Blog: Wake school board votes to reduce teacher assistant pay
Posted July 12, 2011
7 p.m. – Board drops company that handles assessment software:
The Wake County school board was asked to renew a contract with Blue Diamond Information Solutions, but instead voted 5-4 to drop the company.
The original contract began in 2008. The company provides software that helps teachers create and score student assessments and other reports. John Tedesco and others raised concerns about the cost involved and failure to look into other more affordable options. The new contract would have cost Wake schools $209,000. Chairman Ron Margiotta says he thinks they will be able to find a much cheaper option at around $20,000.
6:30 p.m. – Reduction in force:
After discussion in Tuesday afternoon's work session, Chief Business Officer David Neter officially asked the board to reduce contract lengths for teacher assistants. They would keep their jobs and full benefits, but get a pay reduction. TA's will only stay home on days when students are not in the classroom. Neter said it will save Wake County schools about $2.4 million.
Before the vote, board member Anne McLaurin said the board fell short by not asking the county for additional funding. Board member Debra Goldman also raised concerns about making cuts to such a valuable group of employees.
Board member Kevin Hill proposed, and the board approved, an amendment to say the change will only be in effect until the next budget year.
The school board voted 7-1 to reduce pay for teacher assistants. McLaurin voted no.
6 p.m. – Public comment:
Jennifer Mansfield, who is running for school board against incumbent Kevin Hill, raised concerns about the proposed blue choice plan for student assignment that is moving forward. Mansfield questioned whether parents who participated in the online survey and test drive really had enough information to answer the questions. She also raised concerns about the designated achievement schools under that plan and whether they would be able to effectively address achievement gaps.
The public comment portion of full school board meeting began just before 6 p.m. The second person to step up to the mic Tuesday evening criticized the budget proposal to reduce teacher assistants pay. Vickie Adamson of Raleigh said that if one of the lowest pay grades has to take a hit, upper management and the school board should have to take a salary cut too. The board is expected to vote reduce the length of TA contracts which would mean a pay cut.
5 p.m. – Grading practices:
Wake County public schools' staff reviewing the current system found inconsistencies in grading, including differences in the same subject within the same school from one teacher to the next. They are looking for better ways to streamline grading across the board.
Board member Deborah Prickett recommended going back to letter grades for students in third through fifth grade to help better evaluate and place students transitioning from elementary to middle school. A committee looking at the grading issue plans to dig in deeper and get back to the board.
4:45 p.m. – Building new schools:
Board vice-chairman John Tedesco recommended they focus on reducing the number of existing mobile classrooms on campuses first. He argued that should be factored in when considering what overcrowding really looks like before deciding how to spend money and where to build the new schools. Chairman Ron Margiotta agreed and asked Chief Facilities and Operations Officer Don Haydon to bring those revised numbers to the next meeting.
Haydon reviewed plans with the board for building new schools over the next several years to ease overcrowding. Proposals include building some additional modular ninth grade centers in the interim until some new high school renovations can be completed. Haydon mentioned one potential snag when it comes to the newly proposed choice plan for student assignment. He raised the question of whether parents would still choose modular schools without knowing when their students might end up in a new building.
4 p.m. – More job cuts on the way:
Chief Business Officer David Neter updated the board on what the final state budget means for Wake County schools. Neter told the board the final budget will add about one teacher for each Wake County elementary school, but said the overall reduction will require more staff cuts.
Earlier this summer, Wake County cut 46 central service positions, one clerical position from each school and reduced assistant principals' contracts/pay.
Neter says they will have to cut another $5 million from the school budget and proposed cutting custodial services to meet that. He recommends cutting 70 custodial positions and reducing outside custodial contracts by 35 percent. Classrooms would be cleaned less often, and teachers and principals will have to help pitch in with some of the duties.
Board members Anne McLaurin and Debra Goldman both raised concerns about the possible health impact on students when classroom aren't as clean.
Students may also have to start paying to take drivers education. Neter will ask the board to vote to charge students $45 to take drivers education to make up a state budget reduction in that area. He will also ask the board to reduce teachers' assistant contracts from 10 months to 9.25 months. That means a pay reduction and that teachers' assistants will only be at school when the students are there.
3 p.m. – Wake school board convenes:
School board members gathered in the conference room Tuesday for their first July work session. The board is expected to be asked to approve more job cuts to meet the budget shortfall. Chief Business Officer David Neter says hundreds of additional jobs, mostly custodial positions, will likely have to be cut.
Board attorney Ann Majestic began the meeting with an update on changing discipline policies. The board has been discussing dropping the zero-tolerance policy for some offenses. The idea is to reduce the number of out-of-school suspensions to keep more students in the classroom when possible.
One of the first changes up for discussion was whether students should be suspended for skipping school or excessive tardiness. The current policy allows it, but board members want to remove that punishment for that offense.
They also talked about changing long-term suspensions for level two offenses to be up to five days instead of up to the 10 day maximum that is on the books now.
The board is also changing the appeal process by creating a hearing panel to review each case and and originally planned to have it made up of three retired educators. Superintendent Tony Tata recommended creating a panel made up of one current central service employee, one current school administrator and one retired educator instead. Tata told the board it would be more cost effective to use current employees rather than contract more from the outside.