Wake County Schools

Blog: Wake school board meeting closes with policy change

Talk of changes to two school board policies dominated the last hour of Tuesday's meeting.

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8:50 pm Two policy changes:

The school board took up two policy changes in the last hour of their meeting Tuesday night. The first had to do with student transfers, specifically those iniiated by central office staff.

In April, Superintendent Tony Tata 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. Policy changes drafted in May would require 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.

An initial review of the policy was initiated after school board member Debra Goldman made a verbal request for her daughter to switch schools.

The board voted 6-2 Tuesday to send it on for a second reading.

The board also voted 5-4 in favor of changing the policy on board advisory councils.

The change will require board advisory council members to actually live in the voting district of the board member they advise or have children in a school within that district.

The board went into closed session just before 9:00pm. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 21.

7:30 pm Public comment geared toward the blue and green plans:

The issue of student assignment was not on the agenda Tuesday, but it dominated the public comment portion of the school board meeting.

Superintendent Tony Tata and his student Assignment Task Force released details about nine possible courses of action through the Wake Schools website last month. Tata asked parents primarily to consider two possible plans, the "blue" or community-based choice plan and the "green" or base school achievement plan. The majority of the online support has been for the blue plan so far according Wake County school data. In the last week some community groups including Great Schools in Wake came out in favor of the green plan.

Speakers raised a variety of concerns about the proposed plans during public comment Tuesday night. Most who spoke, support the green plan.

Raleigh resident Adrienne Lumpkin told the board she believes an increase in choice would mean an increase in uncertainty for parents. She also expressed concern about Tata's favorable comments about the blue plan, saying it could sway some. Another speaker later raised that same concern. Susan Evans of Apex said she was disappointed that neither of the plans use diversity as a criteria for assignment. Knightdale resident Rita Rakestraw challenged whether the blue plan would really be able to focus on proximity issues. Jim Martin of Apex raised concerned about the new "achievement schools" arguing that it sends the wrong message about achievement in other schools.

Reassignment will be on the board's next agenda. Tata has said he hopes to recommend a single plan for student assignment to the school board at its June 21 meeting.

6:00 pm Full board meeting underway:

After a long afternoon work session the school board moved into its full public meeting. One of the big agenda items was supposed to be a vote on changing student discipline policies. That action item was removed from the agenda at the start of the meeting. The proposed change would relax the zero tolerance policy for some offenses to reduce suspensions and help improve student achievement. Chairman Ron Margiotta said that because of new information the board needs to review they will take up discipline at the June 21st meeting instead.

5:20 Wrapping up the work session:
Board member Dr. Carolyn Morrison wrapped up the work session by updating the board on how they can best evaluate the superintendent's performance in the months ahead.

The board is required by law to have a set evaluation process. Morrision, who headed a committee looking into it, recommended using a scoring tool created by the department of public instruction.

The full school board meeting begins at 5:30 pm with the issue of discipline policies on the agenda.

WRAL.com will stream that meeting as well.

4:15 pm Central Office Organizational Audit:

The board heard findings of a report to determine whether central office staff and resources are properly aligned to focus on student achievement. It found a need to sharpen the focus of some leadership roles to help strengthen the system.

Auditors recommend adding two new leadership positions, a Deputy Superintendent for School Performance and a Chief Transformation Officer.

Superintendent Tony Tata told the board he wants to put one person in charge of overall school performance. The new deputy superintendent would take that on. Tata says the Chief Transformation Officer would head strategic projects focusing on things like student reassignment. The superintendent noted his recently assembled special student assignment task force highlights the need for an office that focuses on such issues. Tata says the two new leadership positions will be posted immediately.

Under the new plan some positions and departments would see changes in organization to fall under the new leadership.

3:30pm School board letter to lawmakers:

As the board discussed budget issues Tuesday board member Keith Sutton proposed sending lawmakers a letter from the Wake County School board expressing concern about cuts to education funding in the most recent version of the budget. They plan to draft and send the letter before the final version of the budget is approved.

Sutton said as one of the state's largest school system he believes it is important to let legislators know they are not happy with the proposed cuts.

3:25 pm teacher's assistants
Chief Business David Neter proposed shifting all full time 10 month teacher's assistants to 9.25 month assignments. Citing continued budget struggles and additional cuts in the pending state budget, Neter recommended the contract reduction as the best way to absorb another big hit. He estimates Wake County Schools will see an additional $12.5 million discretionary cut under the version that is currently sitting on the governor's desk.
Neter says the contract reduction would create savings by reducing pay without having to eliminate any positions. It would also keep teacher's assistants in the classroom on all days when kids are in class. Neter told the board the move would save between $1.4 and $2.2 million depending on whether lawmakers add five more day to the school calendar, which is also in the current state budget proposal.
Reducing teacher's assistant pay and days of work is the first of what could be several amendments to the Wake County Schools budget approved by the board last month. Neter says he will also likely come back to the board in July to ask for a reduction in custodial services to bridge the final gap once lawmakers pass the final budget.

The board will be asked to vote on the teacher's assistant issue at its June 21st meeting.

Wake School Board Work Session 2:00pm:
The monthly school board work session got underway shortly after two.
Agenda items for this meeting include discipline policies, teacher's assistant positions, and an organizational audit report.
The board will discuss easing the zero tolerance policy for some student behavioral issues. The idea is to try to reduce suspensions and keep students in the class more often to help boost graduation rates. Those supporting this change argue there are better ways to correct student behavior, while they keep up with their lessons rather than booting students out of class so quickly.
Because of the financial downturn and concerns about state budget cuts Chief Business Officer David Neter will recommend moving all full time 10 month teacher's assistants to 9.25 month contracts. Neter says it will help mitigate the impact of funding reductions, and keep more full time TA's on duty while students are in the classroom. Teacher's assistants would see a pay reduction to help make up the difference.

The board will also hear the results of an organizational audit aimed at evaluating the effectiveness the way the WCPSS central office runs right now. Superintendent Tony Tata will present the findings which could result in organizational changes.

The full work session agenda includes:

  • Update on County Offer to Assist with Worker's Compensation and Risk Management Review
  • Shift All Full Time 10 Month Teacher Assistants to 9.25 Month Assignments - Reduction in Force
  • Additional Funding from the Wake County Board of Commissioners and Information on Ready to Learn Centers and 4-H Program in Schools
  • Report Regarding the Organizational Audit
  • Report and Recommendation from Superintendent's Evaluation Committee
  • Closure



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