East Wake Gang Prevention Forum.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

There will be an East Wake Gang Prevention Forum held on Thursday 5/27/09 at 6:30 p.m. at Wake Chapel Baptist Church of Tar Heel Club Road. It only lasts a couple hours and it's worth at least that much of your time to be part of the effort to keep gangs from taking a toehold in our neighborhoods.

More info: http://www.easternwakenews.com/2010/05/26/7264/keep-gangs-at-bay.html

Knightdale may attract a magnet

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

BY DENISE SHERMAN, Staff Writer/easternwakenews

KNIGHTDALE - Wake County School board member John Tedesco told a group of parents he favors an magnet program at Knightdale High School.

But Tedesco didn't go into much detail about how a magnet will work in his community school zone concept, beyond saying that he favors an International Baccalaureat type magnet for the eastern Wake town.
Tedesco, District 1 school board member Chris Malone and Dr David Ansbacher, senior director of the Wake County Magnet School Office spoke at a forum Thursday sponsored by Knightdale 100.
Knightdale 100 is a grassroots organization whose goal is program equity and excellence in schools in eastern Wake County.
Knightdale parent Susan Snotherly said she had read published reports that large numbers of Knightdale High School teachers are applying for transfers, and asked how to keep good teachers here.
Tedesco said an IB program could help because the model includes a lot of professional development which could be attractive to teachers. He also said the system should explore merit pay for teaching at challenging schools.
Tedesco relayed his idea of community zones that would include magnets and year-round schools in each of the community zones created under the plan, but he didn't offer specifics on how they would work.
Tedesco said the county doesn't have a diversity problem, but a growth management problem and that 1,320 nodes or attendance zones had resulted in "node Civil Wars."
Guy Blough, a parent and athletic director at Knightdale High School, asked Tedesco how community schools and magnets could be compatible.
Tedesco said he wants to address the lack of program equity in Wake County schools.
Malone, who represents eastern Wake County and Wake Forest, said he favored making Knightdale High School a magnet. He said Knightdale High School needs better test scores and more access to advanced placement programs.
Ansbacher said more students with Knightdale High School as their base school attend magnets than anywhere else in the school system.
He said achieving diversity and balance were goals of the magnet program, not academic achievement. Ansbacher said magnets schools are like cupcakes with the cake being core curriculum and the icing being the magnet program. Not everybody likes icing, he said.
Shannon Hardy, the moderator, said parents should let their school board members know what they want.
"We've heard all the debates," said Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen. "We are only about the excellence for our kids. We're not for what's before, what's after. We're here to give you a challenge - come work for excellence in our schools."

Meetings Across The County Focus On Wake Co. Schools

Friday, May 21, 2010

Across Wake County Thursday, schools were the focus of community meetings. One took placed in Eastern Wake County, the other in Western Wake.

At the Knightdale meeting, the talk was of magnet schools. A group called the Knightdale 100 is working to get a magnet school in that community, and it sponsored the Wednesday session at Knightdale Town Hall.
"Chris Malone has asked us to give him a recommendation as to what type of magnet we would like in Knightdale if that looks like a possibility," said parent Katherine Dameron, who was one of the estimated 75 people in attendance at the session.
At the Cary meeting, the concern was about what would happen to Wake County Schools now that socio-economic diversity is no longer the way kids will be assigned.
That session was sponsored by the group Great Schools in Wake County, which favors the diversity policy.
"I just want more information about the direction the school system is moving in," said parent Shawn Woods, who was one of about two dozen people at that meeting.
The man who used to do the planning and assignments for Wake County told the Cary meeting that the direction Wake schools are taking is misconceived.
"Trying to compare the distance students travel to school to whether or not we're getting the kind of success rates we want -- particularly with at risk students -- is a misnomer," contended Chuck Dulaney. "The two have nothing to do with each other."
But for school board members like John Tedesco, the debate over busing is now irrelevant.
"I understand some people are still living in the past," Tedesco said. "We're moving forward into the future, and we're building a new plan."
Referring to the meeting in Knightdale, Tedesco said, "We're here with city leaders and parents who are going to take our good schools and make them great."
Tedesco says the debate over school assignments may be over; but for groups like Great Schools in Wake, the debate has yet to be completed.
That group is planning another forum on May 27 in Raleigh, again to discuss what its speakers say are the disadvantages to neighborhood based schools.

