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Wake School Board set to reward controversial SEANC leader today?

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?

 

10 Comments

  1. Rob Schofield

    March 31, 2010 at 11:05 am

    A reader informs me that Cope moved to (or at least established a residence in) an apartment in the Lacy assignment zone for the current school year but never sold his house.

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  3. Joe Ciulla

    March 31, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Indeed, all politics are local. I’d love to hear about just one Democratic legislator whose kids are actually in the public school system and have not magically ended up at a magnet school. Same goes for other “friends” of the school system.

    Mr Cope’s family were not the only ones affected by a terrible school board decision. Lots of families got uprooted from the school they supported — Democrats, Republicans and Unaffiliateds. When it comes to the education of your child, party politics takes a back seat. We saw this across Wake County as many Democrats crossed party lines to support Republican school board candidates last fall.

  4. Chase

    March 31, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Joe,

    This was not a terrible board decision. It was a decision based on logic and fact.

    The neighbors in this area share more than the close proximity of the schools. Our children play together, we shop together, we go to church together, we are in clubs together. This is not a case of busing for diversity, or busing extraordinary distances. It is simply a move from neighborhood school A to neighborhood school B.

    It was people like Dana Cope, Raleigh resident for less than 3 years, who raised a ruckus because they bought a house in an area where he thought he was guaranteed a certain school.

    Clearly he did not do his homework, otherwise he would not have been so bent out of shape when tough but necessary decisions had to be made.

  5. Chase

    March 31, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Unbelievable!! The BOE just voted to remove the nodes, and Prickett just suggested that a 77% F&R node be moved from Lacy to Stough to replace these kids!!

    What is she thinking!?!?!

  6. Chase

    March 31, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Oh yea. High F&R schools don’t bother Tedesco. These kids just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

  7. Rob Schofield

    March 31, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Tonight’s actions are the latest sad confirmation that the new and narrow Board majority is not in any way motvated by principle or concern for children. It is instead merely a classic example of old-fashioned, cynical politics in which those in office reward themselves and and their friends with the spoils of power.

    Another very sad day for our community.

  8. gregflynn

    April 1, 2010 at 9:36 am

    SEANC lobbyist Ardis Watkins, neighbor, employee and loyal to Dana Cope was at the meeting and stood up with an unidentified man (not Cope) when the nodes were being discussed in clear view of Prickett whom Dana Cope had endorsed on SEANC letterhead in the fall.

  9. parent

    April 1, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Why is there no mention of the 100+ children that elect to magnet out of the stough district and that the node change only resulted in 6 extra children going to Stough?

  10. The Progressive Pulse – Lunch links

    April 6, 2010 at 11:47 am

    […] has more on the School Board Gang of Five’s efforts to reward campaign supporters that Rob reported last week. Today’s school board meeting started with the news that another $20 million must […]