Where the Wake County school system stands days away from the 50th anniversary of the integration of Raleigh's schools depends on whom you ask.
As noted in today's article, those who fought for integration in 1960 and today's supporters of the discarded diversity policy say Wake is heading in the wrong direction with the move to community schools. But the school board majority says they're trying to fulfill the dreams of those who wanted integrated schools to give children a better education
“I am disappointed that – with so many seemingly having endured so much for so long to get to what was a terrific school system in Raleigh – it would be dismantled without any consideration of the long-term detrimental effects,” said former Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell, who became the first black child to attend a white Raleigh city school on Sept. 9, 1960.
School board chairman Ron Margiotta disagrees with that pessimistic view. He said that those who followed up on integration with the diversity policy contributed to problems such as poor test scores for low-income kids and qualified minority students not getting into Algebra I in middle school.
“What we're trying to do is build on the past 50 years,” Margiotta said. “We're focusing on the education of all students. The low-income children have been deprived of a good education."
While some such as the state NAACP are decrying the changes, Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association President Dan Coleman is standing firm behind his criticism of the diversity policy.
"We can do better with the kids in their neighborhoods with the assets there," Coleman said. "As Hillary Clinton said, 'It takes a village to raise a child.' But we've gotten away from that."
Coleman is also critical of the magnet school program, which has resulted in thousands of Southeast Raleigh children being bused out of the community to free up magnet seats. He complains that diversity policy supporters treat Southeast Raleigh as a "desert" and the magnet schools as "oases."
One example of this isolation, Coleman said, is how Ligon Middle School holds its annual Bolt for the Blue run without involving the people who live in the community. He said the school doesn't notify the local Citizens Advisory Council about the event or work with local businesses along the route of the 5K event.
Coleman also directed some of his fire specifically at Enloe High School, where he complained that base students aren't getting much of the academic benefits of the magnet program.
"What are you doing for the kids who are not having the benefits of a world-class education?" Coleman said. "How is Enloe helping them?"