Prickett repeatedly found ways to mention her support for neighborhood schools as a way to promote stability and improve academic performance. LIke the other WSCA-backed candidates, Prickett repeatedly pointed to Wake's 54.6 percent graduation rate for low-income students to attack the diversity policy.
"There is overwhelming evidence that the diversity policy isn’t working in Wake," Prickett said. "Too many poor and minority students are not graduating."
Prickett said 95 of the state's 115 school districts have a higher graduation rate than Wake for low-income students. (I haven't checked that yet.)
Prickett also compared Wake to Guilford County. Guilford has a higher overall graduation rate than Wake and its percentage of low-income students graduating is also higher at 74.2 percent.
"Guilford County is proving that the interventions they’re putting in place are promising," Prickett said. "...But Wake County is using the same old strategies.”
In contrast, Simon stressed Wake's good academic performance. She pointed to the the "solid gain on SAT scores" and how the district's average AP score is at a four-year high.
Simon acknowledged there are problems but she compared Wake to the foundation of a home. She said you wouldn't tear down a building because there were a few leaks. Likewise, she said you wouldn't dismantle current board policies.
"I would not suggest dismantling policies in a school system with a proven track record of successes," Simon said.
Both candidates differed on year-round schools. It came up when they were asked about the unique issues facing District 7.
Prickett said that mandatory year-round is an issue in the district, arguing that "the greatest majority of parents" didn't want either Leesville Road Elementary or Leesville Road Middle to be converted.
Prickett said the conversions have had a negative domino effect on area traditional-calendar elementary schools such as Hilburn and York.
She questioned the wisdom of the conversions when Leesville Road and Sycamore Creek elementary schools are so close to each other and the latter has 400 empty seats.
Simon countered that assignments to year-round schools are used mostly to relieve crowding at existing schools and fill new schools.
Simon then brought up the multi-year reassignment plan saying that only one in 13 students will have to move in the next three years. (It's basically the same argument that folks have used to argue that far fewer kids than the 24,654 in the plan have to be moved.)
She added that reassignment is driven by growth and year-round schools are an option to accommodate that growth. She said that a traditional-calendar middle school could accommodate 1,100 students while a year-round middle can accommodate 1,400.
While Simon said she hears the frustrations that parents have about year-round calendars and assignments, she said those problems are because of growth.
"Unfortunately these are unintended consequences that stem from growth and are not intended to cause hardship," Simon said.
During the forum, Prickett took a jab at Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce President Harvey Schmitt for his Monday interview supporting the diversity policy. She again referenced Wake's graduation rate for low-income kids.
Prickett said that "appearances may be sufficient in [Schmitt's] work."