Blog: School board looks at student assignment, construction
Wake County schools Superintendent Tony Tata and his task force updated school board members on the progress of the new student assignment plan Tuesday.Posted — Updated
The board also voted 6-2 to sell off more than 80 acres of land owned by the board of education that was once purchased to build a new high school. The site is located on the western side of Forestville Road, north of its intersection with Louisburg Road (U.S. Highway 401 N).
The board has since acquired additional land in the same area of the county that is believed to be more suitable for building the high school. Before the vote, Carolyn Morrison raised concerns about selling the land when additional schools are needed to address capacity issues. She suggested they look at building an elementary school on the site instead. Chris Malone, who represents the district with the land in question, said the same concerns about building a high school would also make it unsuitable for an elementary. Morrison voted against the sale along with Keith Sutton.
The school board also approved three revisions to policies regarding teacher job descriptions, evaluating licensed employees and the duties and authority of the school board before wrapping up its final Raleigh meeting. It's next meeting will be at the school system's new headquarters in Cary.
Tuesday marked the last time the Wake County School Board will meet in the board room on Wake Forest Road in Raleigh. Central Office and the board is moving to a new building next to existing schools offices in Cary. After years of heated public comment in the room, no one signed up to speak at the final meeting on the Raleigh site.
Business for the evening began with more job cuts to make up for a budget shortfall.
In July Chief Business Officer David Neter reccommended the board approve cutting dozens of custodial jobs to help cover a reduction in state funding. On Tuesday Neter asked the board to take final action on cutting 39 full and part-time jobs, cutting hours or demoting another 26, and reducing the number of outside contracts. Neter said the move will save $2.4 million. The board voted 6-1 in favor of the job cuts. Dr, Anne McLaurin voted against it and Debra Goldman was out of the room during the vote.
At their last meeting school board members said they wanted to know more about the new assignment plan before planning for new school construction. Wake County Schools staff wasted no time, bringing the issue back to the board immediately following the student assignment plan briefing Tuesday.
At the August 2nd board meeting Chief Facilities and Operations Officer Don Haydon spoke to the board about the need to build new schools to keep up with growth.
The number of students in the Wake County Public School System is increasing by more than 3,000 every year, and that could require spending $1 billion by 2020 to keep up with the growth, according to staff studies.
Wake County voters in 2006 approved selling $970 million in bonds to build 16 new schools and to renovate 17. There's still $99 million left from that. Haydon said that would be enough to build one small middle and one small high school, or one elementary school and one large high school.
The board is expected to discuss new school construction needs again at their next meeting in September.
Superintendent Tony Tata and Student Assignment Task Force lead James Overman walked school board members through an update on the new choice model for a student assignment plan Tuesday. They wanted to bring the board up to speed and address some lingering questions moving forward. Among the key topics: magnet schools, achievement school choices, cost, and transportation issues.
Overman and Tata also shared detailed data gathered from an online test run of the plan earlier this summer. Overman said more than 21 thousand participants from nearly 14 thousand homes helped the task force predict what final choices would look like under the new plan.
Board vice-chairman John Tedesco raised concern about capacity issues under the proposed feeder pattern for Garner High School, which already has a high number of mobile classrooms. Pullium said the task force took into account the proposals of building a new ninth grade center and possibly a new high school to help with capacity issues.
Student Assignment Task Force member Susan Pullium briefed the board on proposed feeder patterns for the new plan.
She said they wanted to create only one feeder pattern for each elementary school. They also worked to ensure traditional calendar elementary schools feed into traditional calendar middle and high schools, and tried to feed year-round elementary schools into year-round middle schools as much as possible.
The task force also focused on trying to keep historic feeder patterns in place where possible and tried to feed elementary schools into the closest middle and high schools to honor proximity.
Tata told the board that parents overwhelming chose schools based on proximity over any other choice.
Overman told the board the task force is continuing to work on modeling to adjust for things like capacity issues and transportation.Tata told board members the task force is planning additional informational and outreach meetings for the public and staff in early fall to gather more feedback before moving the plan forward.
Tata said the door is open for board members and staff to share additional thoughts as they develop the next phase.
The superintendent also assured the board that magnet school programs will stay in tact and every student will have an opportunity to choose from one of the so called achievement schools with high performing teachers.