The school board heard results from a survey about the use of School Resource Officers or SRO's in high schools. Some have questioned whether having sworn law enforcement officers in the schools can actually create a more harsh environment for discipline.
Senior Director of Security Russ Smith says the overall results suggest that while some areas could use improvement, the SRO program itself is working well.
The Wake County School Board has spent the last few months revamping the student discipline policy with an overall goal of reducing suspensions and keeping students in class more often.
There are two specific areas that Smith and others hope to improve moving forward:
- The integration of SROs as a member of the school-based team.
- More effective communication between the district and SROs.
Smith says they plan to hold an annual meeting with all school resource officers before school starts to help enhance teamwork and communication. The first of these meetings is scheduled for August 23rd.
Ruth Steidinger, Senior Director of High School Programs, spoke to the board about changing grading policies to achieve more consistency across the school district.As discussed at last month's meeting,
Board member Deborah Prickett has recommended going back to letter grades for students in third through fifth grade to help better evaluate and place students transitioning from elementary to middle school. The board is also considering seperating behavioral grades from academic grades for middle and high school students.
Board vice chair John Tedesco raised concern about having behavior considered as part of a students overall grade.Debra Goldman said she worries requiring homework to make up a certain percentage of a student's grade may push teachers to issue more homework.
Dr. Carolyn Morrison also raised a concern about the new proposed grading system does not allow for extra credit in grades K-12.
The board asked for a more defined grading rubric and researh on whether there is a true benefit in switching from number to letter grades in grades 3-5.
Chief Facilities and Operations Officer Don Haydon began by presenting information to the board about building needs to keep up student growth. Haydon says the Wake County Schools system continues to grow by more than 3,000 students per year. He told board members the system need to build 10 new schools by 2015 to have enough space for students.
Right now, Wake County has about $99 million left from a previous bond referendum. Haydon says that would be enough to build one middle and one small high school or one elementary and one large high school.
During the July meeting, board vice chairman John Tedesco asked the staff to look into reducing the number of existing mobile classrooms as part of that plan.
Conversations got a bit heated as the group discussed the status of new school plans. The board voted last year to move forward with pre-design plans for several schools. Board member Chris Malone raised concerns about why those plans have been put on hold and how much money has been spent so far. Haydon said he will have to get back to the board with spending information.
Board Chairman Ron Margiotta said he would like to see the staff consider other construction options to build more schools with the same funding.
Margiotta and board member Debra Goldman also questioned how they can consider future student growth needs in certain areas without a final student assignment plan.
Superintendent Tony Tata assured the board that he would have more detailed information about what the choice model would look like in Wake County within the next two weeks. Tata plans to share information gathered from parental surveys and a test run of the proposed “Blue Plan”
The board is not expect to take any action on new schools right now.