Wake County Schools

Issues for next decade dominate Wake school meeting

Posted October 19, 2010

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— Long-term, difficult issues -- how many schools will be needed and how to build them and how to assign students to them -- dominated discussions Tuesday for a Wake County Board of Education work session.

The board recently got projections from its staff that show the system will be short 60,000 desks short by the 2019-20 school year if it doesn't build 33 new schools. Tuesday, facilities chief Don Haydon asked the board to begin working on the assumptions it wants planners to make, such as whether to fill schools or keep the 95 percent capacity policy that allows for flexibility and unforeseen developments.

Those decisions, Haydon told the board, will influence when the district would have to ask county commissioners to approve a bond issue and how large it should. The system is designing three new schools that will use up money generated by a 2006 bond issue.

Also on the agenda Tuesday was a discussion of student assignment changes for 2011-12 prompted by the opening of a new elementary school and the much broader issue of how to develop an assignment policy for 2012-13 and beyond in the wake of a decision to drop socio-economic diversity and emphasize community-based assignments to keep students near their homes.

Board member Kevin Hill gave his colleagues a proposed process for reaching some agreement on how to go about the planning.

"There have been questions" in the media and through e-mail about "what the next steps will be" for student assignment for 2012-13 and beyond, Hill said, and he proposed a process "for how we can talk about what will come after 2011 and 12."

The assignment policy change came in a series of 5-4 votes that pitted four incumbent board members, including Hill, against four newcomers and Chairman Ron Margiotta, who cast the deciding ninth vote every time.

"If you look at a decision-making process, that's all this is for," Hill said as he handed out material. "It is incumbent upon us to find a way to come together," he told the other eight.

"We're not look at node numbers. We're not looking at addresses," Hill said of figuring out next steps. The board needs to identify what the members want to accomplish and what what is negotiable and what is not and what a plan would cost, he said.

The board will have to decide "what do we mean by community schools? What do we mean by equity?" Hill said.

"If we don't find a way to reach consensus," he warned, the board "will make bad decisions for our community."

A board committee had been moving ahead with a community-based plan that would establish more than a dozen attendance zones, but that process hit a roadblock Oct. 5 when member Debra Goldman, one of the five-member majority in earlier votes, offered a resolution saying the process needs more community and board involvement.

The other big-picture issue before the board is a crush of students predicted to come in the next decade despite a slower economy.

"The assumptions for buildings are all driven by programs," facilities chief Don Haydon told the board. Curriculum audits that suggest changes and student-assignment changes affect that, he said.

Soon, he said, the staff will send board members a draft plan that involves about 20 assumptions that go into planning for new schools and will need to know what the board wants.

"This really becomes the board's guidance to staff" for planning, he said of work-session discussions he hopes the board will have in the next two or three months. "What do we build a school around?" is the primary question, Haydon added.

The school system will use population planning data from the Institute for Transportation Planning and Research at N.C. State University because it is proving accurate, Haydon said. This year, he added, its projections were within one-tenth of 1 percent of actual numbers.

Chairman Ron Margiotta suggested that the next joint meeting of the school board and county commissioners is when the two boards should begin talking about a future bond issue.

8 Comments

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  • babbleon Oct 20, 2010

    Why are we looking at a bond issue? The county commissioners need to bake new schools into their budget, and pay for them with taxes and impact fees instead of adding on more debt. It's cheaper to pay up front than to pay interest.

  • scott34 Oct 20, 2010

    Thank god my kids are not in public schools in Wake county,but also glad some of the board has the back bone to stand up to the Rev.buffet slayer.

  • Remy Oct 20, 2010

    Common sense - there was indeed a calendar survey. Not sure if it includes all the types of information you are referring to as it was specifically on school calendars.

    It can be found at: http://www.wcpss.net/Board/2010-calendar-survey/WCPSS-Calendar-Survey-Presentation-Slides.pdf

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Oct 20, 2010

    "Why not use our tax dollars to find out what the parents think."

    They did, where have you been, asleep like 90% of the rest of the parents?
    It was called the S U R V E Y.

    And it was a waste of time. Just like anyone's opinion who doesn't have kids in this pinwheel system known as reassignment.

  • rand321 Oct 20, 2010

    The national association of corporate directors is holding an RDU training session. Perhaps the school board members should attend (its not poltical like Civitas) to understand the board's role and staff's role in strategic planning.

    given the size of the school system and its importance to the community, proper long term strategic planning wiht input from all groups should be conducted and incorporate into a plan.

    Not a Pelosi/Obama styled here is our plan, accept it or shut up attitude. As much as Mr.Pope takes issues wiht Congress, he is encouraging the same type of governing.

    All citizens of Wake Co. including those without kids, have a future in a sucessful, high performing public school system. get the politics out of the planning.

  • common_sense_plz Oct 20, 2010

    I am sure some school board members read these comments posted. So here is a suggestion. Why not use our tax dollars to find out what the parents think. Send out a simple questionnaire to every parent who has a child in the wake county school system. Have members of the school board, public, teachers, principals, pastors,etc. to go through them and come up with what the majority of what the parents want. We are wasting money on additional police officers to sit in on meetings because some adults refuse to act like adults.

  • Garnerwolf1 Oct 20, 2010

    TOLD YOU we should have locked the gates 30 years ago.

  • Peace Love and Cold Meds Oct 20, 2010

    Have we all figured it out yet, nothing is going to change with this county, with this system and with any school board. They still want us to keep shelling out billions for the pleasure of having our kids constantly reassigned. If schools can't be filled by those around them then they were built in the wrong place. As for a new plan, not going to happen. This board is fractured, at least one will be replaced by a minority supporter next year and then the former minority becomes the majority. At that point anything that has been done they don't agree with will be ended or reversed. But back to the billions they are going to expect you and I to pay so that we can get on the list of constant reassignments, no thank you. I'm out of money and certainly will be when Bev and her boys come after us all to make up for her shortcomings.