Local News

School Leader: County Board Backed Away From Year-Round Deal

Posted January 10, 2007

— When Wake County commissioners decided to withhold $3.4 million that was intended to convert 22 schools to a mandatory year-round schedule, Board of Education Chairwoman Patti Head said it was like taking 18 months of planning and throwing it up in the air.

"We went to them with five scenarios," Head said Wednesday. "They were a part of the decision on which scenario to choose."

Head says both boards came to the table to determine a bond package. Converting the schools to year-round was part of the plan to create more space while keeping the tax hike lower.

"We were very disappointed in their actions," Head said, adding that the county commissioners' actions have put a strain on the relationship between the two boards.

Commissioner Paul Coble prompted the change at a meeting Monday night. He says he wants the school board to rework its plan, but if it has short-term needs, he is willing to talk with the members.

Commissioner Joe Bryan voted with Coble. He says he does not feel commissioners went back on any promised deals.

Bryan says he has maintained a position all along that parents should not be forced into the year-round schedule. He also says he feels commissioners have been more than supportive.

"It was the county commissioners that pushed up this bond issue by a year," he said. "It was the county commissioners that led in that effort."

Commissioners did advance money for new construction projects, but Head says that provides the school board with room two to three years from now, not the next school year.

With 8,000 more students expected for the 2007-2008 school year, school officials think the system will be as many as 4,000 seats short without the school conversions.

As far as choice, Head says families assigned to year-round schools can apply to another school starting in February. There’s no word, however, on how many families can realistically expect a transfer.

Parents and teachers at the 22 affected schools — 19 elementary and three middle — are scratching their heads at the tug of war.

"Having a decision and having everyone come to agreement on it would make life easier," said Leesville Elementary School teacher Maggie Piczak.

Leesville Elementary is slated to convert to a year-round schedule, and the school board voted Tuesday to find a way to move forward with those plans.

For Piczak, it is something she has been preparing to do.

"I couldn’t imagine leaving my school yet. I owe it to myself to experience year-round before I can make a judgment on it," she said.

For some parents, there is renewed hope that the course will be reversed.

"I think the majority of our school would prefer to stay traditional," said Caroline Rohs, a parent at Leesville Elementary.

Parent and PTA President Angela Drum agrees.

"I think we’re glad that they’re revisiting — that if it can’t save us, then hopefully other families in the community won't have to go through what we’ve gone through."

Regardless, they need a decision to move forward with their lives.

"It’s hard when you’re stuck in limbo," Drum said.

The school board could dip into savings to fund the conversions. They have also asked their attorney to look at possible legal action.

Brian Shaw, an education law attorney, calls this an unusual situation. He says he is surprised the commissioners held the funds.

State law, Shaw says, intends to give county commissioners control over money matters. The Board of Education has control over educational policy matters.

If the school board can argue that the commissioners were influencing policy, they might have a legal case, Shaw says.

Also on Monday, Wake County commissioners withheld money for several renovation projects. Commissioners Chairman Tony Gurley said he expects that to change when the commissioners meet for a work session on Tuesday.

He says he expects the commissioners to advance the funds in spite of this week’s decision.

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  • mokomoco Jan 11, 2007

    According to what I've read, the commissioners have admitted to with-holding the funds for converting our schools to year round to influence policy. They want the Bd. of Ed. to rethink things and try other options (I'm paraphrasing). The commissioners don't have a leg to stand on in mediation or court. I bet this "stand off" won't last much longer. The commissioners will have to foward the money to the Bd. of Ed. sooner or later. This delay is only making school administrators crazy and giving disgruntled parents false hope. The commissioners will look silly in the long run. The county, in general, will look silly if this goes on too long...

  • iamrunningalong Jan 11, 2007

    >>Why can't they assign each node to two schools, one on the traditional calendar and
    one on the year-round calendar? This way, parents have CHOICE!!!!!

    Because more choice for you means less control for them over the social and economical make up of the school.

  • alicelynch Jan 11, 2007

    It sounds to me like this could have something to do with time. Does the Wake County School System have everything it will need to make this happen next year? Could it be that the Commissioners want to see this conversion transition smoothly? If so, I stand behind them. We need to make sure the administration and staff members can transition well, if that means waiting one more year, than wait one more year. It is never a sound decision to rush into something no matter how important it is. Let's do the smart thing here. I want this to be a successful story for Wake County schools. Our children deserve that much. As for how I stand, I think year round does not provide the best schedule for my families life style but we can be flexible. I do want this to be done right.

