by Bob Geary
Cathy Truitt ended her campaign for the District 2 Wake school board seat this morning with a stinging declaration that there is a middle ground between forced busing for diversity and resegregating the school system via "neighborhood schools" -- but nobody was listening to her when she spoke up for it.
The middle, Truitt said, is "diversity through choice," with no one forced to attend a school against their (or their parents') will, but everyone given a choice between a year-round school, a traditional school and a magnet school in their "neighborhood." Moreover, every student should be given a choice of "career cluster" programs organized around the 16 kinds of jobs for which the U.S. Department of Labor projects future growth (e.g., health care), with 3-4 such programs set up in every school.
"This is an historic moment in Wake County," Truitt said, with an angry electorate poised to throw out forced busing and get a "return to segregation" in its place unless people stop and think -- and the public insists on a third alternative.
She predicted, however, that the new school board majority -- with holdover member Ron Margiotta to be joined by four new, like-minded conservatives who favor neighborhood schools -- will strike fast to put their agenda in place before any opposition has a chance to get organized. The result of their agenda, she insisted, is "probable resegregation."
Truitt said she'd have stayed in the race if she thought she could win it, but she didn't think so. And if by some "strange" turn of events she did win, she added later on, she wouldn't be effective given the polarized political atmosphere in the county that says -- in her view -- that if you're not a pure neighborhood-schools person or a pure diversity person, you're simply a waffler.
She said John Tedesco, now the presumptive District 2 member-elect, hadn't responded to her call for a televised debate last week nor to her invitation to join her at this morning's press conference. She hasn't spoken to him since she made the decision to withdraw, she said.
Truitt said that Tedesco won the backing of the Wake Republican Party and the Wake Schools Community Alliance because she wouldn't be "a pawn" and agree to vote with the controlling "bloc" of GOP-WSCA candidates if they all were elected. Part of the WSCA platform, she said, was a pledge to fire Del Burns, the Wake schools superintendent. She added that if she were in Burns' position now, she'd be thinking hard about whether she was "a good fit" with the policies that the incoming board majority will espouse. But superintendents don't make policy; boards do, she said, and Burns should be given a chance to get with the new program if he chooses to do that. When she took that stance with the WSCA, she said, they turned to Tedesco.
After Tedesco fell less than 50 votes short of an outright majority in the October 6 elections, Truitt exercised her right to call for a runoff in November though she'd run a distant second with about 24 percent of the vote. (Incumbent Horace Tart finished just behind her in third place.) So Truitt's name will appear on the November ballot along with Tedesco's. But by dropping out, she's effectively conceding the race to Tedesco.