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INDY Week columnist Bob Geary's Raleigh news & politics blog

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Updating the DREAM Team hunger strikers: They're on the hustings working for immigration reform

Posted by on Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 9:05 AM

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Good writeup and video on the MyNC/NBC17 website of the rally at the State Capitol yesterday in favor of immigration reform, i.e., not what Arizona is trying to do. For pictures, see The Progressive Pulse.

I got there late but was able to catch up with two of the three N.C. DREAM Team hunger strikers, Viridiana Martinez and Loida Silva. Rosario Lopez wasn't there; she was in Charlotte for a sister rally. That's Rosario in the picture above (she's at left) getting arrested during a protest in Washington, DC last week. We were in touch by email and, briefly, on the phone; she sent the picture via Flickr.

The three, after they ended their hunger strike, were in Washington for seven days as part of a larger immigrants-rights contingent advocating for the DREAM Act. One purpose was to visit with congressional staffers. Another was a series of sit-ins at selected Senate offices and in the Russell and Hart Senate office buildings. As Rosario explained it, the sit-ins were meant to show senators that enactment of the DREAM Act is a cause so important to people that they're willing to risk deportation fighting for it. This is from the note she sent:

I think we are making progress with the DREAM Act, because we are showing our senators that we are willing to risk everything for the DREAM Act and we want them to take risks as well. We want them to pass the DREAM Act as soon as possible. By participating in the sit in we risked deportation and arrest, but we have been waiting for the DREAM Act for ten years and we cannot wait any longer.

Rosario said she participated in brief sit-ins at three offices Senate offices (Sens. Schumer, Feinstein and Menendez — all friendly territory, presumably): after that, a small group went downstairs to the atrium of the Hart building where they sat down in a circle with a banner that read, "Undocumented and Unafraid/DREAM Act Now."

After about an hour, they were warned three times to leave, then arrested and taken to a DC Metro police station, where they were held for about five hours. They were released pending a court date next month.

Viridiana and Loida were not arrested, and both said they were afraid for Rosario and the others who were, because of the possibility that an arrest might trigger deportation proceedings. Rosario was cognizant of the risk, they said, but she decided it was worth it to dramatize their cause. (For more background, see this post from June 20.)

The three returned from Washington still without any commitment from Sen. Kay Hagan, North Carolina's Democratic senator, to support the DREAM Act. Hagan's consistently said that she'll consider such legislation only in the context of comprehensive immigration reform.

Still, all three expressed optimism that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will find a way to press for the DREAM Act and a related bill reforming immigration rules in the agricultural industry. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is reaching out to the immigrant community as he fights for re-election in a state with a large Hispanic population.

Viridiana and Loida said they've been getting invitations to speak at churches and synagogues in the Triangle, and they're up for more. You can contact them — and read much more about them — at the N.C. DREAM Team website.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

$59 billion more for war machinery in Afghanistan, Iraq? Two N.C. congressmen vote no

Posted by on Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 10:59 AM

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I note for the record that the U.S. House of Representatives this week voted to spend $59 billion more on combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The vote was 308-114. Of the negative votes, 102 were cast by Democrats. Democrats split 148-102 in favor of the measure. Republicans were more gung-ho, all their rhetoric about wasteful federal spending notwithstanding; the GOP voted 160-12 in favor of continuing to pour billions into wars that even the Pentagon acknowledges aren't winnable.

I didn't see it anywhere, so I looked up how the N.C. congressional delegation voted. Two of our 13 members voted no. They were Democrat Mel Watt, whose home base is Charlotte, and Republican Walter Jones, the Down East member whose district is heavily military.

All three Triangle-area members were yes votes: Reps. Bob Etheridge, David Price and Brad Miller.

On the subject of war, national security and the stunningly expensive military-industrial "intelligence" complex built by Washington since 9/11, I strongly recommend reading this essay by Andrew Bacevich on TomDispatch.com — along with Tom Englehardt's introduction. Bacevich is a Boston University professor and the author of a new book, Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War.

