Wake County school board chairman Ron Margiotta issued a call for help in this fall's elections during last Thursday's Northern Wake Republican Club meeting.
Most of Margiotta's speech focused on the actions initiated by the board since December 2009. But Margiotta closed his speech by pointing to the stakes for this fall's school board elections when he will be running for re-election while also hoping to pick up at least one of the Democratic seats.
"I think it's important that we recognize that the campaign from those that will be out there again will be an attempt to return to the old practices of moving kids around for the sake of socioeconomic diversity," Margiotta said. "And we can not go back to those programs. It's important that we elect candidates that are committed and will stay with their commitments and remain committed and follow through with the programs we've been able to initiate."
Margiotta's comments about board members following through on their commitments can be interpreted to be a slap at board vice chairwoman Debra Goldman for her defection from the majority on some key votes. Margiotta has accused Goldman of not living up to her campaign commitments.
Goldman was the only GOP board member that Margiotta didn't single out for praise during his speech.
Margiotta opened his speech by noting that he and the three other GOP board members at the club meeting had attended that day's school board training seminar in Winston-Salem. The session, sponsored by the Forsyth County school board and the conservative Civitas Institute, was picketed by the state NAACP.
Margiotta denied that the NAACP charge that the training session was a conservative indoctrination session by Civitas. He pointed to how the lead speaker was Philip Price, chief financial officer for the state Department of Public Instruction, who talked about budget issues facing school districts.
"The shallowness of their arguments is something that we continually have to defend against," Margiotta said of the NAACP.
Margiotta then moved on to discuss the "improvements" made since the new majority took over in December 2009. He said he's seen more accomplished since then than during the rest of his time on the board that he joined in 2003.
Margiotta rattled off a list of actions such as the opening of four new schools this school year, the adoption of EVAAS and the land banking of school sites. He drew applause when he noted how they had bought a site in Apex for $4 million less than what the old board had agreed to pay. That prior deal was rejected by the county commissioners.
He pointed to the decision to abandon the "horrible site" at Forestville Road in favor of building a new high school in Rolesville. He credited board member Chris Malone for that change.
Margiotta also touted changes in student discipline that have seen a sharp reduction in the number of long-term suspensions in Wake. He said an "awful lot of credit" goes to school board member John Tedesco and the ED task force he chairs.
"It's to our advantage to be able to keep our children in school rather than out in the streets," Margiotta said. "It's to the advantage of that student because when he's out of school he stops learning and when he's out of school with a long-term suspension in most cases he doesn't return."
He next brought up "major changes in the year-round programs," which he said school board member Deborah Prickett should receive "an awful lot of credit for that." He cited the reversal of the calendar conversions at Leesville.
Margiotta said all those changes were campaign promises made in 2009.
He also noted the elimination of "Wacky Wednesdays," in which teachers now have to find time for the weekly PLTs without dismissing early each week.
"The learning teams that worked during that time — during the learning time that was not going on in the schools — has found another way to accomplish what is necessary for the teachers but not at the expense or the students or families that never appreciated that time off," he said.
Looking ahead, Margiotta said they have much more to accomplish, including reducing the dropout rate and helping low-performing students.
"However we can not continue to overemphasize helping only the low-performing students," Margiotta said. "We must be concerned with those students that are the top of the line and we have to show those great percentage that are in the middle that they're also a concern of ours."
Margiotta drew applause when he mentioned helping the "top of the line" students.