Education

New members get schooled on board policies

Posted December 4, 2009 1:08 p.m. EST
Updated December 4, 2009 7:00 p.m. EST

— In the wake of their controversial meeting Tuesday, the Wake County Board of Education's newest members got schooled Friday.

The members attended a three-hour orientation, standard for new members, to learn how the school system operates. School board attorney Ann Majestic also went over how board members should conduct meetings, as well as state statutes, public records laws and other procedural items.

Four members – Debra Goldman, Chris Malone, Deborah Prickett and John Tedesco – were elected during this year's general election. Two others – Carolyn Morrison and Keith Sutton – were appointed earlier in the year to fill vacant seats.

The newly elected members and one sitting member of the school board make up a new majority that supports changing longstanding school board policies, including the district's busing policy to achieve economic balance.

Within hours of being sworn in Tuesday, the majority passed eight resolutions that included ordering a review the effectiveness of year-round schools and ending a policy called "early-release Wednesdays," in which students are dismissed early so teachers can use the time for training.

Educators and parents were shocked by the move, because the newly elected members went into that meeting with an agenda that wasn't available to the public or other school board members.

Some believe the move to make such decisions so soon was misleading.

Parent Diana Bader said she was "astonished" at how Tuesday's meeting was conducted with no advance agenda to the public.

"My hope is that they will slow down, go through the proper channels and allow feedback from educational experts, from the public, from the community, and from parents before they start affecting all the children of Wake County," she said.

"What was done was completely in order, completely legal," Prickett said Friday.

She said that is because when they met prior to Tuesday's meeting, they were not technically board members yet.

"I think we did the best we could for the students," she said, adding that actions from Tuesday's meeting should not be a surprise, as they stemmed from issues discussed during the election.

"Many of us got dozens and dozens of e-mails, people posting on my Facebook page, saying, 'Wow, thank God, we're so happy that finally we have a board and a leadership that's not going to tell us they have to study things for five more years and instead, they can actually take action,'" Tedesco said.

Tim Simmons, with the Wake Education Partnership, a group of business leaders working to better public education, said the new majority made its statement Tueday but that the legal reality will inevitable slow the pace.

"There are open meetings, public record laws and procedural policies, whether you love them or hate them, you have to follow," he said.

New members are taking note.

"We have the opportunity to build and agenda moving forward, and that's what you'll see more of moving forward," Tedesco said.

"I think this is a good learning experience for them to know what they're legally held accountable for, now, as elected by citizens of Wake County, as board members," Bader said.