How much of a role did the hostile crowd at Tuesday's meeting play in the new Wake County school board majority's willingness to compromise?
As noted in today's article, new school bard chairman Ron Margiotta repeatedly warned the crowd that he'd shut down public comment or call in security if they didn't calm down.
School board member Keith Sutton thinks the vocal complaints from the crowd are why the board was willing to accept compromises, especially on the proposed changes to the student assignment policy.
Let's back up to the start of the public comment period. By then, most of the supporters of the new majority had left after the swearing-in ceremony and reception.
The crowd was already in a fighting mood after the new majority amended the agenda to put the eight new items on the table.
Charlotte Turpin's comments were typical of what the board heard.
"You asked us to respect you," said Turpin, former Wake NCAE president. "I feel so disrespected right now by what I saw. I hope you have not sold your souls and do what is right for every child in Wake County.
Tempers were still high when it got time to discuss the revisions to the student assignment policy.
The revisions scrapped the section saying that "creating and maintaining a diverse student body" is a priority. Instead, two new priorities were inserted, including "promoting neighborhood schools with proximity to home consideration" and "providing choice in calendars and programs."
“We want to educate our students, but not through assignment," said new board vice chairwoman Debra Goldman. "This is the beginning of a process.”
The initial plan was to adopt the policy on first reading on Tuesday. This would have meant it could have been approved on final reading at the now scheduled Dec. 15 meeting.
Sutton proposed sending the policy first to the policy committee, which drew applause from the crowd.
Margiotta, who had been chairman of the policy committee, responded that you're "lucky" to get members to attend those meetings. This led to loud hissing coming from the crowd.
"Please be quiet or we’re going to ask you to leave," Margiotta told the audience. "Don’t make an arena out of us."
When Margiotta's remarks drew laughs, he threatened to ask security to make the crowd leave.
After things subsided, Sutton again said it should be sent to policy committee to be properly vetted. The other members of the board minority quickly backed Sutton.
Anne McLaurin also threw a jibe back at Margiotta, noting that she attends the policy committee meetings.
Kevin Hill noted how the new board members had accused the old board of being arrogant. He accused the new majority of doing just that now.
"It’s a very new process when essentially half the school board isn’t privy to information before the start of the meeting," Hill said.
Hill accused the new majority of trying to get changes approved "in the dark of night”
A vote was called with Sutton, Hill, McLaurin and Carolyn Morrison voting to support sending the policy to committee.
When it came time to vote against Sutton's motion, no hands were raised. John Tedesco said he thought that they didn't have to vote because the other side hadn't gotten a majority.
Tedesco and the new board members were told that not voting was the same as voting for the motion. This drew an audible cry from the crowd that he should know the rules before he's elected.
The other board members then voted with Margiotta casting the deciding 5-4 vote against sending it committee.
Tedesco then proposed a motion for a five-minute recess, drawing a cry of "shame on you" from the crowd.
In disgust, a large group walked out of the meeting. But Sutton said it was during the recess when a compromise was worked out.
Goldman said they should revote because Sutton's motion had merit.
The board unanimously voted to reconsider the motion and send the policy to committee. Those still present at the meeting applauded.
“We did something together," Tedesco said after the revote.
Click here to see the proposed revision to the student assignment policy.