Englehardt begins with this:

If you ever needed convincing that the world of American “national security” is well along the road to profligate lunacy, read the striking three-part “Top Secret America” series by Dana Priest and William Arkin that the Washington Post published last week. When it comes to the expansion of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), which claims 17 major agencies and organizations, the figures are staggering. Here’s just a taste: “Twenty-four [new intelligence] organizations were created by the end of 2001, including the Office of Homeland Security and the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Task Force. In 2002, 37 more were created to track weapons of mass destruction, collect threat tips, and coordinate the new focus on counterterrorism. That was followed the next year by 36 new organizations; and 26 after that; and 31 more; and 32 more; and 20 or more each in 2007, 2008, and 2009. In all, at least 263 organizations have been created or reorganized as a response to 9/11.”

And from Bacevich:

If any overarching conclusion emerges from the Afghan and Iraq Wars (and from their Israeli equivalents), it’s this: victory is a chimera. Counting on today’s enemy to yield in the face of superior force makes about as much sense as buying lottery tickets to pay the mortgage: you better be really lucky.

Meanwhile, as the U.S. economy went into a tailspin, Americans contemplated their equivalent of Israel’s “demographic bomb” — a “fiscal bomb.” Ingrained habits of profligacy, both individual and collective, held out the prospect of long-term stagnation: no growth, no jobs, no fun. Out-of-control spending on endless wars exacerbated that threat.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What does the Wake school board majority "intend"? As Michael Alves says, we'll know very soon

Posted by on Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 1:29 PM

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Michael Alves, the Massachusetts-based guru of “controlled choice” plans for student assignment, made his Wake County debut Tuesday in the role of gray-haired eminence who just might be able to forge a peace between the warring pro-diversity and pro-neighborhood-schools forces.

At the Wake school board’s Student Assignment Committee, Alves said he’s seen some horrible inner-city schools in his years of consulting, so as he was driven around in Raleigh the day before, he kept expecting to see at least one — but never did. He only saw good schools.

Alves didn’t add, but might’ve, that the reason could be the one given by Syracuse professor emeritus Gerald Grant in his book, Hope and Despair in The American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh: It’s the diversity policy that the new school board majority chucked out immediately after taking power.

The new majority complains that they’re misunderstood. They do not “intend” to resegregate the Wake schools, Ron Margiotta, the board chair, insists. “The difference is huge between my intent and the perception” of her critics, says Debra Goldman, the vice chair.

Well, OK, in the spirit of diversity, let’s take the majority at face value. Let’s posit that, although it sure looks like they’re going to resegregate the school system, intentionally or otherwise, maybe we’re only seeing it that way because our experience with civil rights issues is so different from theirs.

That is, so many on the pro-diversity side, both black and white, come out of the civil rights movement (or their parents did) and are very familiar with what White Backlash looks like. That’s not the case with the all-white, all-Republican school board majority, who would have us believe that racism is a thing of the past and the big problem in Wake County is the one they’ve experienced—which is instability in school assignments.

So let’s put ourselves in the majority’s place, even though they resolutely refuse to put themselves in ours. Let’s say that we want to curb instability — too many students reassigned too often to schools too far away — by means of a new system of assignment zones in the county. But we also don’t want resegregation, which Goldman calls “a horrifying and hideous thought.”

If we — they — intend to achieve both outcomes, then we all should be listening to Alves, who says the fundamental principle the board must follow when establishing its zones is “equity” — basic fairness. What that means, he says, is that in drawing the lines, the board must create zones that are “equivalent” in terms of student achievement and socioeconomic makeup. Each one should be, as much as possible, “a microcosm of the county.”

For eight months, the board majority has rejected every suggestion, and every motion by one of the members in the pro-diversity minority, that socioeconomic data — the number of students in a neighborhood who are eligible for a free or reduced lunch — should remain a part of the student assignment equation.

Alves made it clear that such data must be factored in, along with students’ test scores, to avoid having a system “where some children are benefitting and some are not.”

“You don’t want any family disenfranchised or disadvantaged because of where they live,” he told the committee and its chair, John Tedesco. “If you do that, your plan will fail.”

And fail quickly, Alves added.

***

Alves has worked with school systems all over the country to establish controlled-choice plans. The basic idea is that no student is assigned to any school; rather, they (and their parents) choose where they want to go, and their second choice, and so on. The only constraint is that the schools they choose must be in their zone.

