Blog: Wake school board approves assignment plan in 6-2 vote
Wake County's school board is meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss last-minute updates to a new student assignment plan before moving forward with the vote at their regularly scheduled meeting at 5:30 p.m. in Cary.Posted — Updated
The final vote:
Keith Sutton: No
Anne McLaurin: Yes
Debra Goldman: Yes
John Tedesco: Yes
Kevin Hill: No
Carolyn Morrison: Yes
Deborah Prickett: Yes
Chris Malone: Yes
The plan, which is based on four key elements – proximity, choice, stability and student achievement – replaces the district's longstanding practice of busing students for socio-economic diversity and aims at giving parents choices for their children's education while keeping students closer to their homes.
School Superintendent Tony Tata, along with a team of district staff, spent several months developing it, testing it and gathering community feedback before presenting the proposal two weeks ago to the school board.
Kevin Hill said he can not support the current plan without guaranteeing set aside seats for low performing students in higher performing schools.
Keith Sutton said he did not think the plan was rushed, but he thinks it is important to have consenus of the borard and community about the new assignment plan. He asked to dealy the vote for 30 days to allow for more detail and information to include discussion with newly elected board members as well.
Others, however, slammed the board for voting before newly elected members take office in December, saying the plan has not been fully "fleshed out" and blasting the Republican board majority for "ramming it through."
WORK SESSION, 3 to 5 p.m.
Debra Goldman asked whether choice enrollment happens on a first come first serve basis. Overman told the board all parents must choose by a specified deadline and all assignments are made after that deadline. If there are enough seats in a school for everyone who makes it their first choice they would all get in. If capacity becomes an issue they look to the priority categories including proximity and siblings already in the school.
Board members also asked how new schools would be filled under the choice plan. Overman said they recommend filling new elementary schools through parent choice at the K-3 level first and plan future construction to fill future middle and high schools as students age up and follow those new feeder patterns. Some have raised concern about whether parents would be willing to choose a brand new school over one with an established history. When it is necessary to build a new middle school or high school now, they recommend starting at the 6th, 9th, and 10th grade levels through choice.
Kevin Hill raised a question about funding new schools and making those work within the new plan, especially when it comes to asking for a bond referendum. Superintendent Tony Tata said finalizing a new student assignment is important to developing a budget and talking with county commissioners about funding and a bond.
Board members also asked whether there will be enough seats at regional choice schools. Those are additional school choices offered to students who live close to group one magnet schools, which would admit many students who don't live nearby. Staff members told the board projections show there would be more than enough room to seat any student who might want to attend one of those options.
Tata also told the board there will be additional outreach efforts to help fill under-enrolled or under-chosen schools.
They recommend sending notice to all students in November about where they would be assigned to school next year under the current plan, and giving them the option to make a change under the new choice plan. Any currently enrolled students can stay in their current schools. Any currently enrolled student who does not make a choice will be automatically grandfathered into their current schools. All newly enrolling students, including all rising kindergartners, must make a choice under the new plan next year. The superintendent's office will launch an extensive community outreach effort to get all parents involved in the process.
He also said they will pay close attention to under-chosen, under-enrolled schools and take quick steps to make those schools more attractive choices. They will also note an evaluate why some schools are highly chosen, or most popular.
Additional costs include the creation of registration centers and materials, software, and marketing.
Superintendent Tata created a new position and community outreach office to prepare for a quick launch of the new plan. The office is already preparing material and a new website to help guide parents through the change and enrollment as soon as a new plan is approved. They will help guide parents who do not have Internet access to places where they can view school choices and make selections for their students.
Once a new plan is approved Wake County schools would send out an immediate letter to all parents notifying them of the change. They plan to start the pre-enrollment process for kindergartners by the end of November. The magnet school application process would begin in December, and all students and parents would be able to start the choice process in January. The plan would be effective for the 2011-2012 school year.
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