Wake school board approves job cuts, redistricting
Posted May 17, 2011
Updated May 18, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — After an afternoon of heated debate, Wake County school board members voted Tuesday to lay off nearly 100 employees, and approved a new map that will determine who can vote in the next school board election.
The board voted 6-2 in favor of cutting 174 school positions – 19 central services based secretarial positions and 155 school clerical positions – as part of next year's schools budget. Ninety-five of those positions are currently filled and the rest are vacant.
Wake County Schools Chief Business Officer David Neter, who recommended the staff reductions, said the central service cuts will save $907,000 and the school clerical positions, one from each school, would save $4.5 million.
Neter cautioned deeper state budget cuts could require eliminating some custodial and teacher's assistant jobs at a later date.
Meanwhile, the board discussed a newly proposed voter redistricting map, and related feedback.
The school system redraws the district map every 10 years based upon population and growth data from the United States Census. A new map is due by June 24 so that candidates can begin the campaign for the Oct. 11 election. Five board positions will be up for grabs this fall.
Attorney Kieran Shanahan, whose law firm created the new map at the board's request, defended the map on Tuesday saying it is accurate, and meets constitutional requirements.
“I think the process was open and fair and we did take into account all of the public comments," he said.
The community group, Great Schools in Wake, and the Wake County League of Women Voters raised concerns about the board's lack of openness in creating maps and criticized the data used to draw the new district lines. The state NAACP echoed those concerns, asking that Tuesday's vote be delayed.
Another education-based community group called Knightdale 100 questioned why it was necessary to divide Knightdale, a town of about 12,000, into three voter districts.
Shanahan said dividing Knightdale that way made the numbers work, and it was not intended to target the town, or to do anything negative.
In the afternoon work session, board member Keith Sutton asked Shanahan if it would be possible to come up with alternative maps to help address public concerns.
“I would have like to have a more open process that would at least allow two or three options to be considered instead of one," Sutton said.
Board members Dr. Anne McLaurin and Kevin Hill agreed.
Chairman Ron Margiotta questioned the need to go back and make drastic changes after all previous work and board input.
"If we are happy with the product, let's go with it," Margiotta said.
Board member Chris Malone said he was satisfied.
"I don't know that there is anything else we can do without causing other problems," he said.
After heated exchange among members, the board voted 5-4 down party lines not to ask the Shanahan law group to come up with a second version of the map.
“This was a great opportunity for the public input and for the board to work collectively together, and they bypassed it. I think it's a tragedy," Great Schools in Wake member Yevonne Brannon said.
Later in the evening, the board approved the final redistricting map by a 5-3 vote. McLaurin, Hill and Sutton voted against it.
“I do not support it because I do not support the process," Sutton said.
“It has been a long process, and we have come out with a map that is incredibly fair," board member John Tedesco said.