Wake school board's practices surprise some

Posted January 6, 2010
Updated January 7, 2010

— Ending mandatory year-round schools in Wake County was not originally part of the published agenda at Tuesday night's school board meeting.

So it came as a surprise to some board members when recently elected board member Deborah Prickett proposed a resolution that makes the school calendar optional for parents – hours after the board toiled over how to go about a survey to gauge parents' attitudes on the matter.

What's next for Wake schools? What's next for Wake schools?

It was the third time the newly elected school board – a majority of the members wanting to end mandatory year-round schools and the district's decade-old student assignment policy – had added action items to the agenda at the last minute.

At its first meeting Dec. 1, the new majority voted to end early-dismissal Wednesdays and to stop putting new schools on a year-round schedule. At a meeting two weeks later, they introduced a motion to negotiate a contract for special legal counsel.

District 3 board member Kevin Hill was among those Tuesday night who expressed concern.

"I had hoped that Dec. 1 would have been the last time that we would deal with adding action items with no prior notice, and I'd like to go on record again asking that we have prior notice – that way we can properly vet these issues," he said.

Eventually, the board voted 5-4 to end the mandatory year-round policy.

Some parents also expressed outrage at the way the new board has conducted its meetings.

"I think I have witnessed a dog-and-pony show at the meeting tonight," one said. "I am very worried about the future of this school system."

Another parent called it "a travesty of democracy."

Anne McLaurin, who has represented District 5 in south Raleigh for two years, echoed those sentiments.

"I was ashamed of how we’re doing business, too," she said Wednesday. "It gets harder and harder to believe we're going to move in a positive direction together if it still comes out in every meeting that there's a new resolution that hasn't been studied."

Responding to the criticism, board Chairman Ron Margiotta said no one should have been surprised by Tuesday's vote.

"Actually, at the last meeting, it was on (the agenda) and withdrawn and brought back at this meeting, so I don't see any real problem with it," he said.

Margiotta said he doesn't sense tension among board members and believes they will be able to work together.

"We all have the same goal in mind," he said. "That's improving the school system. We just have a little different means of getting there."

Despite the negative reaction, many parents, like Joey Stansbury, say they are pleased with the board's new approach.

"These people have heard the voices of the citizens for years and are now moving productively forward on those items," Stansbury said.

It's not clear exactly how the board's decision on Tuesday will affect students. It could mean hundreds, if not thousands, of students being reassigned.

The school system will ask parents to participate in the year-round-schools survey, and then school staff will make recommendations based on their responses.

"Over the next six weeks, it's going to be critical for us to pull together," Wake County Public School System spokesman Michael Evans said. "The final decisions are down the road. We have three months."

But some are concerned that ending mandatory year-round schools is the first step toward creating neighborhood schools, effectively ending the district’s policy that transports students to schools to achieve socioeconomic diversity.

"What are these decisions going to cost us? What are the consequences?" said Yevonne Brannon, with Great Schools in Wake Coalition, a coalition of parents, students taxpayers and civic groups.

Brannon and the coalition worry that the board's decision will lead to even more widespread student reassignment, re-segregation of some schools, fewer school choices for parents and students, and strained finances for the school system and county.

"When you do away with that and you leave it simply to parental choice, what parental choice will end up doing, I'm afraid, is re-segregating these schools," she said.


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  • speedy Jan 7, 2010

    As long as people keep moving here, there will be more kids. Schools WILL have to be built. Or do you think MYR has some sort of infinite capacity?

    Construction costs are lower right noe than they have been in a long time. If there ever was a good time to put something out for bid, it's now.

  • Arrggghhhh Jan 7, 2010

    Oh and by the way all those thay favor segregating schools you should realize we'll loose federal funding when that occurs...

    This is a Red Herring.. no one is talking about segregating schools..this is a arguement against busing for diversity. Segregation of schools is illegal, but the oposition to neighborhood schools is trying to say going to a school near were you live is segregation. Wake County will have to spend more money on school construction with or without MYR. The current board has been in control of the agenda for 38 days and you claim they are responsible for the mis management? Lets give them some time to correct the years of mismanagement before calling them a failure.

  • dchurn2 Jan 7, 2010

    For those that don't realize it: Wake county Schools are over crowded now. That's why year round schools have been forced upon us. It takes MONEY to build schools. And now that year round will be going away, the county will need that much more money to build more schools. Maybe you don't get it, but this is one of the highest growth areas in the country and will be for 20 to 30 years. So you either have over crowded schools or you build schools. Oh and by the way all those thay favor segregating schools you should realize we'll loose federal funding when that occurs. So again we'll need more money. Everyone claims mis-management when they have no idea what they're talking about. The gross mis-management is occurring now!

  • Garnerwolf1 Jan 7, 2010

    You're not going to have true neighborhood schools anyway - not every "area" has sufficient elem/middle/HS seats. But those that elect to attend a YR (which are great based on our experience) or magnet school, will free up seats in the base schools. But will schools in SE Raleigh have the same facilities, equal staff, etc as those in western Wake? Not likely. At least not consistently. But some (not all) of that will be because of parental participation.

  • Arrggghhhh Jan 7, 2010

    Zanerx..discretionary YR is a choice..You get to chose to go to a YR or a Magnet school that may not be in your neighborhood. If you want to stay in the neighborhood traditional school, that too is a choice. This was the way YR operated when the county first opened them, you were assigned a traditional base school and then you applied for the YR option.

  • zanerx Jan 7, 2010

    If the school board is going to get rid of mandatory YR but keep discretionary YR, how are they going to fulfill their "neighborhood schools" promise? With discretionary YR, some students will by necessity be forced out of their neighborhood YR school (where YR students are being bussed in) to attend a traditional school that is further away. It looks like the schools will need to be all traditional for the neighborhood schools objective to be met.

    Oh, and WCUmom, why would "resegregation" be bad? Please clarify for me whether you think the races should be segregated by force of law or that you have no problem with the schools naturally resegregating due to the neighborhood schools principle. "Resegregation" implies a forced segregation.

  • Garnerwolf1 Jan 7, 2010

    "They were evidently appointed by Ron." I've been saying that for months now. :-)

  • Rawil Jan 7, 2010

    Where Your Money Goes
    View the County and municipal 2009 tax expenditure charts for How Your Property Tax Dollar is Used

    Visit the Wake County Government Accountability Portal

  • Arrggghhhh Jan 7, 2010

    Wow how many times are people going to say more money!! you don't fix problems by throwing money at it, if the money the schools currently get is spent wisely, they may find out they already have enough money. This is the problem with most governmental functions until you say this is what you have make it work, they will continue to ask for more. Spending more money on some one with no interest or motivation to learn is not going to educate them..

  • nativeofwake Jan 7, 2010

    I guess the new board will have to pay for all the conversions, busing, school renovation/construction, etc. the same way the old board did when they were converting, busing, renovating and constructing. Taxes will increase - always have, always will.