Blog: June 15 Wake school board meeting

The Wake County Board of Education is expected to talk about searching for a new school system superintendent at its meetings Tuesday.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The school system's search for a new superintendent and the qualifications he or she should have were among the items on the school board's agenda Tuesday.

The Superintendent Search Committee recommended hiring Chicago-based international executive firm Heidrick & Struggles to help find a replacement for outgoing superintendent Del Burns. The board was expected to hire the search firm at an estimated cost of $82,500.

The board also approved an interim budget to keep district finances on track until the state budget allotment to public schools is finalized later this summer.

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8:52 p.m. – Selection of a search firm – The board votes 5-4 to hire Heidrick & Struggles to conduct the search for the next school superintendent.

Morrison made it clear that she thought the board should go with the North Carolina. School Boards Association, saying the cost would be significantly less than the $85,000 (less than $10,000, plus expenses), it would be closer, and the money saved could be used elsewhere in the school budget and could help defray other cuts …

Her second choice would be to use the firm Hazard Young Attea Associates.

Hill says the School Board Association isn't option but that Hazard would be the next firm to look at. He wants to know why they were eliminated from consideration.

Malone says he felt Heidrick & Struggles had more to offer and was confident it would find the right person for the job.

Tedesco said Heidrick has more depth and could deliver.

8:30 p.m. – Memberships – The board votes to renew its membership with the Southern Association of Colleges but not with the North Carolina School Board Association and the National School Boards Association.
8:25 p.m. – H-6 site – After discussing in closed session, the board amends the agenda to discuss the acquisition of property for the H6 high school project.

It votes in favor of a motion to pursue a 143.26-acre contract from St. Lawrence Homes Inc. on Rolesville Road at the intersection of Quarry Road, northeast of Raleigh.

Appraisal is at $30,000 per acre, about $4 million less than other sites, expected and a potential opening of 2013.

The board approves unanimously.

H-6, which could be called Rolesville High School, will be the largest high school in Wake County.

7:52 p.m. – The board moves on to consider and vote on various other contracts, including:

  • A $1 million contract with Public Consulting Group to address technology challenges with reporting grades and scores – APPROVED.
  • A $276,000 contracted with NCS Pearson to provide 330 ports/connections to educational software for access by all area high schools – APPROVED.
  • Renewing the Cooperative Innovative High School Program – APPROVED.
  • A $640,000 contract with the Tammy Lynn Center, which provides special education and related services to students with special needs. – APPROVED
  • A contract for $290,000 with Maxim Healthcare Services to provide nursing services for special-education students. – APPROVED
  • A $351,000 contract with Southeast Family Services to evaluate children ages 3 to 5. – APPROVED
7:30 p.m. – Superintendent job descriptions – The board discusses changes to requirements for candidates for superintendent. Changes include removing the requirement that the superintendent possess an earned doctorate and the requirement that the superintendent have three years experience in school work in the past 10 years.

Sutton wants to know why these shouldn't be requirements. Staff says these were discussed in reference to alternative qualifications.

Hill says he understands eliminating the doctorate requirement but doesn’t understand the education background, saying a superintendent should "possess a passion for learning and children" opposed to "a passion for running a business."

The idea, Goldman says, isn't to keep people out but to include as many qualified and potential candidates as possible. She poses a scenario of someone in the business for 40 years but hasn't had the education experience in the past 10 years.

"The worst thing that can happen is that we have several wonderful candidates to pick from," she says.

McLaurin wants to know about revising the qualification to eliminate the 10-year period and say that the superintendent should just have three years' education experience.

She thinks the requirement of being an educator is absolutely necessary, as well as a doctorate.

The board approves the resolution 5-4.

6:45 p.m.—Interim budget – After more than an hour in recess, the meeting resumes. Because of time, Margiotta says, the remove employee recognition and raising the achievement and closing gaps from the agenda.

Next up, the approval of an interim budget for the 2010-11 school year.

The adoption of the budget is delayed until July 1. Without the interim budget, the school system would have to shut down.

The school system is facing at least a $20 million budget gap. The interim budget is based on the budget adopted on April 20.

The board initially rejects approving the motion.

It unanimously approves it after clarifying it is only for the purpose of paying salaries and usual ordinary expenses of the school system until the adoption of the final budget for the 2010-11 school year.

5 p.m. – NAACP protest – The meeting resumes after a 15-minute break with a group of clergy members speaking against the board's controversial move toward community-based schools – one opponents believe will re-segregate schools and create pockets of poverty in the school district. (Read more about the protest and subsequent arrests.)

Speaking beyond the allotted two minutes per person, several speak:

Pastor Nancy Petty, of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, asks: "Who do you think your recent decisions benefit? Your individual students or all of the students?"

Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, speaks: "Today we register our legitimate discontent … we are willing to break a lesser law and accept the punishment to protect a larger law … We are here today for a nonviolent act of conscience …"

"We're here to stay," he continues. He and other clergy interlock arms, and sing … Barber says a prayer and they sing "We Shall Overcome."

Margiotta calls for a recess.

4:13 p.m. – Public comment – Twenty-two people are signed up to speak during the public portion of the school board meeting. Of them, seven are slated to talk about student assignment; six on the superintendent search; three on the budget; and two on Project Enlightenment.

Among those commenting:

Vicky Adamson, on the superintendent search firm: "Does it make sense to spend an additional $65,000 on a superintendent search? What could Project Enlightenment do with an extra $65,000?" she asks.

Betsy Lovejoy, on the superintendent search firm: "I just don't understand that you think so little of our teachers and our children that you would even consider hiring a superintendent that doesn’t have an education background …" The committee wants to remove a requirement that the superintendent have three years of experience in school work within the past 10 years.

