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Sutton questions lack of diversity among employee honorees

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School board member Keith Sutton wasn't happy last week at the apparent lack of diversity among the latest winners of the district's Employee Excellence awards.

Once a month, the school district honors employees, who've been nominated by their colleagues, at a school board meeting. Last week, 13 employees were recognized.

It was the first such ceremony for Sutton, who joined the board in August. After the ceremony ended and the employees left the room, Sutton said the winners did not appear to be a very diverse group.

"It's a stark recognition I saw tonight," Sutton said.

It appeared that only two of the winners were African American. For those who don't know, Sutton is the lone minority on the nine-member board.

Sutton said he couldn't hold back from voicing the concerns he had raised privately with Superintendent Del Burns. (After the awards ceremony, the board went into closed session and later returned to open session.)

Sutton said the winners were not representative of the diversity that Wake is expected to uphold.

But Sutton quickly added that he didn't want to take anything away from the winners.

School board member Ron Margiotta asked Sutton if he any ideas for improving the diversity of the winners.

Sutton responded that he didn't have any ideas at this time. He also acknowledged that it was his first time seeing the awards ceremony and that the winners may have reflected who was nominated.

Margiotta said he hadn't noticed the concerns Sutton saw of the winners.

School board member Patti Head said Sutton needs to hold judgment. While she said she hadn't done a personal study, she said they see lots of different people honored over the course of a year.

Head suggested holding off the discussion for a year after seeing who else is honored. (She'll be off the board by then.)


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Food for thought

I wonder what the status quo thinks of this group? Is there a chapter here?

user12345 you need a better understanding of what matters

It does not matter WHERE children of poverty go to school in Wake, they are not getting the education they need. ED children are fundamentally different and need more than a middle class education. They grow up in a language vaccuum, and as a result have profound cognitive deficiencies that can't be overcome in our middle class schools. We have a decade of education research that clearly defines the problems AND we have a decade of effective solutions. If you really care about our most vulnerable children and familes then please start seeking to understand the REAL problems and start talking about solutions that work to help them. I am getting really tired of all the liberal posturing.

Middle class kids are being hurt also

I agree with you that it doesn't matter where children of poverty go to school in Wake County, they are not being educated.  I also think that many poor children need help with language skills.  But I disagree that the whole problem is rooted in their family background.  Teachers today do not seem to teach grammar skills to anyone.  This disproportionately impacts kids who cannot pick up proper grammar from their home environment.  However it is also hurting middle class kids.  I taught college students in our state system for ten years.  Many of my middle class students lacked basic writing skills (along with other basic skills).  Reforms to the whole system would benefit both poor and middle class children.  They would just help poor children more. 

Another bite

Remember that “status quo” is different in different places.  As Woodstock says, “neighborhood schools” are the norm elsewhere so they are the status quo outside Wake.  Blacks are fighting against being herded into non-performing neighborhood schools everywhere which is fighting the status quo.  And as shearertw says, Whites deserve the rewards because they worked harder and if Blacks do not like it make more money and move or change your neighborhood.  So the status quo of Whites getting the good schools and Blacks being relegated to the older poor schools in their neighborhood is boiling over.

Their mission statement:

"Parental choice is widespread in America - unless you are poor. Affluent families have choice because they can move to different neighborhoods or communities, send their children to private schools or supplement schooling with tutors and enrichment programs. Lower-income and working-class families, meanwhile, are typically trapped with one option - a school in need of improvement. "

… a failing neighborhood school …..

What is not on their list of options they support either?

Forced bussing.

L'user, This whole


This whole personal responsibility thing is a tough concept for you to grasp, isn't it?

The whole compassion for

The whole compassion for those less fortunate seems to be your weak area? ... it would be interesting to see your change in attitude if you lost your job and home.  I don't think you would be as smug.

I don't think you have any

I don't think you have any idea regarding my compassion for those less forunate.  I want the best for them and I know that will not come from a government handout or social experiment.  It will take personal responsibility and initiative. If community leaders and politicians would preach that half as much as they concentrate on blaming others (or rich whity as you like to) then they may see some progress in their lives.  I will continue to donate my time, money and other efforts to causes I believe are most beneficial to those in need. 


Why are you opposed to opportunities that give them choice?  Starting a KIPP school is one such option, as is lifting the cap on charter schools and even shifting to a voucher program.

Why are you opposed to

Why are you opposed to opportunities that give them choice?  Starting a KIPP school is one such option, as is lifting the cap on charter schools and even shifting to a voucher program”


Bob … let me make it clear, I am NOT oppose to choice … as long as it is a real choice … so, a person at a school of excellence like Green Hope can choose not to go there, apply to Enloe, or go to Cary Academy.  A person (most likely a minority) at their neighborhood low performing like Barwell can choose what? (sorry for mixing ES and HS).


