Wake board votes on student assignment policy

May 4, 2010 9:05:19 PM PDT
The Wake County School board delved into a challenging day of meetings on Tuesday.

Community schools

The Wake County school board passed its new student assignment policy with a four to three vote. Proximity to home and calendar choice are the top priorities.

Members of the board minority have tried to make some changes to avoid creating high poverty schools.

"I cannot support a proposal that supports schools that are economically disadvantaged and re-segregate our schools," School Board Member Anne McLaurin said.

"We value diversity, we don't have a diversity problem," School Board Member John Tedesco said. "We have a growth management problem."

Tuesday's vote is the first of two needed to make the new student assignment policy official. The second will take place in two weeks.

Budget

The Wake County School Board is still going over the $20 million in additional cuts it’ll need to make based on the Governor’s proposed budget.

These cuts are in addition to the cuts made in its budget already given to county commissioners. The Governor's budget cuts instructional support such as media specialists, guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses. It cuts central office administration, reduces budget for assistance principals, cuts instructional supplies and equipment, delays states ability to replace school buses this year in accordance with the replacement schedule.

“None of it is good but it is in the bounds of what we anticipated,” said Wake Schools Chief Business Officer David Neeter.

The North Carolina Association of School Administrators has written a letter to the General Assembly informing them that the discretionary reduction cannot be sustained without laying off additional school personnel and negatively impacting classroom service. The letter also states that Public schools cannot cover all of the proposed reductions and other line item cuts with federal funds. The Association is concerned that cuts to Central Office, Assistant Principals and others mean additional job losses and that any pay raises and enhancements put a burden on local districts. The Association also feels that public school job protection should be given priority over a pay increase for personnel and any expansion funding proposal.

Finance Committee Chair Keith Sutton feels the Association’s letter should serve as part of Wake’s legislative agenda. He’d like to meet with the delegation to explain just how dire the situation is becoming. School Board Chair Margiotta says school leaders are on a list of those seeking the opportunity to meet with the delegation. School leaders also fear that budget cuts could be even worse once the House and Senate make changes to the governor’s proposal.

Public comment policy

After catching some heat from civil rights groups, the Wake County School board is now considering a Policy that sets different limits on public comment. The original wording stated, “Speakers are required to refrain from personal attacks and insults directed at the Board, staff, or other members of the public.”

Last week the ACLU, NAACP, and other Open Government groups notified the school board that this type of restriction may violate one’s rights to free speech.

The wording of the policy now reads, “Speakers are welcome to offer comments or criticisms directed at substantive ideas, actions or procedures of the Board, individual board members, or staff. In the interest of maintaining civility and decorum, however, speakers must refrain from personal attacks and insults directed at the Board, individual Board members, staff or members of the general public.”

Vice Chair Debra Goldman says she believes attacks on a vote or decision she’s made as a board member are perfectly acceptable. “Attacks on my family or anyone’s family, their children, should be off limits,” Goldman said.

“I don’t think we should restrict what anyone has to say,” said Board Member Keith Sutton. “I think instead of telling speakers they MUST refrain from personal attacks, our policy should be that speakers are asked to refrain from such attacks.”

The board finally agreed to change the wording to read: “speakers are encouraged to refrain from personal attacks.”

They will seek approval from their attorney prior to voting on the policy during their regular meeting this afternoon.

Superintendent search

Wake County School Board members are trying to figure out who best to begin their search for a new superintendent.

School board Vice Chair Debra Goldman - who is chairing the search committee - suggested Tuesday hiring a search firm. Although, she’d prefer not to spend any additional money.

"This is the 18th largest school system in U.S. with a nearly $2 billion budget. We need to have the best of the best in Wake County," Goldman said. "We need to have the top athletes in the field applying for this position. This is not the place to try and save money. There are so many functions that a search firm can do for us. We need to get input from the stakeholders in this county as well.” Goldman suggested surveying stakeholders, taxpayers to get their input."

Board members Chris Malone, Deborah Prickett and Carolyn Morrison are also part of the committee.

The committee is charged with finding a new superintendent following the resignation of Superintendent Del Burns. WCPSS is currently being led by Interim Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Donna Hargens.

Students may not get their pick of schedules

School Assignment letters will be sent home to pre-registered students and rising kindergartners on May 14.

Not all families may be able to get the school calendar of their choice. The Wake County School Board just learned that Heritage Middle School is at capacity. Families looking to get into the year round school could decide to go to Durant Middle or East Wake Middle but transportation would not be provided.

If a child did not get into Heritage M.S. as he/she had hoped, their sibling likely won’t be assigned to Heritage Elementary either so that siblings can be on the same calendar. Parents will be asked to call school staff to work out an alternate assignment. Staff will work with families to figure out which calendar will work for their family, which schools may be on the parent's route to work or a younger siblings daycare, etc.

Siblings of Broughton High School students will be able to be grandfathered into Broughton. Siblings were originally going to be assigned to Millbrook High School where Broughton’s I.B. magnet program is being implemented. Parents have contacted school board members expressing their interest in staying at Broughton in an effort to keep brothers and sisters together.

Families who want to appeal their school assignment may be making their case to a member of the Superintendent’s staff instead of the school board. Board members decided today they’d prefer to have a Hearing Officer listen to the appeals from parents. The board would still have to give final approval for a transfer.

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