake County has over 900,000 citizens and what, maybe 20 people were at the community meeting tonight asking for a delay... and they were the same cast of characters that are always bellyaching? That hardly shows significant public concern.

YEAH, ...

...kind of like the low Republican voter turnout, wouldn't you say?

I am on a roll!

I told you this plan will go nowhere!!!

That's what these kind of people always do, right Perry!!! Delay, study, put off, run from, make excuses, survey, tweak and in the end accomplish nothing.  These newly elected liars and geniuses of diversity are nothing more than another Head, Millberg and Gill.  Kevin Hill you should feel right home with this bunch.

Hey Apex, and Wake County, you hit this one right out of the freaking park didn't you. You're really sticking it to Ron and John now aren't you. Or should I say, sticking it to your own kids.

I will say a prayer for those of you who have elected the Barber supporters. A group that will once again get hit with more lawsuits than we can count, drive this school system further into the dirt and continue to ignore your concerns as parents. I will pray for you that it's not your kids Barber's Gang puts on their busses of endless reassignment, but you're going to need a lot more than my prayers to cope with your futures.

Here comes just another year where once again you will have Z E R O idea where your kids will be going to school, but you're used to that aren't you. Who needs an assignment plan. Heck, if you're lucky your new board might unite just long enough to accomplish a vote to ok a few more trailers.

Yes sir, way to go FlipFlopVille voters. You have royally screwed this one right up and I will rub your miserable faces in it from now on. Your votes were equal to slapping your own children right SMACK in their faces!

FS, "When You Want To Know What's In Your Future Just Ask Me. An Equal Opportunity Offender With A Crystal Ball."

Figured out...

html tags, eh?


...someone needed Jesus, IT'S YOU!

Thank you

You changed my life.  :)


I will now call you 'Butter'. :)

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.