KIPP is fine but will only address what maybe 200-500? Of the 40,000 kids that are LI?  It sounds like a great program but requires a lot of child and parent commitment that many will not be willing to sign up for ….


Also, you have not given the Barwell neighborhood anything to bargain with … they are trapped in their failing neighborhood school … they have been kicked out of the good schools and sent home...  who is going to use a voucher to fill their school … no, it is all outflow … to get out other failing school …


What I am advocating is making schools like Barwell a school of excellence so if people want not to go to their neighborhood school of excellence and prefer KIPP or a vouchers they have a real choice .  Leaving people in a failing school and giving them a choice of going to KIPP does not seem like a real choice …. more like raw survival … looking for a life raft … life or death.  So, if you DO NOT like your neighborhood failing school and your only option is to sign up for extended hours, volunteering and going to school on Saturday that does not sound like the same choice the Green Hope neighborhood gets.


(1) I would like to see a variety of choices.  But, you gotta start somewhere, and KIPP is just an example of a place to start.

(2)  If you move to a voucher system, then failing schools end up being closed because they can't compete. 

(3)  How should the district go about "making schools like Barwell a school of excellence?"  If there were a magic formula, then every school would be a school of excellence.   Sure, there are schools of excellence in the district, but I suggest that
they are more accidents than purposeful constructions by the district.  If anything, the district seems to be much better at destroying such schools than creating them.

Hello we are advocating for the same thing

We are advocating for making schools like Barwell neighborhood/community schools of excellence. How can that be done? By closing the achievement gap. How do you close the gap? With innovation, not transportation.

Barwell (MYR) BTW already is a "neighborhood" school (go look at its base node map) and until WCPSS won the MYR lawsuit, people were not trapped there because they had to be given a seat at a traditional school. Also, under NCLB they could transfer out, however, you may recall that over the summer WCPSS was not making that an easy process.

KIPP is one choice option, but not the only option. However, I noticed that there is one commonality among all the options - high expectations, which is the opposite of what is behind the bussing theory.



Of the 40,000 kids that are

Of the 40,000 kids that are LI, how many of them will actually attend a community school with less than 40% F&R (your magic #, not mine) in a community model with logical school assignment?  Since you like to guess, I'll guess its the vast majority.  Then focus your efforts where they're needed.  Perhaps magnets, charters, KIPPS, etc....There are plenty of valid options to send a life raft to those in need (and willing to take it).   The actual community needs to take up the rest of the slack.  

"Parental choice is

"Parental choice is widespread in America - unless you are poor."

Those parents also have/had a choice(s).  #1, If you cannot afford to have children, don't have them.  #2, If you have children you cannot afford, get a better education and/or job so you can.  We all have choices, we all have to live with them.  Just because you don't like your choices doesn't mean you don't have any or that its unfair.  That being said, no one is stuck with their past choices (with the exception of a prison sentence).  If you've made bad choices, take responsibility and make better ones now.

L'user, If you are going


If you are going to quote me, how about try and be accurate.  My comment never mentioned race.  That comment, out of context here, referred to hard working people who make !90K/yr and pay the bulk of the taxes should not be snubbed but deserve the rewards of there hard work.  If that means living in a nice place that happens to have a nice school they pay for and support, what's the problem with that?  BTW, they're also paying for the schools in not so nice places too.  White and black, brown, yellow and orange alike all have the same opportunity to reap those "rewards".  You are the only one suggesting only whites can work hard and achieve.   

I have a dream

that one day, everyone will be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

It seems the victim class of today wants to add "as long as {insert victim group here} get the lion's share.
The report states that the winners were nominated by their fellow employees. Are the employees of WCPSS racist, or did they simply nominate the people they felt were the best?

If the diversity employees weren't nominated in numbers sufficient to satisfy Mr. Sutton, perhaps he needs to encourage them to work harder and strive for higher goals.

When are we going to stop trying to make sure that everyone gets the exact same size piece of the pie? There are a lot of people who have abilities greater than mine. Why should they be hobbled just so I can get a token award? I would know I hadn't earned it and would thereby have no incentive to perform better because of it. They would also have no incentive to achieve more because they'd have no guarantee that it would pay off.

It's 2009. Let's move on.

You missed it

“If the diversity employees weren't nominated in numbers sufficient to satisfy Mr. Sutton, perhaps he needs to encourage them to work harder and strive for higher goals. “


You missed it .. You immediately assumed winning the award is based on work and merit while in fact it is on popularity (nominated by their colleagues).


“When are we going to stop trying to make sure that everyone gets the exact same size piece of the pie? “


When there is a reasonable explanation why something violates the rules of statistics.  While is it possible to have all White juries for Black defendants it is not probable.


“I would know I hadn't earned it and would thereby have no incentive to perform better because of it.”


