In many ways, the Wake County school system will be the legacy that Vernon Malone has left behind.
As noted in today’s article, Malone fought to merge the Raleigh City and Wake County schools despite opposition from many people. As a board member, he pushed for integration and backed the creation of the current magnet school system.
As a county commissioner, Malone fought to provide enough funding for education. More recently as a state senator, he opposed efforts he thought would cause Wake to back away from diversity, such as switching to at-large school board elections.
“If the leadership of Vernon Malone, [current chairman of the Wake board of commissioners] Harold Webb and [former Raleigh City Councilman] John Winters hadn’t been as committed to desegregation as they were and Harold Webb currently remains, things might have turned out very differently in Wake County,” said John Gilbert, who served on the Wake school board from 1983 to 1999.
This doesn’t mean that Malone agreed with everything the school system did. For instance, he complained in 2001 on the 25th anniversary of the merger that “we had dropped the ball” because of the low test scores of minority students.
But Malone stood by the belief that the merger was the right step to take and that splitting up Wake into smaller districts would be the wrong move.