Wednesday, February 24, 2010

School Board Issues and Diversity

I can't go on without posting something about the current goings on in the Wake County Public School System. I will attempt to summarize:

A new school board majority took office this past fall. For the first time in years, a majority of members were in place who were opposed to the board's attempts at achieving diversity. For those of you not familiar with WCPSS, diversity here means attempting to keep all school populations at a mix of 40% free and reduced lunch students, 60% non free and reduced lunch. To achieve this, the board has redistricted, on an annual basis, shifting students around to try to keep that 40% f&r number steady. To parents, this meant never knowing where their kid would be attending school. To schools, it meant weak PTA's because the student body changed from year to year, never allowing for a strong PTA to be put into place.

All of this, with no viable proof that the diversity efforts had accomplished the system's goal of improving achievement among minorities, and a school board and superintendent who steadfastly stuck to their guns regardless, and who routinely ignored the voices of the parents who were directly affected by the board's decisions.

Imagine, as a parent, having a child attend three or more different schools from kindergarten through fifth grade. This is what was happening. A school board so intent on looking out for the kids was curiously deaf to the potential adverse affects caused by this routine lack of stability. How do you foster school pride, social development, or a strong PTA, when your school changes every single year?

As you can imagine, the new board, who immediately set about with voicing their desire to end the diversity policy along with their intent to try a different means to improve student achievement, has met with a great deal of hand-wringing among groups who are appalled that the school system may be abandoning its most at-risk students.

And major newspapers, like the New York Times, are following the issue closely, since Wake County is supposedly a national model for success. A shame that no one is looking closely at the issue - they'd see that there are a lot of smoke and mirrors in place when it comes to measuring that supposed success.

Recently, Del Burns, the long-time superintendent of the system and staunch supporter of diversity efforts, announced quite abruptly his intent to leave his post over his dissatisfaction over the changes. There's some debate currently going on about whether he should be asked to leave immediately, or whether he should be given until the end of June, when his contract is set to end.

Everyone is up in arms over this, since he's got so much raw experience under his belt, even while he really is acting like a spoiled teenager who's pissed because he's not getting what he wants.

It will be interesting to see how the board moves forward, in regard to Del Burns, as well as to eventual move back to neighborhood schools. I'll try to post an update here and there about it, but I will say, as one who believes that something new needs to be tried, I'm not sorry to see some changes put into place.

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