If too many students choose the same school, lotteries thin out the list. If not enough choose a school, it’s probably because it’s a bad school, and steps must be taken immediately to improve it.

Alves’ first such plan, and it’s still in use, is in Cambridge, MA. That’s a small enough place, with 15 schools and 5,700 students, that it needs no zones: Students can apply to any school in the city.

Wake County’s too big to be just one zone, Alves said, though some schools in the middle — in Raleigh — might be open to students countywide. He suggested zones of about 20,000 students, equivalent to a medium-sized district, might be about the right size. If so, Wake’s 140,000 students would yield seven zones.

But Alves couldn’t make this point often enough: If the zones aren’t equal in quality — if some are “good” and some are no — parents will know it immediately and they’ll move to the better zones if they can afford to; the bad zones will be left with under-capacity buildings occupied by kids from low-income households.

This is the outcome that the will be what the pro-diversity side defines as resegregation, and which the school board majority adamantly denies that it intends.

So what does the majority intend? As Alves says, we’ll know for certain at the point when they draw zones on a map and either use the proper data to measure whether they’re fair, or else they’ll refuse to use it.

“That’s the crossroads,” he told Tedesco’s committee. ”Because you have the data.”

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Wake's graduation rate for ED students: It's not 54 percent any more, it's ...

Posted by on Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 1:01 PM

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... It's almost 60 percent — 59.7, to be exact — for the graduating class of 2010. That's the rate for graduations in four years from time of entering high school. The five-year rate is 62.2 percent.

These numbers are in a new report from the Wake County Public School System required as part of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.

The new school board majority has made much of low ED graduation rates, which had slipped to 54.2 percent last year, calling it evidence of the failure of diversity assignment policies. Cause-and-effect was always problematic with their analysis; no one knows what the rates for ED kids would've been had their preferred approach of "neighborhood schools" been in effect. (Most city systems, though, have much lower rates than Wake's.)

Now, will diversity be seen as causing these better results?

Wake's four-year graduation rate overall remained at 78.4 percent; details below:

Continue reading…

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

High-Speed Rail thru Raleigh: What route? At what price?

Posted by on Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 10:51 PM

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Our topic tonight: The public hearing Monday in Raleigh on the proposed Southeast High-Speed Rail (SEHSR) project. The hearing is at the Raleigh Convention Center, 7 p.m., preceded by an open house from 5-7 p.m. I recommend, if you're going — and you should go if the subject of Raleigh's transit future is of any interest to you — that you also take up Norfolk-Southern's offer of free food at their rail yard Saturday, 4-8 p.m. Read on for why I say that. The rail yard is at 1500 Carson Street. See also this position statement from the Downtown Living Advocates (DLA):

DLA_TrainPosition.pdf

***

I could say there are a lot of moving parts to the question of Raleigh's transit future, but this is no laughing matter. The local transit system — Triangle Transit — was always comin' through the center of Raleigh (still is, if it ever comes), but the TTA never thought it needed to close the downtown streets for its trains to get through safely. That would defeat the purpose of transit, yes? Lights, action, crossing gates were though to be sufficient.

But suddenly, the long-planned, long-delayed, widely supported but never well-understood Southeast High-Speed Rail (SEHSR) project apparently is going to happen ... and it's going to come through the center of Raleigh as well. And because it's "high speed" — even though, in the center of Raleigh, it won't be moving any faster than the TTA transit trains would be moving — the SEHSR planners seem to have their heart set on closing West Jones Street right in the middle of the Glenwood South district.

Closing, as in: A big wall on both sides of the tracks to keep cars from crossing the tracks and pedestrians from crossing the tracks.

(And if a pedestrian bridge were to be built over the wall(s), as has been suggested, it would need to be at least 24 feet above any railroad car passing below. Picture that w-a-a-y up in the air the next time you're walking from Glenwood Avenue to the 42nd Street Oyster Bar.)

And closing Jones Street is best-case.

Only Jones Street would be closed, you see, if the SEHSR line uses the Norfolk-Southern rail corridor, which cuts through Glenwood South and then continues north out of Raleigh on the west side of Capital Boulevard. (By the Glenwood-Brooklyn neighborhood, in other words.)

