Wake School Board Approves Budget
Posted May 3, 2011 3:23 p.m. EDT
Updated May 3, 2011 8:17 p.m. EDT
School Board Approves Budget with a 5-2 Vote:
Wake School Board members approved Superintendent Tata's proposed $1.25 billion budget by a vote of 5-2 Tuesday night.
Prior to the vote board member Dr. Anne McLaurin asked for an amendment to request more money from county commissioners before voting on a budget. That amendment was voted down 4-3. Board members Keith Sutton and Carolyn Morrison voted in favor along with McLaurin.
The original budget was approved without that amendment.
Before the budget vote the board unanimously voted in favor of a one time $500 bonus for teachers, funded with money collected in fines by the Wake County Court System.
During the public comment period Tuesday many parents and other citizens spoke to the board about the proposed budget and recommendation to covert five year-round schools to a single track system. Many who spoke on budget issues raised concerns about possible cuts that could reduce the number of assistant principals and teacher's assistants. Some suggested fighting for more money from Wake County Commissioners to help offset expected education cuts in the state budget. Others called on the board to push state lawmakers directly.
The superintendent's proposed $1.25 billion budget protects teachers, but would require cutting 46 central office, and reducing assistant principal contracts. That proposal is based on an estimated five percent cut from the state. A proposed house version of the budget could put it closer to nine percent. Tata has said it will be tough to protect classrooms if that number keeps climbing.
Some people also urged the board not to approve converting five under-utilized year-round schools to a single track system, citing concerns about a changing student assignment plan. Other parents spoke in support of the change saying it was a smart way to manage the underutilized schools to save money.
Recommended Changes to Student Transfer Policy:
Wake Schools staff reviewed possible changes to the school transfer policy with board members Tuesday. Most notably they recommended requiring the school board to approve any transfer initiated by a school or central office that involves the children of school board members, the superintendent, or the superintendent's leadership team. They also recommend adding a new required form to document all administration-initiated transfers.
Superintendent Tony Tata suggested changing the way the system handles requests for students to transfer to different schools.
The review was initiated after a school board member Debra Goldman made a verbal request for her daughter to switch schools.
The review by Terri Cobb, the school district's chief of staff, concluded that nothing improper was done in Goldman's request, but the overall process could be improved.
"We determined that all recent transfers followed board policy, but I want to make changes that will clearly spell out the process to ensure consistency and maintain better transparency," Tata said in a statement.
He recommended requiring that transfer requests be made in writing and that decisions to provide transportation for students who switch schools be judged on a case-by-base basis.
The school system received nearly 12,000 transfer requests in the past three years and approved about 60 percent of them, according to Cobb's report. Both the number of requests and the rate of approval increased during that period.
Tata updates possible year-round school changes:
Superintendent Tony Tata recommended the school board vote to convert five year-round schools to a single track schedule Tuesday. The board is expected to take action on this during the full school board meeting that starts at 5:30p.m.
Those schools are:
- Alston Ridge
- Lake Myra
- Rand Road
- Timber Drive
Tata originally proposed changing the schedule of 14 underutilized year-round schools for the 2011-2012 school year to save about $50,000 per school. Parents of students at those schools were asked to complete online surveys about the possible change. Tata says in addition to parent feedback his staff also considered surveys from teachers and principals as well as information on projected growth vs. capacity, expected growth, sibling feeder patterns, and how the change might fit into any reassignment plan.
The idea of converting year-round schools is a controversial one that has drawn some criticism. The community group Great Schools in Wake County has raised concerns about the move and asked Tata to put the issue on hold until reassignment plans are complete.
The Superintendent recommends changing the schedule for the five schools for two years to see how well it works.
Because of the late change, Tata says they would work with families to excuse absences due to vacations or other plans already scheduled based on the current schedule.
Wake School Board Discussions Underway:
Board members are meeting Tuesday for a 3:00p.m. work session followed by the monthly public meeting at 5:30p.m. Among the top priorities will be voting to approve a new budget for the next fiscal year.
First up is the work session with the following agenda items up for discussion:
- Revisions of the 2010-2013 Academically or Intellectually Gifted Program Plan
- 2012-2013 Instructional Calendars (Traditional, Year-Round, and Modified)
- Under-Utilized Year-Round Schools
- Board Policy 6426: Electronic Devices
- Recommendation for Changes to Board Policy 2313/3013/4013 (Employee Acceptable Use of Electronic Resources)
- Revision to Board Policy 6203: Transfer of School Assignment
- Revision to Board Policy 1800: Board Advisory Council.
There are three items of particular interest at the regular monthly board meeting that starts at 5:30pm.
The board will be asked to approve Superintendent Tony Tata's proposed $1.25 billion budget.
Under that budget, the school district would cut 46 central services clerical positions, reduce contract months for assistant principals and reduce per-student spending by $52 next year, Tata said, while funneling additional resources toward teacher retention in under-enrolled schools and creating new technology and international studies programs in 10 schools.
To save even more money Tata has proposed converting 14 underutilized year-round schools to a single track schedule. The schools in question are Alston Ridge, Ballentine, Banks Road, East Garner, Harris Creek, Highcroft, Lake Myra, Rand Road, River Bend, Timber Drive, Wakefield and West Lake elementary schools and East Cary and Holly Grove middle schools.
The single track, Tata said, would help save $50,000 per school by lowering staffing expenses.
Some community groups have asked Tata to put that plan on hold for now until a reassignment plan is complete. The Superintendent is expected to update his recommendations Tuesday after considering parent feedback surveys. The board will be asked to take action on this too.
The board will also be asked to approve a one time $500 bonus for teachers as part of Tata's budget. That money comes from fines collected by the Wake County Court System.