Local News

Groups Call for Commissioners to Control Wake School Construction

Posted April 2, 2008 10:42 a.m. EDT
Updated April 2, 2008 9:32 p.m. EDT

— Wake County business and education advocates on Wednesday asked officials to rethink the way they operate the schools that educate the county's students.

The Wake Education Partnership and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce unveiled a proposal to fund and run the Wake County school system that would focus on student achievement.

The proposal calls for the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners to establish distinct roles and responsibilities, such as putting the commissioners in charge of buying land for schools and and then designing, building, running and maintaining them.

The boards also should establish a multi-year formula to provide for growth in enrollment and operating expenses and to fund recommendations outlined in a curriculum audit completed last year.

"We are a changing environment, and we think this is a new way in which the two boards can work together,” said Harvey Schmitt, president and chief executive of the chamber of commerce.

Commissioners and school board members have publicly disagreed on budget and land issues several times in the last few years.

"The situation in Wake County is really unprecedented, and I think doesn’t serve our citizens very well. That’s why we’re proposing a new approach to this situation,” said Ann Denlinger, executive director of Wake Education Partnership and former school superintendent in Durham.

School board Chairwoman Rose Gill said she wanted to review the proposal before deciding whether to support it, but she acknowledged the relationship between the two boards could be improved.

"There's disagreement, and there's a possibility that it can be changed," Gill said. "We will give great consideration to (the proposal)."

The proposal was expected to be formally introduced to the two boards when they meet in a few weeks. But it prompted little interest from either board Wednesday.

Commissioner Harold Webb was the only commissioner to attend the news conference held to unveil the idea, and no school board members attended.

"We've had our disagreements with the school board, and we've had our disagreements among ourselves," Webb said. "We need to look for ways to improve relationships between both boards."

School district administrators have asked for a $35 million increase in county funding for the 2008-09 school year to pay for higher teacher salaries and to fund programs for thousands of new students.

District administrators said they expect growth in the local tax base will cover about half of that amount, but they said teachers would suffer if the county doesn't provide additional money.