But folks, Norfolk Southern is dead set against this system using its corridor. That's why they're having that picnic Saturday at their rail yard — see above — to feed us some hot dogs and impress upon us how much they don't want this thing in their way. And unless I'm missing something, N-S can probably veto this project if they dig their heels in deep enough.

Which means the SEHSR line may have to use the CSX Railroad corridor, which also cuts through Glenwood South (at one point, the N-S and CSX lines are right next to each other) but then runs out of Raleigh to the north on the east side of Capital Boulevard. (The tracks at Logan's Garden Supply — the old Seaboard Station — are in the CSX corridor.)

According to the state and city officials I've spoken with, CSX is amenable to having the high-speed rail line in its corridor (but it will want money — 'natch) and in fact the TTA line was always — and is still — slated to go in the CSX corridor, part of which the TTA purchased some years ago.

But if the CSX corridor is used for the SEHSR line — and if SEHSR's planners continue to insist that wherever its railroad tracks cross a street at grade, that street must be closed — then three streets would be closed to traffic: Jones Street; Harrington Street; and West Street.

Jones, Harrington and West streets, all closed? How would a car — or a pedestrian — get from the west side of downtown to downtown itself? Answer: Hillsborough Street or Peace Street.

The effect would be as if a highway came barreling through the downtown, cutting it apart.

And, like a highway, the SEHSR line is not taking the locals where they want to go in the Triangle. Its purpose is to take passengers to Washington, Charlotte and Atlanta at higher speeds than the slowpoke trains we have now.

The Downtown Living Advocates (name is self-explanatory) are out with a position on this question. Their answer: Use the N-S route and run the trains through Glenwood South below ground (in a tunnel) so the street doesn't have to be closed:

The DLA recommends:
• Downtown-wide quiet zones at all rail crossings
• Alternative transit alignment NC3, Norfolk Southern Tracks — see below
• Tunneling the tracks at Jones Street and parallel to Glenwood South, so as to permit
Jones Street to remain open
Given the present alternatives, the DLA strongly recommends that high speed passenger
trains follow the Norfolk Southern tracks north from Jones Street along the west side of
Capital Boulevard (alignment NC3), and is strongly opposed to the alternative that the
trains travel along the east side of Capital Boulevard, using the CSX tracks

Others in Raleigh will be there Monday to say that no streets need be closed for the high-speed rail line; instead — like the TTA's trains — the high-speed trains will be moving slowly as they approach, or leave, the Raleigh station. Closing gates would be sufficient. And a blast of the RR horn? The DLA folks don't want that.

Many moving parts. Monday.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Day Later: Thoughts on the Wake school situation

Posted by on Wed, Jul 21, 2010 at 2:32 PM

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  • Photo by Bob Geary

Another Wake school board meeting, another tumultuous Tuesday. The pro-diversity march and rally on Fayetteville Street was over-shadowed by the protests and arrests at the board meeting a few hours later. Someone said to me last night that it was a mistake for the Rev. Barber & Co. to get arrested — they stepped on their own publicity, in effect. I'm of two minds: That's true; and yet, if Barber, the Rev. Petty and the rest hadn't been arrested last time, yesterday's rally would've numbered 100, not 1,500. With a second round of arrests, another mass event becomes likely ... and the pressure on the school board majority gets cranked up a little higher. (And I would say, while the newspaper coverage focused on the arrests, the TV pictures of the march and of Barber and Petty getting arrested merely for attempting to attend the board meeting were a compelling combination.)

No question, the agitating and chanting out of turn inside the board meetings is off-putting even if you agree with the chanters, as I do. For one thing, there's an undoubted backlash effect not just on the anti-diversity side but also among those who haven't taken a side yet but believe in civility. Is that a price worth paying? It is only if you think that the prospect of re-segregation in the Wake schools is real and that the school board majority will bring it on, ignoring every view that doesn't align with their own, unless and until they are stopped by an opposition with moral weight and an aroused voting majority. if you think both things are true then, yes, civil disobedience is one way to respond, though not the only way.

