Wake school board will get new assignment plan next month
Posted September 6, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — A final student assignment plan will be ready by the first week in October, Wake County schools Superintendent Tony Tata said during the Board of Education's meeting on Tuesday.
Tata said the plan will be presented for discussion at the board's Oct. 4 meeting.
"The plan will be ready and shrink wrapped and set for board discussion," Tata said. "We will have a great discussion that day and see where it goes from there."
Tata's student assignment task force is continuing to gather feedback from parents over the next two weeks through a series of community meetings. Tata said they are still fine-tuning feeder patterns and transportation based, in part, on feedback from those meetings.
One big change since the school board's last meeting – a name change for the formerly proposed achievement-choice schools. The idea is to allow students in historically low-performing areas to have a choice of attending a school with high-performing teachers.
Some board members, including Chairman Ron Margiotta, have raised concerns about designating some schools as "achievement" when the goal is high student achievement for all. Those schools will still be an option moving forward under the new plan, but they are now called “high-performing” schools.
Wake County schools staff on Tuesday proposed some new alternative school ideas to the board, including the addition of two separate magnet leadership academies, one all-male, one all-female.
It would involve restructuring the current Longview campus program, and both new schools would serve students in sixth through 12th grades.
The idea is to open both of the new academies in 2012 to give students another option under the new choice plan.They also proposed converting Hilburn Elementary School in Raleigh to a kindergarten through eighth grade school beginning next year.
Tata said the move is designed to maximize space and reduce school construction need, while providing new opportunities for students.
"We're trying to be innovative. We're trying to respond to requests from the community, and we're also trying to provide unique programming," Tata said.
The new schools would not eliminate all new school construction needs. Chief Facilities Officer Don Haydon updated the board members on possible plans Tuesday. He proposed building a new elementary and high school along with starting renovations at Cary High School with money leftover from a bond voters approved in 2006.
Haydon also proposed building two additional high schools and a new elementary school with the next bond.
The school board discussed concerns about long bus rides and early pick up times for some Wake County students Tuesday. After hearing public concern about how early some students head to the bus stop, the board wanted an update from Transportation Manager Bob Snidemiller. He told them the average bus ride for Wake County students is about 16 minutes, but acknowledged there is a small percentage who ride for longer than two hours.
Snidemiller also said the earliest pick up time for some students is 5:40 a.m. He told the board the bus system is always slower the first few weeks of school, and assured them the timing will improve.
Board vice-chairman John Tedesco suggested the school system review the current bus policy to see if it is necessary or possible to change how long students are allowed to be on the bus.
Snidemiller said they might be able to reduce all ride to less than an hour if they covert all magnet school bus routes to express stops, which means having a central location where students go to catch the bus.
There was also some heated discussion among the board about how to place middle school students in advanced math classes. Staff proposed a new policy that would put more weight in evaluation scores as opposed to teacher recommendations when deciding which students should be placed in algebra classes.
The board voted 5-4 down party lines Tuesday, approving the first reading of the new policy. Supporters say it would allow more students to take the advance classes, those opposed worry it would set some students up to fail by setting the placement bar too low.