School board's decision to drop out of association questioned

Posted June 21, 2010 6:08 p.m. EDT
Updated June 21, 2010 11:05 p.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— The Wake County Public School System will likely be the only district in the state that's not a member of a state organization that that provides lobbying and legal support.

The Board of Education last week voted 5-4 not to renew its membership with the North Carolina School Boards Association – a move that School Boards Association Executive Director says is "extremely rare."

"I am extremely disappointed in the action taken by the Wake County Board of Education. Hopefully they will reconsider," Dr. Ed Dunlap said Monday.

There are 115 school districts in the state and the group usually has 115 members. Effective July 1, the Wake school system will be the only non-member in the state.

Pulling out of the state organization means the school system will also lose its membership with the National School Board Association.

Board members who voted against the measure to renew cite cost for the move. Membership for both advocacy groups cost more than $40,000 annually.

"It was value-added and values. The combination of both did not meet our needs at this time," Board Member John Tedesco said Monday. "We have to be good stewards with people's tax dollars, and every $40,000 – it counts. That's one more teacher in the classroom."

Board critics and even some board members, however, have questioned the board's decision to turn down a proposal from the state School Boards Association to help conduct a search for a new superintendent. Instead, the board voted to contract with an international search firm for an estimated $82,500 plus expenses..

During the board’s discussion of the contract, Board member Carolyn Morrison called the NCSBA's bid a "more prudent" one that would have saved about $75,000, as well as travel costs – funding that could be used elsewhere to defray budget cuts.

The school system is facing at least a $20 million budget shortfall, and Dunlap said now is the time when it’s more important than ever for the board to keep its membership.

"This will leave the Wake School Board and district completely alone out there with no support," he said.

Wake school board member Keith Sutton agrees.

"I think it does sort of put us out there on an island," he said.

He was in favor of renewing the membership and says he is concerned about the board dropping itself from the association.

"I think it's well worth the money when you look at the benefits and the services they provide," Sutton said. "I think it's just a necessary cost of doing business."