Another way to respond is politically, starting with the Wake Commissioners elections this fall. Backlash to the protests will bring out the Republican vote, certainly. The protests may help to wake up the Democratic vote, especially the African-American Democratic vote that helped Barack Obama sweep Wake County two years ago but which has gone to ground since. Independent voters, as always, will be critical. The school board majority, a Republican majority, is handling things very badly to date. The protesters can underscore each of their failures; but the protesters need to be careful not to look worse while doing it than the problem they're attacking.

Two other points:

1) About public participation: The board majority voted, with its customary lack of prior notice or public consideration, to hold just one public meeting a month instead of two (with a second, "work" session taking the place of the other regular meeting). It also voted to end regular committee meetings for at least three months (this applies only to standing committees; the ones dealing with assignment zones and ED (economically disadvantaged) kids can continue, though neither meets much anyway.)

Both moves will sharply limit the public's ability to observe what the majority is up to. Cutting the number of regular board meetings in half will cut the number of opportunities for public comment in half as well.

Clearly, the new majority isn't into explaining what they're thinking, let alone why they're thinking it. (Note to John Tedesco: There's a difference between explaining why something's the case and just saying it is.)

Which leads me to my second point, which is —

2) About diversity: Diversity is generally understood to mean having women in the mix with men and African-Americans and others of color in the mix with European-Americans (i.e., white folks). But the purpose of diversity isn't just that everyone's represented, it's that people from different backgrounds have different perspectives and, often, view the same set of facts quite differently and reach different conclusions about them.

For example, I may see a group of students entering a school and say that they all have an equal opportunity to do well in their studies. Someone else may see the same group of students and observe that some have parents with college degrees and houses full of books and neighbors the same ... and others have a father who's gone, a mom who works, no one in the family has been to college and there are no books in the house and not many in the neighborhood.

These are observations I might've made if I'd thought about it. The other person did think about it, probably because her experiences were different than mine.

Now, let's apply diversity — the purpose of diversity — to our school board majority. They could take time to hear and consider what the pro-diversity folks say, which is that diversity is an important, even critical element of a good education. They could consider the abundant evidence that diverse schools work better for low-income kids and also for well-off kids who get to meet and mingle with students whose views on thing might be different than their own. They could take testimony from experts. They could see whether a win-win is possible: Shorten bus routes, say, but retain diversity as a desired outcome in school assignments.

Or, they could make a show, at least, of listening to the other side, then do exactly what they intended in the first place, which is to junk diversity and have their own "neighborhood" schools in their own suburban neighborhoods, and the poor kids be damned.

Make a bow to diversity, in other words, by appearing to consider diverse opinions before rejecting them.

But this board majority doesn't even do that. Their disdain for different opinions is palpable. It came out in so many words yesterday when school board member Anne McLaurin, discussing the move to one regular meeting a month instead of two, asked that public comment be allowed at the second, work session — so as to preserve the public's chances to speak. McLaurin, of course, is one of the four in the minority on the 5-4 Republican-majority board.

Board Chairman Ron Margiotta, Papa Ron in GOP circles, doesn't say much at meetings, but he does guffaw from time to time when someone like McLaurin makes a point that she thinks he ought to consider ... but which he not only will refuse to consider, he relishes the fact that he's in the majority and doesn't have to consider it.

McLaurin's suggestion about public participation gave Margiotta just such a kick. "I would never support that in a million years," Margiotta said quite loudly to himself. "I wouldn't."

He was smiling with some satisfaction, because he didn't have to support it, or even think about it. "Sorry," Margiotta added.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Revs. Petty, Barber arrested for trying to enter the Wake school board meeting; others taken into custody at the meeting for chanting

Posted by on Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 4:51 PM

The Rev. Nancy Petty at the head of todays march
  • Photo by Bob Geary
  • The Rev. Nancy Petty at the head of today's march

(Update:The public comment period of the school board meeting just ended — dissolved, actually, as the final speaker, who was wearing an NAACP shirt, launched into a chant of "Forward, Ever/Backward, Never!" and suddenly, WRAL-'s online feed ended and a slate came up saying the meeting was in recess. Like many, I can't be there and am watching the TV station's feed. Just got a pair of emails from folks who are there saying about 10 more people were arrested, apparently for refusing to stop the chanting.

