On the New Wake School Board, Six Weeks of Going Backward
The new majority on the Wake County School Board that insists on turning the clock back 50 years is not so new anymore.
Chairman Ron Margiotta and his fellow travelers in the Gang of Five have presided over four meetings now - four long, contentious, confusing meetings that raise troubling questions and confirm many of the fears about the new board.
In just four meetings, the Gang of Five has changed the year-round school assignment policy as a first step toward dismantling healthy and diverse schools and hired a prominent Republican attorney who can bill the county up to $75,000 for his services in the middle of the worst budget crisis in a generation.
The Gang has insisted on rushing a parent survey on year-round schools even if it means fewer parents will participate, and made board committee assignments that penalize the people of one district because Margiotta doesn't think its board member has been cooperative enough with the new radical agenda.
Then there's the practice of springing new resolutions on the public and other members of the board at the last minute and ignoring a committee decision because the chair doesn't like it.
That's a lot to be proud of in just six weeks.
Virtually all the important votes have been 5-4, with the notable exception of Tuesday's 5-3 vote on amending a resolution that would have guaranteed no mandatory year-round assignments in the 2010-2011 school year, clean campaign rhetoric but a virtual impossibility.
Gang of Fiver Debra Goldman recognized that and changed the resolution to say that the system would make every effort to end year-round schools, saying she could imagine some students not being seated.
That flash of reason didn't sit well with some of the hard-core Gang of Five supporters, who can't imagine reality and took to the blogs to accuse Goldman of selling out. Hardly.
The resolution still prohibits the use of economic diversity in filling year-round seats, the first step toward ending the current school assignment policy and creating failing and resegregated schools.
The chair only votes in case of tie so Margiotta didn't vote on Goldman's slightly less objectionable resolution, but the three other Gang of Fivers did, including John Tedesco, who has become Margiotta's first responder in almost every debate.
Tedesco chairs two key board committees and is such a vigorous defender of the new board's agenda that it makes you wonder if he is running the show and Margiotta is merely holding the gavel.
Tedesco was the public voice of the Gang of Five who responded this week to remarks made by North Carolina NAACP President William Barber that the new board's talk of neighborhood schools is just another way to say resegregation, which he correctly pointed out is the "enemy of school excellence."
Tedesco told WRAL-TV that the schools would not be resegregated under the new board's plan, but denying something will happen has never prevented it from happening.
So here we are at the end of the first six weeks of Tedesco and Margiotta and the rest of the not-so-new-any-more school board majority, and their message to people of Wake County couldn't be clearer - To the Rear, March.
Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch. Contact him at email@example.com.
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