Jim Martin also expressed concern about removing the requirement as well as one that requires a superintendent candidate to possess an earned doctorate or the equivalent.

3:39 p.m. – Pre-school services in the school system – The board hears an overview of the school system's pre-school services: Special Education Services, Title I Services, Project Enlightenment. 

Cynthia Chamblee, with Project Enlightenment, describes programs and services, saying studies have shown that experiences children have in the first six years of their lives can help determine their success at a later age.

The program, which started in 1969, focuses on strong families, superior classrooms and successful children. Children with parents who have strong parenting skills will be successful.

It conducts more than 600 developmental screening a year. It has two demonstration pre-school classrooms and provides numerous resources for parents and teachers, including consultants, training and workshop and a resource center.

Goldman asks Chamblee about the positions that were cut as part of reduction of force.

Chamblee says the cuts were in parental services – staff members that worked primarily with parents through counseling, parent workshops and a call-in hotline.

McLaurin says the board feels badly about the cuts and wants to know how Project Enlightenment has been able to manage.

Chamblee says the program has lost 29 percent of staff, "so we cannot provide what we could provide, but we are regrouping and moving forward. We still have a lot to offer the families, teachers and students in Wake County … but you can't do the same with less."

Janet Godbold, director of pre-school special education services, says her program has served 1,300 students this school year as of April 1. They are served in a variety of ways – staff go into child care centers, homes, day cares, other publicly funded programs and in the classrooms. There are 63 special education service classrooms … some of which are blended with Title I classrooms.

Willie Webb, with the Title I program, says her program serves 4-year-olds with high developmental needs with the goal to prepare them to be successful in kindergarten. There are 38 pre-K classrooms in the county – 26 are funded with federal stimulus funding; 12 are funded through regular Title 1 funds – that serve more than 600 students.

Tedesco closes the information portion of the meeting, urging state leaders to see early-childhood intervention "as a critical part of we're doing here."

3:15 p.m. – Board comments – The meeting goes directly into the public meeting with comments by Margiotta, Superintendent Donna Hargens and other board members.
3:10 p.m. – Annual meeting – The board re-elects Margiotta as chairman in a 5-4 vote, and Goldman is re-elected as vice chair, also, in a 5-4 vote – "the same team we've had for the past six months," Margiotta says.

The vote was split along the same lines of previous controversial board votes with Anne McLaurin, Kevin Hill, Keith Sutton and Carolyn Morrison voting for Sutton as chairman and then as vice chair.

Board members Margiotta, Goldman, John Tedesco, Chris Malone and Deborah Prickett vote for Margiotta as chair and Goldman as vice chair.

2:28 p.m. – Staff response to board directive for community-based student assignments – Don Hayden, the school district's chief facilities and operations officer, lays out a plan to implement community-based student assignments.

He says things got more and more complex as they kept thinking about the effects on the community.

A draft of the plan would be in place by June 30, 2011, according to the outline Hayden gives. An assignment plan for 2012-2013 would be presented to the board shortly thereafter.

The board will look over the plan and discuss it at a future meeting.

2:10 p.m. – Board of elections request – A request by the Board of Elections regarding opening schools two hours later on Election Day in November. Sixty-three schools are designated as polling places, and more might be needed, and an expected large turnout could affect buses and car pools.

School system staff say that opening two hours later would mean having to change the school calendar because the school system only has five hours in the school calendar that are reserved for inclement weather delays. State law requires 180 days of instruction and 1,000 hours.

Board Chairman Ron Margiotta says a similar request was made two years ago and the board then denied the request because it felt it was unnecessary and not beneficial for students.

The board isn't in favor of closing schools, and denies the request, because doing so would mean there are only three hours reserved for weather delays.

Speaking of Election Day, Goldman also proposes changing a board meeting that falls on that Tuesday. She wants to make sure parents have the opportunity to vote and engage in other Election Day activities and be able to attend and speak at board meetings.

1:57 p.m. – Selection of a search firm for the superintendent search – The school board's Superintendent Search Committee last week decided to recommend Chicago-based Heidrick & Struggles to assist in the search for a new superintendent.

The board hears from school system staff about the firm.

It is a full-service, international executive search firm with more than 50 years of experience. It was last involved in hiring the superintendent for the Houston Independent School District.

The cost is an estimated $82,500, not including travel. Other firms were as high, or higher, and were not necessarily full-service.

Debra Goldman, the chairwoman of the search committee, says the board interviewed several firms and the decision was between two firms – one that was full-service and one that was not.

The board is expected to take a vote on the firm during its public meeting.

1:45 p.m. – The board begins hearing from staff on proposed changes to several school system policies, including the student grievance policy (Policy 6520).

The purpose for changing the grievance policy is to align it with two transportation policies regarding busing eligibility and bus stops. With those policies, parents must first submit their grievances in writing to the school principal. A parent can then appeal to the superintendent, and then, the school board.

The change will go on the board's agenda for approval at the July 20 meeting.

The board also hears recommended changes to Policy 2333, which has to do with reporting safety matters regarding students to principals and outside agencies, such as law enforcement and social services.

The change is that every criminal offense must be reported to law enforcement. The superintendent will be notified regarding certain crimes that take place.

Board member Keith Sutton wants stronger language to protect the rights of victims and wants to make sure that victims are properly informed about their case, particularly the punishment that was handed out.

The board also wants to know whether the bus stop is part of school property and what should be done about reporting suspected criminal behavior.

1:10 p.m. – The committee opens with discussion and a review of the school system's membership with various organizations, including the North Carolina School Board Association, the Southern Association of Colleges, the Council of Urban Boards of Education and the Schools, and the National School Boards Association.


Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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