It would be an understatement to say that relations are strained between the new Wake County school board majority and the Wake Education Partnership.
As noted in today's article, school board members are questioning such recent WEP publications as the school assignment analysis and the assessment of Del Burns' resignation as superintendent. It's a departure from when the WEP worked closely with the old school board majority.
“They seem to be going against everything we want to do," said school board member Deborah Prickett. "I feel like a salmon swimming upstream against them.”
Intentional or not, the WEP is becoming the defacto research arm for critics of the new school board majority. The WEP's reports are regularly cited by opposition groups.
School board members are particularly upset about the WEP report which found that sending students to their closest school would result in crowding problems.
Members of the new board majority say they've never said they're solely going to assign students based on proximity.
School board vice chairwoman Debra Goldman said the WEP could have tried to develop a scenario which would have allowed for more community-based school assignments while still trying to provide the socioeconomic balance the group wants to preserve.
“Let’s work together to bring something positive," Goldman said. "Even if you don’t like the general concept of what we’re trying, try to work with us to make it more positive.”
Goldman said she's been asked by school board chairman Ron Margiotta to serve on the WEP's board of trustees after he turned down the invitation.
School board member Chris Malone said he looks at the WEP reports to see if there's anything worth finding. But he said he hasn't found much.
As for school board member John Tedesco, his blast on the WakeEd blog following the WEP school assignment report has gotten a lot of attention. He accused the WEP of spreading 'fairy tale hysteria" and "waxing philosophical lies."
But Tim Simmons, communications director for the WEP, said the report noted that the approach it analyzed was not under consideration by the board. But, he said, it spoke to questions the public might have about community-based schools.
"I know that the general public thinks that school choice means they get to choose the schools close to home," Simmons said in the article. "The primary reason for doing this is to make it clear that this is not possible."
The school board majority has at least some reason to be skeptical of the Wake Education Partnership, which has been a longtime supporter of the diversity policy.
In 2002 the WEP's board of trustees passed a resolution in support of the diversity policy.
More recently, WEP President Ann Denlinger attended the Friends of Diversity Press Conference that was held the day before the October elections. She was joined at the event by several people who are on the WEP's board of directors and board of trustees.