Local News

Many empty seats at first Wake County schools forum

Posted January 23, 2014
Updated January 24, 2014

— Wake County Public Schools Superintendent Jim Merrill was prepared to listen, but for the first of the district’s “direct line” forums Thursday night, he had a direct line to one parent - and a lot of empty seats.

“This is new to us, we are not used to this,” said Brian Mountcastle, the lone parent at Thursday’s meeting.

School employees, parents and the public are invited to five forums around the county to voice their ideas and concerns about the district.

Some of those thoughts may end up as part of a new strategic plan for the school system.

“I may use those to help guide work with my leadership group,” Merrill said.

Mountcastle may have been the only parent at East Wake High School for the first “direct line” meeting, but it’s not due to a lack of issues in eastern Wake County. A work group was formed last year after a curriculum audit found inconsistent teacher expectations and unevenly distributed resources in area schools serving needy students.

“Get our test scores for our students up,” Mountcastle said. “We need to get our teacher enthusiasm back up.”

Mountcastle has an idea for why he was the only attendee.

“We have not had this kind of outreach historically,” he said. “Maybe the local community does not expect much.”

District leaders vowed to not give up on its community outreach.

“If we, as an administration demonstrate that it matters, they will come,” said Stella Shelton, the district’s interim chief of communications.

Upcoming forums:

January 27
Broughton High School

January 29
Panther Creek High School

February 3
Southeast Raleigh High School

February 17
Wakefield High School

Speakers may begin signing up on-site at 4 p.m. each day in the lobby of the school auditorium. Each speaker is allotted three minutes and one appearance at the direct line events. School employees speak from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Parents and the public speak from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.


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  • kikinc Jan 24, 2014

    Before anyone jumps down my throat, I am NOT advocating that we change things here in NC to be more like NY, NJ, CT, etc. I moved away from NY for a reason. I like $2,000 in property taxes, not $11,000. I think we can try and improve what we already have in place instead of paying an extra $9,000/year!

  • kikinc Jan 24, 2014

    View quoted thread

    All kidding aside, Northeastern states rank much higher in education than NC schools. However, a lot of that has to do with the fact that property taxes are MUCH higher up there, so there is more money pumped into the school system. Seems to me the solution to that problem is to raise taxes, but I don't think too many people would jump at that idea.

    There is one aspect of Northern education that I think would help greatly here in NC, but I think it is cost prohibitive as well. The school districts are much smaller up north. The school district I attended only had about 5,000 students (4 elementary school, 1 junior HS, and 1 HS) and covered about 13 sq. miles. It would be great to reduce the size of the district, but it was cost quite a bit. Doing this, though, would help on days with snow/ice. You wouldn't have to cancel the whole country just because the northeastern tip got a bit of snow.

  • Jump1 Jan 24, 2014

    Its no fun to go in person, would just rather complain...

  • cushioncritter Jan 24, 2014

    I especially liked spokesperson Renee Mckoy's "if you come from somewhere else [i.e., NYC], come tell us how they did it [much better] there". What they wanted was people to suggest the very New York-like things they are planning to do anyway, then they could say the idea came from a "parent suggestion" rather than from ideas they picked up at some conference (attended at taxpayer expense) where they all share ideas that sound good to them.

  • sinew1 Jan 24, 2014

    Poor communication by WCPSS or just planned that way. To the public...grab the bull by the horns, find when the next meeting is scheduled and spread the word via social media, emails whatever it takes! Obviously can't depend on WCPSS to get the word out.

  • thewayitis Jan 24, 2014

    I think most folks feel that giving their input is a waste of time...

  • bankinfo Jan 24, 2014

    You aren't going to get people to come out to just "voice concerns and give ideas" about their districts. You need to have some sort of agenda or ideas of your own for people to react to. Nobody came out because everyone realized what a waste of time it would be for all involved.

  • FromClayton Jan 24, 2014

    hey easy on the parents. This is traditionally an area that is concerned about their children's education. My first thought is how well was this communicated to the parents? How far in advance? I'm pointing the blame on the WCPS Superintendent for not getting the word out well/in time. WRAL - could you investigate that part of the turn out? Did WRAL announce this meeting ahead of time? Did anyone? Was anyone asked to? I smell something fishy here!

  • NewToMe Jan 24, 2014

    This is because parents these days really don't care about their children, unless it's something that inconveniences the parents... like bussing changes, etc.

  • ncprr1 Jan 24, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Do "for" the children? You mean do TO the children. When it comes to this board, the children are merely their pawns.