(Not sure who's live-blogging for WRAL, but h/she's doing a great job:

5:10 p.m. — Chair Ron Margiotta came back into the board's meeting room to speak with the remaining crowd. He said the board would hear 10 more speakers when members came back, then hear the remainder of the speakers list at the end of the meeting.

Rev. Paul Anderson told the crowd that seemed like "a fair compromise" and asked the audience to go back to its seats.

"Thank you. We needed a leader right now," one audience member said to Anderson as people calmed down and went back to sitting.

5 p.m. — Police carried protesters from the Wake County Board of Education meeting Tuesday as others sang "We Shall Overcome" and chanted "Segregation Never."

It appeared for a few moments that board member Keith Sutton was going to be arrested when he was in the midst of the protesters at the speaker's podium. Raleigh police had Sutton's hands behind him and looked as if he would be handcuffed in the confusion. Shortly after, however, he was led from a side door after officers realized he was a board member, not a protester.

(The complete live blog is here.)


Following the pro-diversity rally, State NAACP President the Rev. William Barber and the Rev. Nancy Petty, pastor at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, were arrested by Raleigh police for trying to enter the Wake school system's building at 3600 Wake Forest Rd. to attend today's Wake school board meeting. Barber and Petty were barred from attending the meeting by School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta because of their arrest for trespassing at a board meeting last month. Barber, Petty, Duke historian Tim Tyson and Mary D. Williams, a gospel singer and Raleigh parent, went to the front of the meeting last month and refused to sit down, leading to their arrests.

WRAL-TV reported that three were arrested; the third person was named Gregory Moss, and he was charged with resisting arrest.

It's not clear whether Margiotta was acting lawfully when he barred the four from attending a public meeting. The fact that they'd undertaken an act of civil disobedience at the prior meeting did not dictate that their actions today would've been a repeat; also, none of the four have been to trial on the misdemeanor trespassing charge.

From WRAL:

Barber released an open letter to Margiotta Tuesday saying that he had "no intention of even coming to your meeting" Tuesday, but people at the rally pressed him to.

"Show some southern hospitality and invite us into the public meeting and to speak if the spirit moves us," he wrote. "If, after we speak, you believe we are disrupting the public meeting, then and only then, do you have the right to ask us to desist, and then and only then can you exercise the powers of the state to arrest us."

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Tuesday on the Wake schools front: Pick your spots

Posted by on Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 11:20 AM

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A friend just called. She can't devote her entire day to the Wake schools protest, but she can come for part of the day and "wants to be counted" in the fight for diverse schools in Wake County. Better to come in the morning for the march/rally? Or in the afternoon for the school board meeting?

Well, to each her own, but if forced to choose, I'd march in the morning. The school board meeting itself is gonna be 1) a zoo; 2) very hard to get into. (The Board of Education issued a statement about this Friday — I've copied it below.)

The board holds a Committee of the Whole meeting at 12:30 in a tiny conference room; almost nobody gets in there except staff and press. The regular board meeting is in a larger room, but it holds 200 tops (I think the official number is 165), and the Board of Education's Majority Five has decided several times that it will not move to a larger hall (a high school auditorium, e.g.) to accommodate the interested public. The regular board session starts at 3 p,m. A public comment period is scheduled to start at 4 p.m., with speakers limited to 2:00 each — that's two minutes, not two hours.

Here's how the public comment period works:

You sign up to speak in advance, and if you're on the list — even if you didn't get into the meeting — if you're somewhere on the grounds of 3600 Wake Forest Rd., they'll call you in. However, if the majority's past form holds, 50-60-70 people will sign up, and Chairman Margiotta will call the first 20 or so, then announce a break for dinner, then the board will come back and do something else, then break again, and the final speakers won't be called until after 7 p.m. — or later.

By then, many of those who signed up will be long gone, which is fine with the Majority, who are tired of hearing that they should be creating diverse schools, not ditching them.

The pro-diversity march starts at 10 a.m. from in front of the Raleigh Convention Center. The end point is the State Capitol, seven blocks up Fayetteville Street. Organizers are hoping for a crowd in the thousands. If you want to be counted, that's the place to be.

On the other hand, if you want to be counted on the anti-diversity side, one of the Wake Republican clubs is calling for folks to come and pack the Board room for the 3 p.m. meeting. Pro-diversity folks who want to stop that from happening (and who want to attend the rally also) will have to hustle out to 3600 Wake Forest starting at about 12 noon — bring water; bring a book; it's going to be a long day's night.

