Tempers flared and words were shouted Tuesday over the possibility of reassigning thousands of Southeast Raleigh students to schools closer to where they live.
The most friction came during an exchange between school board member John Tedesco and one of the community members of his student assignment committee, Anne Sherron. She accused him of misrepresenting her words during a debate about whether there's academic benefits of going to a school closer to where you live.
But before we get there, you need some background.
Let's start with community member Ann Rouleau's list of proposed changes. Among them, she said, was reassigning out of Oak Grove Elementary in Cary the nodes coming near WakeMed in Southeast Raleigh. She said these students have a 20-mile drive and go past Bugg Elementary, where she said they could attend now.
Later in the meeting, Tedesco spoke up for why it makes sense to send those students to Bugg instead of Oak Grove.
"It’s pretty clear that if we’re going to be consistent with policy 6200, sending nodes from WakeMed on (U.S) 64, on the eastern side of Raleigh to Apex and to Oak Grove is a far cry from proximity," Tedesco said.
But Sherron said that, citing policy 6200, "achieving academic success should be paramount to anything we do." She argued they have to factor academic achievement into any moves.
“If we’re going to be discussing these moves as it relates to student assignment, we should also be looking at academic achievement," Sherron said. "I want to know for example the kids that are taken from Bugg to Oak Grove, how are they performing? Are they doing fantastic? If that’s the case, should not that be the number one reason?”
“Are you saying that if they went to Bugg that they would be going to a crappy school and wouldn’t do as well there?" Tedesco responded.
"Now John I did not say that," said Sherron, whose voice steadily rose until she was shouting over Tedesco's voice. "You are putting words in my mouth. I did not come anywhere near that. John I did not say that and you know I didn’t. Why don’t you ask me what I’m saying rather than putting words out there thinking that’s what I said?"
"If the children are performing at Oak Grove, is moving them in their best interest, in their number one priority best interest?" Sherron asked. "Do we have documentation that exists that simply being closer to home is the end-all for academic achievement. We do not have that data."
Rouleau challenged Sherron, saying that Wake didn't have the academic data to support moving those students to Oak Grove in the first place. Back under the old board, Rouleau would come to board meetings during the public comment section to challenge the board to come up with the data showing the diversity policy helped low-income students.
Sherron responded that "two wrongs don’t make a right."
Community member Tracey Noble then pointed to the data from an earlier community meeting that she said shows that students in the highest poverty areas who were staying in the zone did better academically than those who were bused out.
Sherron said you need to go deeper in the data. She said that someone has looked into the data and found kids did better when they were assigned to year-round schools.
Sherron said she's hoping staff will come up with more detailed academic data on the performance of low-income students in Wake.
"The bottom line is what’s the best educationally for the children that need us the most," Sherron said. "I don’t think arbitrarily moving children closer to home is the end-all."
Tedesco said that while proximity isn't the end-all that the community believes it's a contributing factor to achievement.
After the meeting ended, Sherron said that "children have to be called out for bad behavior" to explain why she responded to Tedesco's words about Bugg.