There is nothing to be “earned” this is a popularity contest.  Blacks cannot get better odds by gaining more certifications but by shaking more hands.


Similarly, many majority White schools have never had a Black Homecoming Queen.  (… I know someone will tell me his or her hometown, blah, blah had one .. proving I am not a racist ..blah ... blah).  Is that racism?  Probably just lack of popularity / exposure.  Maybe Blacks have a higher level of expectations than White and don't nominate fellow Blacks as often as White who have lower standards?   There will be some reasonable explanation (the previous sentence not being one) eventually.

"Rule of Statistics"

Did you really mean to slander all WCPSS employees as being unwilling
to judge a person's contributions and, instead, vote by who they like
the most or by the color of their skin?  Do you really believe that
WCPSS employees operate like high school kids voting on a homecoming

As to your statistical approach.  There is nothing statistically anomolous when a small sample differs marginally from the whole.   I suspect that the results are within a standard deviation of what you would expect if the award were assigned completely randomly.  Heck, there's almost nothing you can tell with a sample size that small.

And, I think if you looked through local HS yearbooks, you'd find that at high schools where black students are part of the local population (instead of bussed in from someplace else in the county), black students are indeed named to things like Homecoming or Prom Queen.  But, people who are bussed in are viewed as outsiders, especially in high school.  School is only a part of the social interaction of high school kids.  If a kid doesn't go to football games, play on the same CASL soccer team, go to the same parties or hang out at the same malls, then they won't be voted into anything.  It's hard for a poor kid being bused into a school to do those things.

Have you heard

Have you heard about what happened to Hampton University's first non-Black Homecoming Queen? She was heckled and jeered for not being Black. Just saying.


wow. What a black and white world you live in. 


Congratulations, Kanye Sutton

You've not only managed to insult the people who just won awards for excellence by suggesting that their selection was based in part on their ethnicity, but now you have completely tainted the Excellence awards for African Americans from this here on out.

Until now, it was presumed that the awards were for, well, excellence. Now that you're out there demanding a quota, from this point forward, people (including the recipients themselves) will wonder "Was this award doing an excellent job, or because they needed another person of color?"

I hope this isn't the sign of things that you're going to do to our children as well.

Oh Good Grief!

This was his First ceremony and the first thing he does is complain about the "racial composition". Whatever happened to winning something because you did a good job? Couldn't he have spend a little more time studying the issue instead of complaining? If he had based on the numbers presented here, it looks like the "racial balance or diversity" was about right. Is there a quota for everything now?

Just sayin...

Sutton said the winners were not representative of the diversity that Wake is expected to uphold.


Didn't the Supreme Court rule on something like this on behalf of some firemen somewhere.....???? :)

What is he going to say

Yes, politians like him prefer to have a quota on everything. Just wondering what he is going to say when BoE  invites valedictorians for lunch...

awesome comment

thanks NWRM!


"Once a month, the school district honors employees, who've been nominated by their colleagues..."

Did Mr. Sutton check the racial composition of the colleagues who nominated them? They are the real problem.

What an idiot.



Over time, award recipients

Over time, award recipients should reflect the population they are being drawn from … not every time but in general and over time … if not , there is a problem which may not be racism but maybe cultural or awareness …. All correctable …

“Margiotta said he hadn't noticed the concerns Sutton saw of the winners.”

Understandable …. White people normally do not “see” these things.

White people see just fine

As you may recall, I pointed out that pictures of the honors courses at Sanderson only had a couple minorities in them.

Also, according to the census bureau in 2008 Blacks were estimated to be 13% of the population and mixed race 2% and females were 51% - Obama is President, but we've never had a female President.

Not everything in this world will perfectly reflect every demographic breakdown every time.

"but we've never had a

"but we've never had a female President"

But we will ... I believe ... with four daughters, I am very sensitive to female issues like sports funding, hiring, promoting ... again it come down to what we "see" ...

I hope we are just sensitve to these questions and don't brush them off since we don't "see" them.  If there is a wide and sustained difference from what one would expect than it should be addressed by understanding why  (awareness, culture, etc.).

Yes, but there needs to be measured reasoning

in the process.

I agree that if there is a wide and sustained difference from what one would expect than it be addressed by understanding why. However, in this case it seems there is not a known track record of wide and sustained difference. In other words, it seems Mr. Sutton shot from hip.

Is it possible that it is Mr. Sutton that may not see what is actually there? If Mr. Sutton lives in an area that is disproportionately Black and spends much of his time with Black organizations and furthering what he perceives as Black causes, is it possible he perceives that the Black population in Wake County is a larger percentage than it actually is, and therefore, when he sees 2 out 13 it seems too low to him when it is actually fairly close to what would be expected? Just a thought.

IMHO quota mentality is a slippery slope.


I thought we weren't supposed to "see" these things!

