Wake quashes mandatory year-round - Education - NewsObserver.com

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wake quashes mandatory year-round - Education - NewsObserver.com

Tags: education local news politics
RALEIGH -- Wake County's new school board majority Tuesday night ended mandatory year-round schools and took the first step toward gutting the district's diversity policy.
By a 5-4 vote, the ruling coalition approved a resolution that they added at the last minute to the meeting agenda. The measure says mandatory year-round assignments will end beginning with the 2010-11 school year. The resolution also ends the use of economic diversity in determining which students get priority for voluntary acceptance into year-round schools.
"This is what people are asking for," said Chris Malone, one of four Republican-backed newcomers who swept into office last fall and altered the board's balance of power. "This is why we were all elected the way we were."
It was short on details but could have major ramifications, including the reversal of board policy that called for year-round schools to have balanced student bodies based on families' economic backgrounds.
Prickett said the school system's capable staff could handle the details.
"I think it will be resolved in a timely manner and in a cost-efficient way," she said.
But board member Keith Sutton angrily called the sudden addition of the resolution "business as usual" by the new majority, recalling the slew of contentious measures added to the agenda of the new coalition's first meeting.
Currently, Wake gives priority to applicants from low-income neighborhoods to attend year-round schools as part of the effort to balance enrollment. This means applicants from some richer neighborhoods are unable to attend.
For this school year, 23 percent of the 3,887 applicants for year-round schools couldn't be placed.
In a previous meeting, the board sent to its policy committee a resolution that would remove diversity as a factor in all student assignments. But members of the board minority questioned whether Tuesday's year-round resolution was a shortcut toward achieving the broader goal.
Members of the board minority also questioned whether ending the mandatory year-round policy would force the district to shoulder the expense of building more schools.
"You're going to end up in some cases with significant overcrowding and in some cases significant underutilization," said school board member Anne McLaurin.
But new school board member John Tedesco said that ending mandatory year-round would have a minor impact. He said that only 143 people who wanted to leave a year-round school were not able to this school year.
Success on the third try
The resolution drew negative reaction from several speakers during a public comment section that was again dominated by critics of the new board.
"I've never been more ashamed to be a resident of Wake County," said Susan Evans, an Apex resident.
But Russell Capps, president of the Wake County Taxpayers Association, which had backed the new board members, praised their actions. "The people who voted for new board members voted for choice," Capps said. "I ask you to stand firmly for the things you believe in."
In addition to Malone, Tedesco and Prickett, Debra Goldman and board chairman Ron Margiotta voted for the resolution. Kevin Hill, McLaurin, Carolyn Morrison and Sutton voted no.
It is the third time since the new board members took office last month that they had tried to pass a resolution ending mandatory year-round schools.
Supporters of mandatory year-round schools have argued that they save on construction costs because they can hold more students than traditional-calendar schools. But critics have countered that enrollment has grown much less than expected and that the year-round calendar is a hardship for many families.
Now more than 44,000 students attend 51 year-round schools. The majority aren't there by choice; they're assigned to the schools.
The N.C. Supreme Court ruled in May that Wake didn't need parental permission to send students to year-round schools. But opposition to mandatory year-round became one of the campaign issues that helped get the new board members elected.
As part of the increased use of mandatory year-round, 22 schools were converted from a traditional calendar in 2007. To help reverse some of those conversions, the board agreed to fast-track a parental survey on calendar preference - traditional or year-round.
Parents of all 140,000 Wake County students will be targeted in an online survey conducted later this month. Based on the results, administrators will recommend Feb. 16 which schools can be converted back as quickly as the 2010-11 school year.
No vote on lawyer
Through a parliamentary error, board members were unable to vote on a proposal to hire Thomas Farr, an employment lawyer with longstanding ties to the state Republican party.
A motion to return the proposal for consideration would have required a two-thirds vote and failed when members McLaurin, Hill and Morrison voted against it. Margiotta said he'll call a special meeting to vote on Farr's hiring at $250 an hour to review the system's contracts and arrangements with law firms, including Raleigh-based Tharrington Smith.
During a public comment period, four people spoke against hiring Farr, saying that it was a waste of taxpayer money during a tight budget time for Wake schools.
Raleigh resident Duncan Munn argued that the board would set a bad precedent by selecting a lawyer without more input from all members and citizens.
"There's no substitute for an open public process," Munn said.


Anonymous said...

I love YR schooling! I think it helps the children as well as working parents!! We'll see what happens now...

January 06, 2010
Anonymous said...

We love them too. People don't realize that when you take a YR school and place it back to traditional, the teacher's salaries get all messed up too. YR teachers get paid year round, whereas traditional gets paid 10 months out of the year. Most people need to budget for that 2 months without pay. When you go from YR to traditional with not much notice, it is hard to make ends meet for those 2 months with no paycheck. I know it's not popular to say, but the teachers have been taking a beating lately. They will be expected to add an extra hour onto their workweek now that they took away "wacky wednesdays" - which actually was a very productive meeting time to team talk about children who need extra help - enrichment, modifications, etc. It was one of the only places where teachers could team talk with peers about kids who are higher academically as well as their lower performing counterparts. These meetings will continue, but most likely at the expense of the teacher's free time. Not many jobs mandate that you put in an extra 40 something hours without any type of compensation. Oh well, as long as the parents aren't inconvenienced... Personally I would take a little inconvenience to make sure my child gets what he needs at school. Sorry about my rant. I am just tired of seeing so much negativity and sarcasm in the media regarding the schools in Wake County. They aren't perfect, but they are head and shoulders above what we had we had up North. I have seen more dedication and professionalism from teachers and administrators here than anywhere else. I feel we should be helping to make their jobs, and their lives, easier through our support. Afterall - they are with our kids for more hours in the day than we are...

January 06, 2010
Anonymous said...

Wow, I didn't think that Wake County was that far behind the times....I
remember as a child, public school employees, in Chicago, striking each

year for better pay/benefits....eventually they decided to
negotiate/sign multi-year contracts to avoid the strikes
annually....but, I do remember during this time that my mother, a public

school teacher, was able to opt to be paid year round, it would reduce
her take home pay by a certain amount, but then she was able to get paid

during those summer months. That way she could choose to work in the
summer or just take it easy....

I have been hard pressed to find someone who tried year round schools
and didn't like them. I think many are afraid of the change, but once
they get into the water with both feet they realized there fearful
thoughts were much worse than the reality....I do understand the issue
of having your family split, one yr round other traditional...that is
one to reckon with....but for the most part people adapt and learn to
love year round schools....I know when my daughter was in them, by the
time they were 8 wks in I was ready for the break, as I am sure my
daughter's teachers were also....

The more year rounds schools there are the more track programs they seem

to create. It was a real financial challenge for me when my daughter
was in school because the only thing they had to offer was the YMCA...by

the time she started year round she was a little old to spend her track
out in a daycare center. I'm hoping this time around there will be
other financially suitable options....so far, my son is enjoying the
year round school, although after a week or so of being tracked out, he
is ready to go back....but he has 2 full weeks left to go before he can
get back to Lake Myra this time around.

January 06, 2010
Anonymous said...

The teachers that do go from YR to 10 month contracts CAN get paid on a 12 month cycle if they choose. It is an option that the State Employees Credit Union offers and so they would not see any changes in their salaries.

As the article states though, there were people who WANTED YR and couldn't get it. Hopefully those people will get their choices and those that didn't want it will go to traditional schools. It will be interesting to see what plays out.

January 06, 2010

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