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Steve Rao distancing himself from donation to Wake Schools Community Alliance

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Steve Rao, a Democratic candidate for Wake County commissioner, is trying to explain away why he gave a donation to the Wake Schools Community Alliance during last fall's school board campaign.

As noted in today's article by Thomas Goldsmith, Rao said his $100 donation to the WSCA was based on a misreading of their true intent: electing school board candidates opposed to using diversity as a factor in student assignment. Rao has been criticizing the school board's elimination of the diversity policy as part of his campaign.

During last fall's campaign, then Wake County Democratic Party Chairman Jack Nichols accused the WSCA of being an "alter ego" for the Republican Party. The WSCA denied the charge.

Nichols is now one of Rao's Democratic running mates for commissioner.

In addition, the campaign report listing the donation gives Rao's occupation as “lawyer,” when in fact he has a law degree, but has not passed a bar examination. Rao said he couldn’t explain the mistaken listing and noted that he doesn’t describe himself as an attorney in campaign literature or elsewhere.

Rao is the founder and CEO of the sports management and coaching company TSG Academies.

Despite living in Wake County since 2000, Rao never cast a ballot until the general election of 2008.

“I just was traveling so much, and didn’t get really involved in politics until then,” Rao said.

Rao is running against Republican incumbent Tony Gurley. While Gurley has been somewhat cool lately to the Republican majority on the school board, he says he supports neighborhood schools. Gurley gave $2,000 to the WSCA last year.


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Where do his children go to

Where do his children go to school?

not sure but he lives in Morrisville


Let's be real here, Mr. Rao

Let's be real here, Mr. Rao is a wuss. He was for it before he was agaisnt it ...sounds familiar.

His support for WSCA and the newly elected BoE was his first position as an aspiring politician...and, apparently, a voter. One would think he would have thought his position out before jumping in. How wishy-washiness will he be the next time he takes a stand? He's off to an unimpressive start. Maybe he isn't ready yet.

Is Steve Rao really "political material"?!??

..."a misreading of their true intent..."  With all due respect, having earned a law degree as well as building and running a company, are we expected to believe that Mr. Rao could not decipher the "true intent" of WSCA?!?

   WCSA's site states ( www wakesca.org/node/18 )...

"Wake Schools Community Alliance (WSCA) supports:

  • Academic success as the first priority for ALL Wake County students
  • Stable neighborhood schools in a community model
  • Voluntary calendar options for all families
  • School Board candidates/representatives who will move forward with innovative solutions"

...“misreading intent”, and failure to make local elections a priority for nearly 8 years... perhaps politics is not Mr. Rao’s bailiwick?!? 

Seems to be confusion.

Maybe the misunderstanding surrounds that first bullet point.    Academic success may have been WSCA's leading bullet point on election and lobbying literature but it certainly has been nowhere near "the first priority for ALL Wake County students" for the candidates they helped get elected to the BoE and have continued to vocally support.   

..."Seems to be confussion"

Dove314 -  You're missing the point...  Rao contributed PRIOR to the elections. (think!)


"Continue to vocally support" -- I must not have been paying attention; I wasn't aware that the organization had been doing anything of the sort.

We haven't. 

We haven't. 

The leaders of WSCA have

The leaders of WSCA have posted on this blog, spoken at board meetings, and been interviewed on TV and in the newspaper expressing opinions in support of the new board members and their efforts. Though maybe not 100%, the large majority of comments made by those associated with WSCA have been positive regarding actions taken by or things said by the new majority (at least until the most recent unpleasantness between them). You don't consider that to be continuing to "vocally support"?

I'm a member of WSCA and

I'm a member of WSCA and WSCA leaders have said that they support the direction of the new board but I've seen several comments pointing out that they don't agree with every decision made.

The times that WSCA leaders have spoken at board meetings as representatives of WSCA, they didn't speak out as supporters of the board majority.  They spoke about working together to move forward, not 'us vs. them'.   I urge you to get to know some of the people in WSCA for yourself.  We're not in lock step with anybody and we're not even in agreement with each other all of the time. 

Sounds like what I said --

Sounds like what I said -- not 100% but in general they (and you) have been vocally supportive of the direction they want to go.  You in particular have encouraged people to have faith in the new board members.  And when you spoke of  "working together" you obviously meant for the critics to begin working with the new majority to go forward in their direction.  I would still consider all that to be "vocally supportive."  Are you saying you're not supportive any more?

I thought you meant that we

I thought you meant that we were vocally supportive of every decision, not the general direction and acting as 'cheerleaders' like SDR said.

Edited to add:  I was thinking about this comment of yours when I answered originally: 

the large majority of comments made by those associated with WSCA have been positive regarding actions taken by or things said by the new majority (at least until the most recent unpleasantness between them).

Some of us have said we didn't like how they did things at the first meeting.  I wasn't happy with the vote to keep Broughton's IB program and I've said so.  There are plenty of instances where we have criticized actions taken by the board.  I was even quoted in the paper as saying I wasn't a fan of the no base schools concept. 

As for me personally, I do support the direction away from the old policy.  It was a convoluted mess that frankly, was not popular with anybody.  Do I agree with every decision made?  No, but that's to be expected. 

Yes, I have encouraged people to have faith in the board members (not just the new).  The process has just started and it is going to be a long one that is downright unpleasant at times.  There's just no way around that.  These are all good people who each have something to bring to the table.  They all have their faults but we need to look for the positive things each has to offer.