Isn't that the goal? I've tried to raise my child not to SEE all the differences, but to treat everyone with respect, regardless of their color, socioeconomic level, etc. The problem is, the differences continue to be pounded into the heads of our children, pointed out over and over by so-called "well-meaning" groups and individuals. How can we ever move towards being truly non-biased when we are surrounded by those who say they want "equality", but don't believe in fairness?  

"Understandable …. White

"Understandable …. White people normally do not “see” these things"

See what things? Apparently to within 0.5% Blacks were represented equally among the honorees. 

When I go in our schools, I

When I go in our schools, I am guessing 30% of the professionals are Black and even more if you include non-professional positions ... maybe Panther Creek does not have many Black professionals that is skewing what you "see" at your school? ... so, I would expect 3-6 of the recipients to be Black.  Than again, I might would not expect the BOE to be 90% White based on general student population.  I agree that he should have made the inquiry private until he had all the facts.

You're guessing? What an

You're guessing? What an excellent way to make a judgement.

BTW I worked for a decade for a minority owned business...where I was a minority.  You assume WAY too much about others. You have no idea what I see.

"guessing" yep ... sorry, I

"guessing" yep ... sorry, I do not consciously count the black faces like you to get an exact count  I was visualizing walking the school halls and thinking 19% seemed to low... maybe not in your neighborhood though …

I never counted anything

I never counted anything and have no idea -- again -- what the hell you are talking about.

My neighborhood? Now you presume to know where I live too? BTW, it is as about as ethnically diverse as you can get living in Wake County. 

Here we go again

Students are neither on the BOE or educational professionals, therefore, to get the correct % for those positions, you need to look at the adult population of the county not the student population. Only 20% of the adult population is Black.

Now if you are correct that 30% or more of the WCPSS employees are Black, should Whites and other minorities start asking why WCPSS employee population does not perfectly reflect the county as a whole and appears to favor Blacks?


Maybe the policy should include limitations on who can be nominated based on race. That should make all the employees happy, right?


Better yet, I think that

Better yet, I think that WCPSS should develop its own software program to nominate employees.  It could take the results of the real nominations and then add in some magical fudge factor that nominates the employees who "should have" been nominated.

Hey L'user, How about

Hey L'user,

How about stop "guessing"?  What if it's more like 20% as TPG suggest.  Then, to get the 2.5 AA average, it needs to be 2 one time and 3 the next.  Just as you suggest for Mr. Sutten, how about provide some facts yourself before picking a side of a likely, non-issue.

not impressed

'Sutton said the winners were not representative of the diversity that Wake is expected to uphold.'

IF Mr. Sutton had researched this before making his comment:
What is the record of % minorities receiving the award over time?
Of the people nominated (over time), what is % of minorities.
If % is low, then why?
What is the % of minorities who work in WCPSS? (is % rising or falling?)
Can they also look at who is doing the nominating?
There can be several issues here if minorities are not represented in these awards.

However - bringing this up at the awards, which only serves to diminish the award for the people who received it, is LAME.



I'm not sure I understand his concern. According to city data Wake County is 19.7% A-A and 19.7% of 13

honorees is 2.56 people and 2 A-A were honored. Is he concerned that A-A were underrepresented by 1/2 a person or that other minorities were not represented?

Does anybody know what the

Does anybody know what the racial breakdown is of WCPSS employees?

Fair and Square

"...the school district honors employees, who've been nominated by their colleagues"

So... can Mr. Sutton tell us what is unfair about this process? I cannot believe he came out with this when he has only witnessed one of these ceremonies! I think Ron's question was very valid. Diversity is one thing - diversity at any cost (even if it means tampering with fairness) is quite another. What example does this set for our students?

Good grief...

Is this a trend?

"School board member Ron Margiotta asked Sutton if he any ideas for improving the diversity of the winners."

"Sutton responded that he didn't have any ideas at this time."

No ideas, just criticism? I hope Mr. Sutton realizes that his job goes beyond merely pointing out perceived deficiencies or slights, and includes getting the facts and offering solutions? I also hope that Mr. Sutton contributions to the BoE will extend beyond the issue of diversity. So far his only noted efforts have been to insult the newly elected BoE members with his Friends of Diversity race-baiting press conference fiasco and to complain -- ala Kanye West -- about the diversity of recent of WCPSS employee honorees. To my knowledge he has yet to raise the topic of education in any of this statements.   


And when was the last time Ron offered up a solution.

Pot - Kettle - black...


And when was the last time you offered up a constructive suggestion, useful information or an innovative possible solution on this blog?


I don't sit on the school board and you still didn't answer the question.

I assume you'll be asking the other half dozen folks on this website who don't offer anything constructive in the blog such as woodstock, g88, and others.


For anyone brand new to Wake County, Mr. Sutton was appointed to the School Board, not elected.

And my guess is

based on his performance so far, when he is up for re-election he won't be!

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.