WAKE COUNTY – Voters must approve the $970 million school bond on Nov. 7 to continue building on the 30-year legacy of the merged Wake County Public School System, say business leaders representing North Carolina’s premier local education fund. Wake Education Partnership shared this message with more than 600 business leaders, elected officials, parents, educators and community representatives at its 2006 Annual Meeting, held this morning at Raleigh’s McKimmon Center.

“This is a time for courageous leadership. Passing the school bond is critical for the future development of our community,” said John McKinney, director of corporate and external affairs for BellSouth and chair of Wake Education Partnership’s Board of Directors. “The bottom line is that our public school system plays a vital role in Wake County’s economic health.”

The meeting theme, “A Community United: Celebrating 30 Years of Courageous Leadership,” focused on the 30th anniversary of the merger of the Raleigh City and Wake County school systems. The 1976 merger of the two districts was a significant moment in the community’s history, peacefully integrating schools in Wake County despite initial resistance from the community. Since then, our school system has become a national leader in academic achievement and played a key role in the area’s phenomenal growth, in part, because of the courageous leadership to merge the districts.

As part of the 30th anniversary celebration, a special award was presented to John Murphy, first superintendent of the Wake County Public School System in 1976. This was Murphy’s first trip to Raleigh since moving to Florida after his tenure as superintendent. Also invited as special guests at the meeting were members of the 1976 Wake County Board of Education, Board of Commissioners, Legislative Delegation and WCPSS Administrative Team.

The event featured a dramatic performance about the merger including Senator Vernon Malone, chair of the 1976 Wake County Board of Education; Wade Smith, attorney with Tharrington Smith and 1976 N.C. legislator; current Wake County Board of Education Chair Patti Head; former WCPSS Superintendent Bill McNeal, a teacher at Carroll Junior High School in 1976; Smedes York, president of The York Companies; and Ariana Debose, sophomore at Wake Forest-Rolesville High School.

At the event, Wake Education Partnership presented its annual education awards to honor one individual and two businesses for their commitment to education in Wake County. The Friend of Education Award was presented to Capitol Broadcasting Company President and CEO Jim Goodmon. The Business Partner for Education awards were presented to Barnhill Contracting Company and KB Home. [See attached release for more detail.]

In addition to McKinney, presenters included Rusine Mitchell-Sinclair, senior state executive for IBM and Board of Trustees chair with Wake Education Partnership; W. Robert Saffold, president of Wake Education Partnership; and Virginia Parker, market development officer with Paragon Commercial Bank and chair-elect for the Partnership’s Board of Directors.

Special event sponsors included Misys Healthcare Systems, Centex Construction, Greene Resources, Elinvar, The York Companies, Wake Stone Corporation, Maupin Taylor, Paragon Commercial Bank, and the Josephus Daniels Donor Advised Fund of the Triangle Community Foundation.

Wake Education Partnership is an independent local education fund that mobilizes resources, leverages relationships and convenes the community to ensure that Wake County prepares our students for lifelong learning in a competitive global economy. Since 1983, the Partnership has worked together with the business and civic community to build public responsibility for world-class schools in Wake County. Programs for 2006-07 focus on retaining effective teachers, developing effective education leaders, and ensuring healthy schools for all students. For more information, please visit www.WakeEdPartnership.org.