Ex-School Board Members' Statement: "Ensure equal opportunity for every child"

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Not quite "Ex-Presidents" (Saturday Night Live), but the 19 former Wake County school board members—including 10 former chairs—were an impressive, and bipartisan group when they gathered Monday in Raleigh. They came together with an offer of help, and an admonition about the importance of diversity, for the new school board majority. Their full statement is below the fold. (Note: The number of signers is now 23.)

According to Yevonne Brannon, who heads the Great Schools in Wake coalition, the 19 included every living ex-board member since 1976, when the Raleigh and Wake County school systems were merged, who wasn't out-of-state or out-of-country this week.

Not a single ex-member who was contacted declined to sign the statement, Brannon said.

The 19 gathered at the old Murphey School in Raleigh, which was wonderfully symbolic. The school's been converted to housing, and the auditorium is now home to the Burning Coal Theater Company.

But in 1960, the old Raleigh City School Board met in the auditorium and decided, four years after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, to begin the integration of Raleigh's schools, which up to then were racially segegated.

School leaders should continue to strive, the ex-members said, for schools with achievement and diverse student populations:

Schools that strive for high academic achievement, strong support for teachers, diverse student populations, community and parent involvement, modern facilities, and a positive climate for learning, should continue to be our benchmarks for excellence.

The full statement, and the lister of signers, is below.

Press Conference Statement
April 26, 2010


Former Board of Education Members have come together to support the Wake County Public School System. We want to join with others in the community to ensure an equal opportunity for a sound basic education for every child in Wake County Public Schools.


Although we were elected in geographic districts, we believe we served our constituents best when we acted as guardians of the educational welfare of ALL the children of Wake County. We consider Wake County our community and believe that by careful attention to the entire system we make best use of the resources available to prepare every child for a meaningful future and success in the 21st century.


We are thankful that previous leaders made the bold decision to create a county-wide school system, an affirmation of the belief that “every child is our child.”


1. We support the Wake County Public Schools.

We are proud of the national recognition that the Wake County Public School System has achieved (and the roles we played in that achievement), but we are even more thankful that our public schools have contributed so much to the well-being of all our citizens, our county and our region. We acknowledge that much remains to be done, especially with regard to low-achieving children, if we are to continue to be recognized as one of the very best urban school districts in the country. We support open dialogue and data driven strategic planning to build further on our school system’s strong foundation.


2. We support an equal opportunity and excellent education for every child.


For over 30 years, the Wake County Public School System has been a model for school districts around the nation. Because research consistently shows that challenges to success for all students in high poverty and racially isolated schools are greater, we have worked to prevent the creation of such schools.


Our highly respected school system has helped fuel growth and prosperity in our county. The number of students in the Wake County Public School System has grown from 54,000 in 1982 to 140,000 in 2009. The explosive growth has necessitated a fast paced, on-going building program. The board has balanced the demand for new schools with the need to renovate, maintain, expand, and sometimes replace existing schools.


Our nationally recognized magnet program has played a vital role in our growing school system. It has helped ensure that schools are utilized to their maximum capacity. It is a cost effective tool that nurtures healthy schools, providing a range of educational opportunities and serving as an incubator for the development of new programs for all schools.


Schools that strive for high academic achievement, strong support for teachers, diverse student populations, community and parent involvement, modern facilities, and a positive climate for learning, should continue to be our benchmarks for excellence.

3. We care about Wake County remaining one of the best places to live in the country.


The school system is a critical factor in defining Wake County as one of the nation’s best places to live. We must attract the best and brightest teachers and administrators, as well as innovative and engaged new residents. Strong schools in every part of the county contribute to this effort.


4. We are willing to support and work with the board and community to make sure each child is served well.

Although most were elected in districts, we committed fully to serve the whole county. All of us, current and past board members alike, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, were elected in non-partisan elections and worked collaboratively with policy makers representing many points of view. We were guided in decision-making by what we believed would contribute most to the education of all the county’s children and help build a strong and vibrant community. We can accomplish more by working together.


We offer our services and experience to the current board and community to help ensure the worthy goal that each child in Wake County receives the equal opportunity and quality education he or she deserves.


This statement has been endorsed by:

Cliff Wimberley Linda Johnson Rosa Gill Susan Parry Bill Fletcher

Horace Tart Jean Schilawski Amy White Beverley Clark Ann Koonce

Wray Stephens Mary Holroyd J.C. O’Neal Carol Parker Lori Millberg

John Gilbert Casper Holroyd Roxie Cash Patti Head

Tom Oxholm Judy Hoffman Eleanor Goettee Kathryn Watson Quigg

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