Wake County Schools

Peace, harmony as Wake commissioners, school board discuss growth needs

Posted January 26, 2015

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— After years of bickering over the everything from price of land for new school sites to the management of construction and renovation projects, members of the Wake County Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education said Monday that they are on the same page when it comes to addressing enrollment growth.

Politics played a major role in the changed attitude, as Monday's meeting was the first between the two boards since Democrats seized control of the Board of Commissioners in November. Democrats already held a majority on the putatively nonpartisan school board.

"I do believe we have a board now – a Board of Commissioners – that will indeed pay attention to the school board, will work hard to see that we are successful in building new schools and building new infrastructure for schools," longtime Commissioner Betty Lou Ward said.

The boards reviewed goals and plans for 2015, and members said they plan to meet monthly going forward.

School overcrowding and the lengthy construction and expansion list to keep up with surging enrollments is a main concern for both boards. Voters approved an $810 million school bond 15 months ago, but most of the 16 schools that will be built with the bond funds will open at capacity, as enrollment is projected to grow by 18,000 students over the next four years.

Assistant Superintendent for Facilities Joe Desormeaux said finding sites for new schools is becoming more difficult as Wake County grows. Many people like the idea of neighborhood schools, but they don't want the schools in their neighborhoods, he said.

Desormeaux said the district might have to look at building larger schools on smaller sites to handle the projected growth.

"We hear all the time, 'Why don’t you build bigger schools?' Well, we are building bigger schools," he said, noting that the capacity of area high schools has risen from 1,600 to more than 2,250 in the last decade.

At the same time, he said, bigger schools carry bigger maintenance costs, and the district has about 1 million square feet of space that hasn't been renovated in 40 years.

School board member Susan Evans said the two boards need to take "baby steps" to devise solutions to the district's classroom crunch and can't immediately discuss property tax increases to fund operations.

"I absolutely don’t think it gives us a blank check," Evans said, "but what I think is important for this new day of collaboration is that we can have some serious and fruitful conversation about what is really needed to position our school district to deal with the growth that we know we're going to be facing."

Jessica Holmes, one of four commissioners elected in November, said she appreciated the tone of the discussions after watching the acrimony between the boards in recent years.

"We’re making that first step moving from consternation to collaboration, and I think we’ve started from a place where everyone’s doing their absolute best to address growth," Holmes said. "Hopefully in the end, we’ll end up with schools that aren’t overcrowded and that our students have what they need."

56 Comments

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  • Terry Watts Jan 28, 2015
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    Nothing but *crickets* from the loud-mouths! Nothing! Absolutely nothing by whining a griping!

    Ask for a real workable solution and they scurry off like the annoying insects they are...

    Pathetic!!!

  • Terry Watts Jan 27, 2015
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    Did you figure out a solution to school overcrowding yet???

  • Terry Watts Jan 27, 2015
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    And how would you fund the building of new schools with enough capacity for 18,000 new kids in 4 years???

  • theliberadicator Jan 27, 2015

    "There is no one to oppose spending outrageous amounts of money now."

    Actually that's the good news, there are two groups that can help stop the Obamaites in Wake County,
    1- The NC Legislature
    and
    2- The voters.

    The Legislature will say no to anything that raises taxes, especially where these two boards are involved and the voters can vote to not approve the next bond, then vote out these tax happy liberals the next time around.

    The first you can count on, as they are still laughing at the newest Wake County Commissioners. The ones that look like a cartoon of liberal wing nuts when they stand next to each other trying to do an interview.

    As for the Wake voters, forget about it. They prove time and time again that they are too unattached from reality to elect competent people or make smart decisions at the polls.

    Bottom line, yes your taxes are about to double. Property taxes, sales tax and any other tax they can get their Obamaite fingers on.

  • heelzfan4 Jan 27, 2015

    "I do believe we have a board now – a Board of Commissioners – that will indeed pay attention to the school board, will work hard to see that we are successful in building new schools and building new infrastructure for schools," longtime Commissioner Betty Lou Ward said. IN other words, expect your taxes to go up, because the Democrats are in charge. Why in the world doesn't someone in her district run against her. Nothing personal Ms. Ward, but it is time for you to retire from the Wake County BOC!!

  • Terry Watts Jan 27, 2015
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    "taxes are going up!"

    Of course they are. Is anybody at all surprised that tax dollars have to be used to provide schools and infrastructure when "enrollment is projected to grow by 18,000 students over the next four years"??? I guess in Tea-Bahgdad, schools just build themselves for free...

    I'd be happy to reduce my own tax liability (and yours) by moving some of that burden onto the families that are going to be moving here into brand new neighborhood...

    But we know how the RWers feel about Impact Fees... Ask the Town of Cary if you don't know about that one...

  • rastubar Jan 27, 2015

    Taxes are going UP! I can already read between the lines with these Democrats in charge. What were the people of Wake Co. thinking??? Oh, they don't think anymore.

  • rastubar Jan 27, 2015

    This a sad day for the Middle Class Tax Payer in Wake Co. There is no one to oppose spending outrageous amounts of money now. Let's see if the Moral Monday

  • spiritseeker Jan 27, 2015

    This article said that the Democrats "seized control". The use of the word "seized" is far from the truth and comes off as being offensive and partisan.

  • Terry Watts Jan 27, 2015
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    "Soon we'll be able to call this place New Jersey North Carolina."

    We already have that... Its called Duke University...

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