According to the agenda for this afternoon’s working session, it looks like the Wake County School Board is set to reverse another logical and well-intentioned decision of the previous Board. Once again, the winners will be the affluent and the politically connected and the losers will be average kids and the system as a whole. At issue is the question of what to do with a very small segment of the County in an affluent Raleigh neighborhood – what, in school board language, is called a “node.” In this case, the node is a very important node for one main reason – it is the home of Dana Cope, the frequently-controversial (see here and here) head of the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC).
As was well documented last year, Cope became angry with the previous Board because it had the temerity to reassign his node from Lacy Elementary School (one of Raleigh’s best-resourced schools that is located in a lovely, older, upscale neighborhood) to Stough Elementary (which is located in a perfectly fine, but less-swanky, area a couple of miles away near Crabtree Mall). Stough is a classic “rim school” in the current school board vernacular – a school that is not far enough out into the new suburbs to be populated only with affluent kids and not close enough to downtown to become a magnet. (Full disclosure: Both of my two kids spent their entire elementary careers at Stough).
The reassignment of the Cope node made sense for a variety of reasons – most notably the fact that Lacy was overcrowded and Stough was under-populated. In addition, as a school with faster-growing population of lower-income kids, Stough needs nodes like Cope’s, i.e. nodes with affluent and involved families with time and disposable income to help it remain strong and viable. To top things off, the neighborhood is roughly equidistant between the two schools.
Unfortunately, Cope and some of his neighbors got all riled up about the whole deal – even going so far as to create a PAC that helped elect the new school board majority. At one point, it was reported that Cope was selling his house to keep his kids from moving. It’s unclear what happened with this. He does not appear to have moved, but his kids do not attend Stough. [More on this in the comment below].
The irony in all this, of course, is that Cope is, in his professional life, the head of a progressive quasi-labor union that employs a lot of great folks and frequently champions all sorts of progressive causes. Now, it appears, the new and far-right, Republican-backed (and undoubtedly non-union-friendly) School Board members will pay Cope back for his support by switching his node back to Lacy over the objection of the member representing the district in which both schools are located.
All in all, a very depressing story. Who says all politics aren’t local?