Wake County Schools

Coaches, parents: Wake schools budget proposal 'a bare minimum'

Posted April 21, 2015
Updated April 22, 2015

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— Twenty people spoke at a meeting of the Wake County Board of Education Tuesday in support of Superintendent James Merrill's $1.4 billion budget proposal.

"The citizens of Wake County cannot be any more clear," said Lynn Edmonds. "This budget represents the investment that Wake citizens expect for our school system."

Speakers were in broad agreement about the need to spend more on school facilities, salaries for teachers and staff and on programs that support students with special needs.

"This budget is about priorities," said Beverly Clark. "Do we value teachers in this community? If so then we must pay them more."

Many cited budget cuts under previous administrations and praised Merrill's plan, which asks for $48.3 million more from the Wake County Commissioners for a total of $389.8 million, an increase of 14 percent.

The budget attempts to address a number of educational spending gaps, including:

  • $16 million to help bring teacher salaries to the national average within five years.
  • $5.3 million to open Abbotts Creek and Scotts Ridge elementary schools and Apex Friendship High School.
  • $3.7 million to pay for a program to help accelerate learning in 12 schools.
  • $2.3 million to expand Pre-K programs
  • $1.8 million for increasing extra-duty pay for coaches and others who teach outside the classroom.

Merrill has described his proposal as a response to a backlog of need created by a growing student body and a decrease in state education spending.

"Our school system has been on oxygen as a result of the recession and severe cuts from the state," said Lynn Edmonds. "We're playing catchup."

Angela Scioli, a social studies teacher from Leesville Road High School presented the board with a petition of support signed by 100 of her colleagues.

"We want to let you know that we are informed about the budget," she said. "We support it, and we thank you for proposing it. It has given us hope."

Both the football and basketball coaches from Millbrook High School spoke on behalf of the proposal to increase the "extra-duty" pay allotted for coaches, band directors, club advisors, testing coordinators and others. These employees are compensated on a pay scale approved and last updated in 1987.

Donald Tomlinson, president of the Millbrook booster club, pointed out that the much-discussed teacher salary issue, paired with stagnant extra-duty pay creates a shortage of qualified people.

"As you know we're losing teachers at an alarming rate. We also lose coaches for the same reasons," he said.

Scott McInnes, Millbrook's athletic director and basketball coach, asked board members to think about extra duty as a second classroom.

"From 2:20 until whenever it ends, these extra-duty positions are mentor leaders to these young men and women. We're trying of effect lifetime goals and we're trying to see major changes to make a difference in these kids lives," he said.

The Sanderson High School athletic director addressed the challenge of increasing extra-duty pay at the expense of other priorities.

"I hear people ask very good questions. They ask, 'What would you cut?'" Tony Lewis said.

"I'm not aware of another program that can or has outperformed extracurricular activities," he continued. "I represent the No. 1. dropout prevention program in the country."

The speakers acknowledged the fact that Merrill's budget can't pass without support from the Wake County Board of Commissioners, which controls the purse strings.

"I promise to beg and plead with county commissioners if I must for full funding," McInnes said.

Scioli said she had prepared 100 signatures for when the school board meets with commissioners on June 1.

"We consider this to be a rare opportunity to right some of the wrongs of recent state legislation related to funding and pay," she said.

"We simply can't count on state funding, and we must increase the local supplement," Clark added. She compared the Wake County request for $389.8 million in local funding to Charlotte-Mecklenberg's allotted 428 million.

"They have fewer students, they're expecting less growth. Charlotte does have more teachers and more teacher assistants," she said. "This budget is an essential step forward, but it is a bare minimum for what our thriving community can do."

After about an hour of budget discussion, the board meeting continued with recognition of winners of the district's Stand Up, Speak Out! Bullying Prevention Video Contest.

Elementary School Winners:

  • 1st Place: Brentwood Elementary
  • 2nd Place: Timber Drive Elementary
  • 3rd Place: Poe Magnet Elementary

Middle School Winners

  • 1st Place: Fuquay-Varina Middle
  • 2nd Place: Holly Grove Middle
  • 3rd Place: East Cary Middle

High School Winners

  • 1st Place: Garner High
  • 2nd Place: Millbrook High
  • 3rd Place: Wakefield High

Before going into closed session, the board also voted to approve a bell schedule plan for the 2015-16 school year.

11 Comments

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  • Terry Watts Apr 23, 2015
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    I love listening to crotchety old people grouse about education, too...

  • Anne Nemous Apr 22, 2015
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    You folks are despicable. You have one poster comparing education today to 'when I went to school', which is factually nonsense as actual per pupil spending in NC is at a decades low. You have others whining about investing in education when I notice they didnt mind taking advantage of a better system themselves. Seriously you are upset the people want our kids to be educated properly?

  • Dean Logan Apr 22, 2015
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    It's always never enough.

  • Joseph Smith Apr 22, 2015
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    Big Education must be fed. The massive administration has yet to see the budget knife. Boated, wasteful producing mediocre results.

  • Norman Lewis Apr 22, 2015
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    How much of the budget is allotted for administrators, consultants, new admin facilities and other non-direct contact, teaching related expenses? This budget may cover essentials (to be determined) but that doesn't mean there could not be a lot of fluff and padding for pet issues. There is usually a great deal of fat at the upper levels of the administrative side of almost any organization. Do not let the mantra "it is for the children" blind you into accepting any budget.

  • Tom Boswell Apr 22, 2015
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    Sorry should have read 80% of a billion.

  • Tom Boswell Apr 22, 2015
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    A year and a half ago we the voters gave Wake County schools 80% of a million dollars increasing our real estate taxes 14%. They now want more with this budget and are already getting another billion dollar bond ready for 2016. Add this with the Democratic County Commissioners proposing a billion dollar wasted mass rail transit bond and our taxes will be increasing by 50%. The voters will approve these and destroy the nice area of Cary. Cary needs to secede from Wake County. The Democrats campaigned for increases in taxes and spending so if you voted for them you have no right to complain.

  • Quinn Satterthwaite Apr 22, 2015
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    Twenty people spoke at a meeting of the Wake County Board Oooo 20 whole people.

    Whats the "bare minimum" number of assistant principles we need? Because there seem to be dozens and dozens.

  • Alexia Proper Apr 21, 2015
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    When I was in school, there were no paid assistants. We didn't bus kids across the county for no good reason. We didn't have a lot of luxuries like TVs and computers.

    Our school operated fine on a thin budget. Even so, the school did provide what we needed. Some of the waste I've seen just astounds me. Multiple vice principals, lots of paid assistants, bussing, TV screens in cafeterias, etc. It's like liberal spending without thought. Control expenses, focus on education, and reduce unneeded staff. And don't say the paid assistant is needed. Just don't, because they're not.

  • Joseph Smith Apr 21, 2015
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    Was there not several articles last week that pointed at that increased spending had not produced better results? That we need fresh ideas and to stop throwing money at the problem of low achievement.

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