  • renaissanceman Jan 11, 2007

    I think it is real simple to fix the problem.We need to make sure that all children residing in one house should be on one schedule either traditional or year round.We have already done enough to our children by taking GOD out of schools and replacing HIM with metal detectors and police officers, so lets make sure we don't further complicate the problem by diving, the last bastian of hope for all our futures, the family.I will promise you one thing, if the school board and the commissioners don't make sure families are on the same schedule they will all be replaced in the next election.They should remember one thing parents with school age children make up enough votes to control their political destiny.

  • diwanicki Jan 11, 2007

    I am hoping Yr will help all kids. I have friends that have kids in YrR and their kids are doing great after the 3week break instead of 3 months. We were all kids once and most of us forgot alot of what we learn after the 3 month break. Thats why we had 2-3 weeks of reviewing when we went back to school. SOMETIME, CHANGE IS GOOD AND SOMETIMES IT'S NOT. I am willing to give YR a try and if it doesn't work out, I can check into other options. EVERYONE CAN DO THE SAMETHING. Just get families on the same schedule and I bet half the complainning will stop. That should have been thought about b4 they started making things public. Having kids on 2 different schedules is kinda hurting some parents and does mess with FAMILY VACATION TIME. If families are on the same schedule, that wont be an issuse. THIS IS JUST ONE WAY OF LOOKING AT IT!!

  • Reader Jan 11, 2007

    Remember, the county commission that agreed to this year round conversion deal was largely voted out in November. Thank goodness the new Republican majority members have heard our cries and are moving in the direction we voted them in to follow. The only reason the school board isn't different, too, is because none of them were up for re-election! We're in Holly Springs, with children in the traditional calendar Holly Ridge Middle and very happy there. So why are my kids being reassigned to West Lake Middle and forced into year-round, when there is already a waiting list of people trying to get into West Lake? With two high schoolers also (on traditional calendar), the school board has the right to run my life into chaos? Not on my vote! As for putting everybody on year round - are you going to switch NC State, too? The traditional calendar is proven the best education system. Anybody who promotes year round is doing it for the convenience of the working parents.

  • wahaka63 Jan 11, 2007

    As a parent of a yr round elem student and a trad high school student I can tell you that it isn't as bad as you think. We applied for 3 years for yr round before we were able to get a spot. She has been extremely happy as we have too. For students that struggle with retention with a 3 month lay off it seems to help keep them on track. I noticed a lot less disruptiveness from students. Just when they start to get tired of school and want to act up or not complete assignments the 3 week break is there. It has also given us the opportunity to vacation at a different time of year and have found that much more fun than only vacationing during the summer. I think more parents need to give it a try and be positive. Our only problem, and it is a very important issue, was finding quality day care. It took a while but we were successful and that has also worked out for us. I feel for the school board because it is not a win win situation and you can't make everyone happy.

  • stevenjkathman Jan 11, 2007

    How can the county commisioners say they are for choice when their vote actually prevents it. Take Holly Springs for example, Holly Springs would be year round while Holly Ridge would be traditional. In the new plan, we would have a choice. If they have their way, we have no choice, only traditional. We cannot get into Holly Grove, which is year round, because of the waiting list. There is obviously a demand for year round. Why not at least approve the funds where there is a choice. Many actually want year round.

    Also, the county voted on the bonds, rejecting the larger one in favor of the smaller one. We want fiscally responsible solutions. This includes maximizing the capacity at the current schools through making them year round. We knew this when we voted. It appears that the commissioners are not listening to the county at large.

  • oceanchild71 Jan 10, 2007

    Why can't they assign each node to two schools, one on the traditional calendar and one on the year-round calendar? This way, parents have CHOICE!!!!! Furthermore, they should have all the data of all the applications for the current year-round schools and so they should be able to anticipate if a certain area has a higher interest in a certain calendar. But the bottom line is that each and every family should have a real choice.
    In my area, only 1 out of 5 of the closest schools will be on the traditional calendar. How realistic do you think the ability to transfer will be considering almost all the seats will be given to that school's base population? THIS IS INEQUITY IN EDUCATION!!!!

    Finally, the disparity between the tracks is going to set off even more hate and discontent. Tracks 2 and 3 are awful. Most year-round schools aren't filled so once these tracks are filled, then the real hate and discontent will begin.


  • hollyrobb1201 Jan 10, 2007

    As a mother of a child who will enter the Wake County school system in 2008, I was THRILLED that our home based school was slated to convert to year round...I pray the decision is not reversed. I feel year round school is a viable option for the extreme growth we are experiencing and just hope people will give it a chance. I attended a year round elementary school 35 years ago in another state (this is not a new concept!) and I hope we have the opportunity here as well...without spending years on a waiting list!