Blog: Jan. 10 Wake school board meeting
After a long afternoon work session the Wake County school board agreed the new student assignment plan will move forward on January 17th.Posted — Updated
Based on all of the conversation board chairman Kevin Hill says the plan will move forward on January 17th with the promise that it will have constant monitoring and evaluation and that adjustments can be made if needed. That decision came out of a four and a half hour work session, before the board moved into the main meeting room for a full public meeting.
The board wrapped up the meeting by continuing a public information request conversation from the work session. Board member Debra Goldman said her primary concern about public information requests stems from Jim Martin asking questions via email about how others handle requests and whether Wake County needed to release as much as they have. Martin said his question came in response to someone requesting all of his emails and concern about student information contained within some possibility becoming public record.
By law Wake County Public Schools is required to provide nursing services necessary for any student to attend public school.
The first hour of Tuesday night's school board meeting is dedicated to public comment. 20 people signed up to speak, most on issues related to the new student assignment plan.
Charter middle school student, Ellie Buckner, said she will not have the option of going to the same high school as most others in her neighborhood under the new plan because seats will not be available for those not already tied to the feeder school. She and other students and parents argue charter school students are being treated unfairly under the new plan.
Ellen Wentz of Cary spoke on behalf of Carpenter Elementary School parents who want their feeder pattern changed to feed into Davis Drive Middle School before the new plan begins. Other supporters have spoke out at several meetings, also saying the want the option of feeding into the middle school that is closer to their homes.
Because of numerous comments on the charter school concern John Tedesco asked the superintendent to clarify the priority for charter students moving into a Wake County high school. Tata said it appears most of that concern is based on students looking at the current number or students in feeder patterns and not taking into account the number of students who will make choices away to different schools. Tata said charter students are still treated the same as others when it comes to proximity under the new plan.
The Wake County school board received property in the Mecklenburg County town of Matthews that once belonged to former State House speaker Jim Black. The judge in his case accepted the property, once valued at around $500 thousand, as part of required his required fines. Wake County gives a portion of fines and forfeitures paid to benefit schools. The town of Matthews offered to buy the 9.5 acres for $295,427. The board voted to reject that offer and hold out for more money.
Based on questions generated from the January 3rd student assignment plan work session, task force members addressed eight primary questions with recommendations.
The superintendent says delaying the number of days or weeks that parents can make selections would have a significant impact on families, principals, and schools. Tata says the 6 week process is designed to give parents the maximum amount of time to review and pick the best option for their children, to give outreach staff enough time to get more people involved in areas where participation is low, and to allow staff to monitor choice trends and make adjustments to increase participation.
Martin said he still has concerns about capacity issues and the magnet school program in general. Debra Goldman raised concern about the tone of questions raised by some board members, and said it is important to let staff handle the detailed work. Goldman also questioned the use of Michael Alves staff and software in the process. Alves is an education consultant who developed the choice model on which Wake County's new plan is based. At last week's work session Goldman challenged a meeting with Alves, Hill and the three newly elected school board members that did not include other members. Hill pointed out that other members had the chance to meet with Alves early last year. At Tuesday's meeting Goldman asked Tata if he had approved an supported that meeting in advance. Tata acknowledged he new the specifics before the meeting. Hill again defended the meeting saying it was purely intended to bring new members up to speed.
Martin raised concerns about the set aside option in general, saying that some schools already have more seats available than others. Martin says the option is too simplistic. Board member Susan Evans asked if it might be possible just to give all students from the lower performing areas equal priority as those students who live closest to the regional choice school.
Superintendent Tony Tata and his staff will address and discuss a list of questions and concerns from school board members about the new choice-based student assignment plan. Wake County parents are scheduled to begin ranking school choices on January 17th. Tata will first address the question the potential impact of delaying the start of the selection process. The superintendent says delaying the number of days or weeks that parents can make selections would have a significant impact on families, principals, and schools. Tata says the 6 week process is designed to give parents the maximum amount of time to review and pick the best option for their children, to give outreach staff enough time to get more people involved in areas where participation is low, and to allow staff to monitor choice trends and make adjustments to increase participation.
School Board Chairman Kevin Hill proposed resuming joint meetings with leadership of the school board and county commissioners to discuss issues that impact both including the budget. Written record of the discussions would be shared by all board members.
Last year the board voted to end individual committee meetings at the recommendation of superintendent Tony Tata to save staff time and money. The board instead began discussing all issues at the committee of the whole meeting, or work sessions. At the first board retreat with three newly elected board members in December, some members asked about the possibility of adding back the individual committee meetings. Those in favor say it will allow more time to prepare issues before action meetings, helping increase efficiency.
Staff presented the school board with an annual report of projected growth. The school system uses those numbers to help determine required budgets and new school needs. The projected enrollment for the 2012-2013 school year is 150,418, an increase of 3,731 students from this year. The data show nearly 190 thousand students could be enrolled in Wake County schools by 2015.
Dr. Stephen Gainey, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources presented a letter to be sent from board members asking lawmakers to make an exception for teacher vacation time. Current state statute prohibits teachers from using vacation days while students are in session that would require a substitute teacher. Gainey said year-round teachers are restricted from using annual vacation leave because students are in attendance on all but about 20 weekdays, including holidays and teacher workdays.
Wake County Public Schools was one of ten school systems in the country selected for a Harvard Strategic Data Project District grant. The Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard will invest nearly $700 thousand over the next two years for professional development, travel, faculty advising and in-depth analysis for the district.
By law Wake County Public Schools is required to provide nursing services necessary for any student to attend public school. Assistant Superintendent for Special Education, Lisa M. Grillo presented some contract amendments needed to add new students. Two additional students will require increasing a nursing contract with Bayada Nurse Inc. by about $105 thousand. Another new student will require an additional $50 thousand dollar contract with I Am Unique Special Care. One additional student is being added to the Pediatric Services of America nursing contract at a cost of about an additional $53 thousand. They also asked the board to increase a contract with Learning Together Inc. by about $65 thousand to increase the maximum number of students served to include an additional seven children.
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