by Bob Geary
Yes — this just in: Superintendent Tony Tata's been talking about holding some public information sessions on his new student assignment plan sometime in September. All of a sudden, five sessions are scheduled, and the first four are this week ... two of them on Wednesday ... two more on Thursday. The fifth one is next week.
[Update: Tuesday at 5:25 p.m. Tata just changed the whole schedule. The first two sessions are still tomorrow night and Thursday, but after that — Here's the whole thing, just as it was sent via email two minutes ago:
*** CORRECTION ***
Information Meetings Scheduled to Update Student Assignment Proposal
August 30, 2011 - Please disregard the previous press release about the upcoming community student assignment meetings. The previous information was incomplete.
Members of the Wake County Public School System's Student Assignment Task Force will lead a series of community information meetings during the next three weeks to provide the community an update on the development of a staff student assignment proposal and to answer questions from the public.
The most significant updates to the assignment proposal are the addition of proposed feeder patterns and the modification of choice options for students whose most proximate school is a magnet school. These choice options will include a broadened list of regional schools, including two high performing schools, an additional magnet school, and an underutilized school. You can find the proposed feeder patterns on the "Next Steps, Q&A" page at assignment.wcpss.net.
We will gather community feedback at these meetings. Below is a complete list of the community information meetings, which will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on the following dates.
Wednesday, August 31 at Middle Creek High
Thursday, September 1 at Wakefield High
Wednesday, September 7 at Apex High
Thursday, September 8 at Southeast Raleigh High
Tuesday, September 13 at Broughton High
Thursday, September 15 at East Wake High
Here's what I posted on Monday — yesterday — based on the first schedule from Tata:
What's the rush? Tata is supposed to brief the school board on details of the plan at its meeting next Tuesday, Sept. 6. At a meeting in a Southeast Raleigh church last night, Tata said the plan "is in the home stretch." He also said it could be "blown off course." It sure could.
Two months ago, and again 10 days ago, we heard from Ron Margiotta, chair of the school board and a candidate for re-election in October, that the conservative board majority is "not close to finalizing any plan on school assignment" — especially if it contains anything that smacks of diversity.
Tata's plan has diversity as a central element, though how strong it will be in practice — versus the other elements of proximity, stability and choice — remains to be, first, defined, and second, made operational.
So the questions arise: Will Tata and the board majority square off over diversity? Or will Tata agree to make diversity an element of the plan that has no force — i.e., it's included, sort of, but the number of inner-city kids who can actually choose AND BE ACCEPTED AT high-achieving schools outside of their neighborhoods is so limited as to be an empty promise.
I don't know if Tata's intention is to build community support for his plan before he takes it to the board. Maybe.
Anyway, this is the statement just sent by Tata's office:
Members of the Wake County Public School System’s Student Assignment Task Force will lead a series of community information meetings this week to provide the community an update on the progress of the development of the draft student assignment proposal.
The community information meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m. on the following dates:
Wednesday, Aug. 31 at East Wake High and Middle Creek High
Thursday, Sept. 1 at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High and Wakefield High
Wednesday, Sept. 7 at Apex High
Task force members will share information about the proposal with the community and collect feedback at each meeting. These meetings are similar to the sessions the task force held in June to solicit community feedback. This is not a public forum.
Superintendent Tata and the task force presented the draft proposal to the school board on Aug. 16. This followed the community online test drive of an early draft proposal in which more than 21,000 people participated.
Superintendent Tata and the task force have been developing the proposal since February when Tata asked the school board for the responsibility of developing a long-range student assignment proposal that focuses on maximizing achievement for every student while providing families with more stability and choice.
The task force will accept comments on the proposal through Sept. 15 via the website http://assignment.wcpss.net. Superintendent Tata and members of the task force will review comments/feedback and make modifications as appropriate.