Blog: Feb. 16, 2010, Wake school board meeting

Updates from the Wake County Board of Education's Feb. 16, 2010 meetings.

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Wake County Public School System
The following are updates from the Wake County Board of Education's public meeting, which started at 3 p.m.:
8 p.m. – Board adjourns.
7:30 p.m. – The board approves several other resolutions, regarding facilities and savings in construction projects and projects that will be slated thanks to county bonds. It also approves a policy to suspend a school policy setting starting times for board meetings so that people who can't attend the meetings as they are now can attend.
7 p.m. – School board resumes after going into closed session. It's discussing the H-6 site. The school system's Facilities Committee has asked the full board to consider abandoning the Forestville Road site and look at getting quotes on the cost of buying two sites.

Board member John Tedesco said he thinks the other sites are better and cheaper. For example, one already had sewer lines. The current site does not.

On the original motion on the floor, the school board votes 5-4 to abandon the current site and pursue the other two.

Board member Keith Sutton puts forth a motion to ask Rolesville, Wake Forest, Raleigh, Knightdale and Wake County to pay approximately $7 million total to help offset costs in abandoning the Forestville Road site.

Tedesco doesn’t think it hurts to ask but doesn't think that money would be recouped – thinks it could be in savings from a new design of the school – features not needed because of a new site.

"We could certainly ask the communities, but good luck," he says.

The motion is approved in a 5-3 vote with Goldman, of the new board majority, voting in favor.

6 p.m. – School board members recognize Spotlight on Students award winners – students who have excelled in learning, citizenship, courage and overcoming obstacles.
5 p.m. – School board members take a recess and then go into closed session.
4 p.m. – School board members hear comments from the public regarding the H-6 high school site and other items on the board's agenda.
3:30 p.m. – School board members hear a presentation about the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program.
3 p.m – During opening comments, Superintendent Del Burns announces that he will resign from his post, effective June 30:

"More than 33 years ago my career as an educator began at Aldert Root Elementary School. And since that time, I’ve served in a number of positions: as an elementary and high school special education teacher; as an assistant principal and as an elementary principal in magnet schools; as the principal of two high schools; as associate superintendent, deputy superintendent, and now as superintendent-all in the Wake County Public School System.

In each role, I have worked to the best of my ability for all children, supporting a strong school system, not just a system of schools.

I was proud that day in 1976 when I first became an employee. To this point I have always considered myself fortunate to be a part of the Wake County Public School System.

With that said, based upon personal and obligatory considerations, it is clear to me that I cannot, in all good conscience, continue to serve as superintendent.

Therefore, out of respect for the Board, out of respect for its direction and its decisions, I provide to the Chair written notice that effective June 30, 2010, I resign my position."

The following are updates from the Wake County Board of Education's committee-as-a-whole meeting, which started at noon:
2:40 p.m. – Before breaking for lunch, the board decides to remove from the school system Web site private information of Wake County residents who participated in the online public input regarding the year-round school calendar.
1:45 p.m. – The board hears recommendations for changes to the school system's policies concerning the school board's Board Advisory Council (Policy 1800) and policies concerning board meetings (Policy 1300).

The Board Advisory Council reviews and offers recommendations on issues before the board, reviews school system polices and offers feedback on long-term issues.

Policy 1300 – concerning how meetings are held. The policy committee voted to waive these two points of the policy for the rest of the fiscal year:

B-4: "The regular meeting of the Board shall usually begin at 3:00 p.m. and shall end by 11 p.m."

G-1: "The Board may from time to time, in accordance with law and its policy, conduct a public hearing on a given subject."

The committee wants to waive B-4 to try to start at a later time to allow more people who can't make the public comment portion of the meeting at 4 p.m. to attend.

It wants to waive G-1 because of the wording "on a given subject," to "to determine public sentiment on a range of topics." This stems from the current public meetings on year-round schools.

Board member John Tedesco wants to change part of the policy dictating that the board meet the first and third Tuesday of each month because of a scheduling conflict. The policy committee will look at the request and make recommendations.

1:35 p.m. – The board reviews options to pay required tuition for students attending the 2010 Governor's School of North Carolina, a six-week summer program for students. Tuition is $500.

Last school year (2008-2009), 66 Wake County students were selected to participate. For the 2009-2010 school year, there were 112 nominations for this school year. Historically about 66 students are selected.

Tuition is due to the state Department of Public Instruction by April 23. (Students selected will be notified March 9.)

Possible options for funding:

  • The school system pays.
  • Parents and students pays.
  • The school system pays for half and parents pay for half.
  • Each high school pays for selected students.

After some discussion, the board decides to split tuition costs between the school system and parents with the option for high schools to pay parents' half is a student has a financial hardship.

Noon – The committee of the whole is hearing a presentation about alternative sites for a new high school (although the school has been referred to as Forest Ridge High School, it has no official name and is referred to by the school system as H-6) to be built northeast of Raleigh.

As one of their first actions on Dec. 1, new school board members voted to halt work on the school at its planned site at the intersection of Forestville Road and U.S. Highway 401. The school would serve students from parts of Rolesville, Wake Forest and Raleigh.

The site has caused a stir among nearby residents, who have expressed concern about traffic and the impact on their community. County commissioners also have complained about cost overruns in planning the school for that location.

Despite additional costs – some of the money spent can't be used at a new site – and concerns about delaying the opening of the school by as much as a year or two, the school board wants to look at the possibility of building the school at a different location.

School board members here a breakdown of the anticipated $15.4 million in extra costs:

  • $1.5 million for additional due diligence and any design-site adaptations
  • $3.9 million for an estimated 5 percent cost inflation for construction, furniture and equipment
  • $10 million for mobile units to house students to accommodate additional student capacity – not included in the estimate are the costs associated with land costs where those trailers would sit.

If the school system sticks with the current site, the school would still open in 2012 if project is bid by August. That would require cooperation of the city of Raleigh on the permitting process. If not, it could be delayed until 2013.

If they choose another site, anticipation for opening the school would be 2014.

There's concern about traffic and safety concerns during construction and afterward on Forestville Road – the road is two lanes.

"There's so much wrong with this that I couldn't begin to get into it all," board Chairman Ron Margiotta says.

Board members say they don't want to spend more money than necessary but that it's a long-term investment and something they need to look at further.

Others say that $15.4 million is too much when there are other budgetary concerns – like not being able to buy textbooks and other school supplies and teacher and employee layoffs.

Board member Keith Sutton says the school board has the responsibility to open schools with the least amount of spending in the least amount of time. "I don't think anyone around the table feels like the H-6 site is that sexy," he says. He wants to know if there are other options that would make people happy with the site, such as widening roads.

This is the wrong site," board member Chris Malone says. "It should never have been approved in the first place. This is beyond the conversation of money."

If they vote to change the school site, Debra Goldman suggests finding areas in the school's design to cut to make up for the additional costs that would be incurred.

Sutton disagrees. He wants to challenge partners, like the municipalities, to help. "I don't think we should absorb this loss that we are going to take."


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