Tedesco’s Easy Victory Puts Change on Track

Thomas Goldsmith and T. Keung Hui, Raleigh News & Observer, November 5, 2009

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Tuesday’s overwhelming victory by John Tedesco in a Wake County school board runoff means busing for diversity and other established policies will be squarely in the crosshairs of a new majority taking the reins of the 140,000-student Wake system Dec. 1.

Tedesco, a New York-born executive of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle, outpolled educator Cathy Truitt by more than three to one in District 2, which includes Garner, Fuquay-Varina and Willow Spring. The win solidifies the prospect of a turnaround for the Wake County school system, which has attracted national attention and, in the eyes of its supporters, had helped build the reputation of Raleigh and Wake County as an attractive place to live.

Tedesco and three other recently elected members of the new majority withstood opposition from a coalition of traditional Raleigh power brokers as they promised to discard forced busing for diversity in favor of a system of neighborhood schools. The successful candidates questioned the effectiveness of the diversity policy and promoted allowing children to go to schools in their communities, even if the change results in racially and economically imbalanced schools.

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Tedesco received more votes–unofficial results gave him 6,658–than were cast overall in the first round of voting Oct. 6, when the ballot included five candidates, including incumbent Horace Tart.

Tedesco will join current board member Ron Margiotta and recently elected members Chris Malone, Debra Goldman and Deborah Prickett, all of whom have vowed to stop forced busing for diversity.

“The parents just had enough,” Prickett said Tuesday. “The public has spoken.”

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In addition to opposing the policy of busing for diversity, members of the new majority have pledged to end mandatory year-round school attendance and potentially stop the “Wacky Wednesday” policy of weekly early dismissals for teacher planning time. The board will also have to deal with system growth that has lessened in recent years, but still brings as many as 2,000 new students to the system annually.

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The state NAACP has vowed to watch the new board’s actions and, if necessary, take legal action to prevent school resegregation. Some parents fear reassigning students to neighborhood schools will harm the magnet school program.

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[Editor’s Note: Earlier stories on the run-up to this election are listed here.]

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