Education

School board member says decisions were 'responsive'

Posted December 2, 2009 4:34 p.m. EST
Updated December 3, 2009 5:57 p.m. EST

— Within hours of being sworn in Tuesday, the newly elected Wake County Board of Education wasted no time making big changes.

It passed eight resolutions, including reviewing the effectiveness of year-round schools and ending a policy called "early-release Wednesdays," in which students are released early once a week so teachers can use the time for planning sessions called “Professional Learning Communities.”

"I think every one of us supports the process of PLTs," board member John Tedesco said Wednesday. "We just didn't support implementation in the middle of the afternoon scheduling."

Some teachers say collaboration time should be built into the normal working schedule. They have six months to show it helps student achievement and prove that to the new board.

"It's a little disheartening to see that in one fell swoop, all of that time, that investment of time, soul searching wiped away with a single 5-4 vote," said Alan Trogdon, a teacher at Cary High School.

"We need to find out where they're coming from and also establish where we're coming from, so that maybe we can find some commonality," he continued. "But right now, I don't think we have it."

School board member Keith Sutton said newly elected members should take time to become familiar with the district before making changes. He, for one, is in favor of the year-round school calendar.

"Year-round schools make a more efficient use of our facilities,” he explained.

Sutton also said he knows that his views, such as with the district’s busing for diversity policies, are now the minority. Nevertheless, he said he plans to work with new members.

"We won't always agree on everything and we all won't get what we always might want," he said.

The new board also voted to stop spending money on the Forest Ridge High School site, which has drawn negative attention for over-runs in the construction budget.

Tedesco said the issues should not have been a surprise to anyone.

"In every campaign for six months, we talked about being responsive to parents, responsive to citizens in a different way," said Tedesco and the three other newly elected members, who along with school board Chairman Ron Margiotta, make up the majority.

Caroll Middle School teacher Paulette Jones Leaven calls the decision to end teacher collaboration and planning times on Wednesdays as "rash."

"I think it was and looks to be a morale buster in the time at which academic demands are so great," Leaven said.

But Tedesco said he and the other new members had their own experts analyzing data for months, so they could make the decisions as quickly as they did.

He said that's what voters want them to do.

"(We) Basically campaigned as a block team that you're going to get a chance to elect a team that going to be able to make these changes in a way never saw before," he said.

They're making good on that promise.

Kevin Hill, the former school board chairman, said the board was not given the opportunity to make informed, data-driven decisions and that Tuesday's resolutions "spoke poorly of the board."