Wake school board aims for tighter rein on superintendent

Posted June 24, 2010
Updated June 30, 2010

Wake County Public School System

— It was clear from conversation among Wake County school board members Thursday that they want more say in the running of the state's largest school district when a new superintendent is selected.

"I'd like the board to be able to pull back on those reins a little" if a superintendent wants to make moves that do not accord with the board's thinking, Policy Committee Chair Debra Goldman said during a discussion of possible revisions to the superintendent's job description, which is laid out in board policy.

Superintendent Del Burns resigned, effective June 30, after splitting with the board on its decision to eliminate socioeconomic diversity as a criterion for school assignments. After Burns told them he was leaving, board members voted to put him on administrative leave, and Interim Superintendent Donna Hargens has been at the helm since. A search firm is looking for candidates to take the job.

The board, which had four members elected in November to form a five-member majority with Chairman Ron Margiotta in favor of several policy changes, had some "head-butting" with Burns when he decided on some administrative reorganization, board member John Tedesco said. Burns, he added, told the board that the power was spelled out in his contract.

"We want to have the ability to say, 'Hey, what are you doing?' " Goldman said. "I don't relish the thought of the board getting a whole, big surprise."

Wake County school board policy committee meeting June 24, 2010, Wake County school board policy committee meeting

In another decision, the committee recommended allowing schools to be named after people. That now is allowed only for individuals buildings or for rooms or athletic fields.

The committee looked at job descriptions from Union and Guilford counties and debated language that would require board input in major changes. It was unclear, however, how far down the chain of command the board wanted to influence changes. Language crafted Thursday would require consultation with the board for any Central Office reorganization or major staff changes and approval for anything that would raise costs.

Members also asked to see job descriptions from other districts, including Durham and Fairfax, Va., which community-based schools advocates have often mentioned as a school system taking similar steps to those in Wake.

The matter will come up for the entire board on July 20, when recommendations will go to the Committee of the Whole work session before the board's voting meeting that afternoon. Diversity advocates have called for a protest that day.

In other discussion, the committee said it wants to include job-description language calling for a superintendent to "conduct a continuous evaluation" of the system's progress and to keep the public informed. Tedesco urged language saying the superintendent should "hold all departments accountable for continuous improvement."

Part of the argument that diversity-policy opponents have advanced is that student achievement has not risen as quickly as it should and that community-based assignments will do better in that area.

On school-naming, the committee will take the recommendation to the full board next month, then will take up any needed changes to the related procedures for naming, a separate board policy.

The committee also discussed how it can change policies so principals will allow non-school organizations, such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, to include information two or three times a year in packets sent home in student backpacks. Current policy has led principals to block community groups unassociated with the schools from using the backpack system, members said.

The discussion came, Tedesco said, at a time when schools need more community support to help at-risk students.

"We're missing opportunities to build communities," Goldman said.


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  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jun 25, 2010

    This is a property value issue. The well to do within the beltline want to keep the schools inside the Beltline as magnet schools so people will want to live inside the beltline and send their kids to the magnet schools. If the schools inside the beltline become neighborhood schools, inside the beltline property values will plummet as those who can afford to move outside the beltline leave the inside the beltline so that there kids aren't going to school with the kids from SE Raleigh.

  • Tawny Jun 25, 2010

    If it were only THAT simple, Arnold - Raleigh, property values, etc. Those are actually workable!

  • Tawny Jun 25, 2010

    DontLike: Instead of spouting rhetoric, what concrete ideas do you have? Do you consider Medicare and Medicaid socialist programs?

  • Tawny Jun 25, 2010

    Cubed: There is research/dissertation information by Montoya, Neal, Rumberger, Pallady, Clotfelder, Dillon, etc. It is not in neat little, easy to read graphs, but you may have to do some work to condense it. I did. This research stretches from the Coleman report to present day.

    Remember, Cubed: Some folks did want to vote, but were unable to do so because their board member was not up for re-election.

  • arnold54 Jun 25, 2010

    Thirty years ago, merger was about protecting Raleigh and this new flap is more of the same. If this were about low-income or minority children learning, we would have change course many years ago because what we've done has not improved anything. Raleigh is concerned about property values and Mayor Meeker's goal of creating an urban oasis. Civil rghts activists are concerned about face-time on TV and big headlines. If we really want to bring the disadvantaged out of their plight, we should look at different ideas. Maybe face some realities. But, for now, the reality is this is all about Raleigh, property values, and politics and hyperbole is the most common tool.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jun 25, 2010

    Tawny - "I vote for the senator who is running in my district. He makes decisions in my district. The school board is voted on per district, but makes decisions for the entire county."

    Your Senator makes decisions that affect the nation. Unfortunately, we've had Comrade Obama bribing house and Senate members to vote for Obamacare and other agenda items against the wishes of the voters.

  • cubed32696 Jun 25, 2010

    I would like to know what data/evidence you have that busing "has not improved" education. I read data that states otherwise. Tawny

    Please cite where you got your information. I’ve been reading this line all morning. You are quick to jump, but will not(cannot?) provide information where you get your information.

    For many years the BOE did not listen to those of us who want our children to go to school close to home and NOT year-round. Seems only fitting that we finally have someone who actually listens to us and my representative is doing exactly what I helped to vote her in to do. My neighborhood is just average people of various ethnicities/incomes. We all wanted our children to go to the elementary that abuts our property. It took years to finally get this change.

    For those who live in the districts that voted last year and did not vote, you have only yourself to blame. There are NO EXCUSES acceptable not to vote unless something unforeseeable comes up.

  • Not_So_Dumb Jun 25, 2010

    It is only off topic if you continue to use the 3% number against the board members.

    How is your Congressman voting for what he thinks is best of his constituents (those in his district) any different than what the newly elected board members are doing? The won the election on espousing the platform that they are now putting in effect.

  • Tawny Jun 25, 2010

    My Congressman votes with the majority of his/constiuents in mind - not a "select few" as the current school board chooses to do.

  • Tawny Jun 25, 2010

    That's interesting information that you've shared, NOT, but it appears that we've gotten off topic.