Working together.  I do mean all parties working with each other.  But the reality is that with a majority in favor of moving away from the old SES diversity policy then yes, they will be working towards moving in that new direction.  The only compromise I've seen proposed by the 4 minority members is to not create schools over 50% F&R and not to create majority minority schools.  (I forget exactly how McLaurin phrased that last one but that was the gist).  I've not seen any compromise solutions from Barber or GSIW--only shouts that we shouldn't get rid of the old policy.  They give the platitudes that 'oh we know there were flaws' but they never say what they think those were or how they could be addressed.

That is what's missing from the minority members.  If it was me, I'd decide what I thought was most important and advocate for that.  Or at least toss out a few things that are least important.  Right away I'd suggest that they stop the busing of low income kids 15, 18 miles away just to raise the F&R at the distant school.  Perhaps ask GM to see what it would look like if we did no base assignment busing more than a 5 mile radius.  Instead of just screaming about how if you move all the kids back to SE Raleigh there won't be enough seats for magnet kids, how about trying to find a creative way to deal with it? What if we implemented a KIPP style magnet program in one of the schools in SE Raleigh?  That school could have a much higher F&R percentage and perhaps it would give a little wiggle room for more kids down there to be assigned closer to home and still have magnet space in those schools.  I can think of lots of other suggestions they could be making that would still preserve some diversity elements--why can't they?

What's missing from the majority members?  They need to listen to the minority members/critics and each other.  They need to understand and acknowledge the valid points of the minority's (or one of their own's) argument.  Communication as a whole could use some improvement (understatement, I know).  I know that TPG and I have both said that they need to go on a retreat.  I felt bad for both sides at the first few meetings.  How are any of them supposed to be able to listen objectively to one another and offer real solutions when they are being heckled from the audience, even by their own supporters?   I think that it would be good for Ron to do a work session where they could find the things that they agree on.  Even if it's only 3 things, find the ones that they can all agree on.  And it can't be some lame 'all kids deserve a great school' or 'we will have world class schools' BS.  Something tangible and more concrete.  That would at least give them a small foundation from which to build upon.

I think that there are some great potential partnerships between the minority 4 and majority 5.  Tedesco and Sutton could be great together.  McLaurin could use her advocacy and passion for health issues in the 'full-service' model schools that are being discussed.  

Sorry for rambling.  Yes, I'm still supportive of the new board's direction.  I'm unsure just like everybody else but I have faith that what comes out the other side will be better.

I'm more hopeful since

I'm more hopeful since Goldman's vote last week that things will slow down and they will be able to be more thoughtful.  It was very disheartening to see the juvenile behavior, though.  That makes it very hard to believe that they should be entrusted with the future of our system. 

Not unless they spoke as

Not unless they spoke as representatives of WSCA.

The fact that a member of WSCA speaks to the media, should never be construed as speaking on behalf of WSCA, unless the person is introduced as Mr./Mrs. XXX of WSCA.

I do believe that in the

I do believe that in the media they are usually identified as being a part of WSCA. 

As an organization

As an organization, we have been extremely careful to only represent the issues that our members have discussed and agreed upon. We have a steering committee which is a broad representation across the county and across political lines. Not all activities have been public.

 I don't recall any comments made on behalf of WSCA which formally and 'in the media' made announcements - post election - about specifically supporting the board - as personalities/individuals. We're not groupies. I think they would have liked us to be at times, but as Jenman said we are not the handmaidens of any political group. We are a group of independent citizens, have always been and will continue to be. Our discussions can be pretty yeasty. Therefore, any statements made as an organization (such as those bullet points from the website) were carefully and painfully synthesized. They really represent a core direction of a broad cross section of citizens who are concerned about Wake County Schools.

We try to keep tabs on the bigger picture and limit our organizational statements to those because beyond that, the daily/weekly drama and fireworks are just that. 

And, as independent citizens our members continue to make independent remarks. Please don't confuse the two. You were referring to WSCA organizational statements. Its healthy and in the best interest of our organization that the members continue to process, speak out about and reflect on their myriad opinions about what is going on. Generally our vocal membership are careful to say and not say when they are representing the group or not. We all want us all to continue to be free to be valuable contributors individually. Not like some groups who kick you out simply because you have a conversation with someone. We're not goose steppers. 

Regarding your previous post about how you'd wished that we had 'some years back' worked to change how schools are financed in the county, please note that WSCA is about 18 months old - -  made up of lots of busy parents, not full time activists. If you want change, it is in every citizens right and power to pursue it. That's what we've done, imperfectly at times perhaps and on a shoe string, but we've continued to try to do what we can. 

Being a representative of

Being a representative of WSCA, and representing WSCA, are two different matters.  That said, I think our leaders understand that the media and others don't differentiate between the two.

I do not believe you will find a current member of WSCA who has complete blind support for anything the board majority does.  Several of us have been very frank publicly and on this board about things the board did that we did not agree with, or thought could have been done better.  I have addressed the board once since the election, and I can assure you it was not to render a slap on the back. 

Steve Rao needs to decide what he stands for!

First, I think this is a non-story, but I'm not surprised it's reported here. 100 bucks, really? Who cares.

He can't explain the mistaken listing. Well isn't that convenient.

Didn't cast a ballot for 8 years, enough said.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.