***

Here's what came out from the Board of Education Friday: (see below the fold)

Continue reading…

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Diversity's supporters have the high ground going into Tuesday's rally at the Capitol

Posted by on Fri, Jul 16, 2010 at 2:52 PM

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Looking ahead to Tuesday and the mass march/rally at the State Capitol in favor of diversity in the Wake school system:

It's mid-July. The new school board majority has been in office for almost eight months, and a referendum on their actions to date is coming in November with elections for the Wake County Board of Commissioners. The (Republican) majority has thus far managed to scrap diversity as a policy goal, change a few school calendars and move some students around, notably the ones from Southeast Raleigh who were attending school in Garner but won't be henceforth. They won a recent showdown with Democratic Commissioner Stan Norwalk over where to put a new high school in the northeast quadrant of the county: Norwalk wanted it close to the hugely over-crowded Wakefield H.S.; the school board majority wanted it in Rolesville, i.e. not that close. The majority got their way on a 4-3 vote of the commissioners, with Democrat Lindy Brown deserting her party to side with the three Republican commissioners.

But the school board majority has made little (some might argue no) progress toward adopting a new student assignment policy and no progress on the issue of ED (economically disadvantaged) students and their lagging academic performance. The ED issue was a hobbyhorse whipped relentlessly by the majority (or, more accurately, by John Tedesco and Deborah Prickett, purportedly speaking for the majority) before and after their election wins last fall. Since then, it hasn't seemed to occupy much of the majority's time, however. Do they still contend that "neighborhood schools" will help kids living in high-poverty neighborhoods? Or was it always a fig leaf to cover their real agenda, which is neighborhood schools for their own suburban neighborhoods?

On the other side, the NAACP, the Great Schools in Wake coalition and a slew of other groups have come fiercely to the defense of diversity as a critical element in school excellence overall, but especially in any effort to help ED students and close the achievement gap between more- and less-affluent kids.

To Tedesco's stance that diversity didn't work because graduation rates for ED kids slipped over the past decade, diversity's supporters answered that he's got it exactly backwards: Rather, they say, as adherence to the county's diversity policy slipped over the past decade — the victim of Wake's unbridled growth — so too did the performance of ED kids. To put it another way, as the number of schools with high concentrations of ED kids grew from fewer than 10 to more than 50, the number of ED kids not graduating increased apace. High-poverty schools, usually also characterized by high-minority populations, yield terrible results for the kids forced to attend them, they believe.

Bottom line: Eight months in, the effort by the new board majority to seize the moral high ground by appearing, at least, to advocate for ED kids is fading.

Now, diversity's supporters have the high ground, and they'll try to hold it through November, starting with Tuesday's march. Organizers are talking about "thousands" turning out, a big word for an event on a steamy mid-July day. But the AME Zion convention is in town — that'll help.

A big turnout for the march could be the launch point for the fall campaign, but also for the more important campaign to raise ED achievement scores in Wake and fulfill the promise of socio-economic diversity AND school excellence.

The march is set to begin at 10 a.m. from the Raleigh Convention Center. Here's a promotional video posted by the NC NAACP:

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

See it here: "The Future is Electric"

Posted by on Thu, Jul 15, 2010 at 10:02 AM

electriccar.jpg
  • Photo by D.L. Anderson

In 1980, only a few could foresee how the desktop computer and the cell phone would transform the communications industry. (Believe me, newspaper owners missed it by a mile.) Today, the new technologies are electric — vehicle batteries, controllers, solar panels, wind turbines, and a smart-grid system capable of integrating them, much like the cell towers do for phones. Put them together, and they promise to transform the transportation industry over the next 20-30 years and wean us, finally, from our addiction to (imported, expensive) petroleum.

That was the gist of the stories I wrote a week ago in the Indyyou can read them here. Now our very talented photographer-videographer Derek Anderson has produced a short program with NCSU's Ewan Pritchard, who was featured in the first of those three stories. It's called "The Future is Electric" — and in this case, seeing is believing:

The Future Is Electric from Independent Weekly on Vimeo.

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