Affluent exiting poorer schools in Wake - Wake County - NewsObserver.com

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Affluent exiting poorer schools in Wake - Wake County - NewsObserver.com

BY T. KEUNG HUI - Staff Writer

RALEIGH -- Hundreds of middle-class Wake County families are leaving crowded, high-poverty schools for magnets and year-rounds thanks to the school board's decision to quit using their relative wealth as a reason to deny their applications.
Now that those barriers have been eased, poverty levels are expected to increase at a number of other Wake County schools.
For the academic year that starts this fall, a majority of magnet applicants and more than 80 percent of year-round applicants have been approved now that administrators no longer have to maintain socioeconomic diversity in county schools.
Members of the board's majority say the new rules provide families greater education choices while filling hundreds of seats in magnet and year-round schools that had been left vacant.
"We've eliminated the discriminatory practices," said school board member John Tedesco. "We're using our available capacity. That's a good thing."
Others fear that the balance has tilted too much toward family choice and away from keeping poverty levels down at individual schools.
"This may be the start of more high-poverty schools," said board member Kevin Hill, a member of the minority faction.
Magnet schools have been a major part of Wake's diversity efforts for 28 years. The goal has been to attract affluent, suburban applicants to magnet schools that are mainly in lower-income areas, such as Southeast Raleigh.
Before this year, the selection was designed to give priority to applicants who wanted to leave crowded schools in affluent areas. Applicants in schools with higher-than-average poverty levels were placed at the bottom of the selection process.
The old barriers had the practical effect of also making it harder for middle-class families to leave higher poverty schools.
Complaints from parents about the fairness of the selection criteria helped elect four new school board members last fall who pledge to end the district's socioeconomic diversity policy. On March 23, the board voted 5-4 to pass a resolution eliminating socioeconomic diversity in filling magnet schools and year-round schools.
The board majority is scheduled to give final approval Tuesday to a policy eliminating socioeconomic diversity in assigning students to schools.
Under the new guidelines used this year, priority was given to applicants leaving crowded schools regardless of poverty levels.
At Fox Road Elementary in North Raleigh, 55 of the 86 magnet applicants who wanted to leave were accepted. Last year, only 22 of the 81 applicants were accepted.
One mom's quest
Stacy Robinson applied for her son to attend kindergarten at Millbrook Elementary School's magnet program despite hearing from several Fox Road parents who complained that their applications to magnet schools had been rejected in the past. Robinson said she wanted her son to go to Millbrook because she liked the school's International Baccalaureate theme.
"I was surprised to get accepted," Robinson said. "I kept hearing from all these other parents."
Similar turnarounds took place at other schools. For instance, 91 of the 142 applicants got accepted to leave Wilburn Elementary in North Raleigh compared with 29 of 97 applicants last year.
Poverty may rise
At the elementary and middle school levels, the percentages of low-income students is expected to go up now at schools such as Fox Road and Wilburn.
Some magnet schools, such as Bugg Elementary and Poe Elementary, are taking more applicants this year and are expecting to see drops in their percentage of low-income students.
It's the kind of change Hill said he worried would happen when diversity was dropped from the magnet selection criteria earlier this year.
"There has to be a balance between choice and what's in the best interests for education," Hill said. "The data and the research is pretty clear that all students benefit in a school that has lower poverty."
A parent's argument
Jennifer Mansfield, a critic of the old magnet selection criteria, argued that the new rules could force school leaders to do more to help the higher poverty schools. Mansfield said the old board was content with using magnet selection criteria to keep families from leaving high poverty schools rather than trying to do something to help those schools to encourage parents to stay.
"Maybe they'll try to address the issues at the schools instead of saying, 'Let's not let the parents go,' " said Mansfield, a leader of the Wake Schools Community Alliance, a parents group that backed the new board members.
While the rule changes seemed to favor more middle-class families wanting to leave high poverty elementary and middle schools, the data seem to show that the new rules also helped more lower income black families get into Southeast Raleigh High School. Administrators said the elimination of the diversity guidelines allowed them to add 435 magnet applicants this year at Southeast Raleigh, 261 more than last year.
The additional students are projected to increase the percentage of low-income students at Southeast Raleigh High.
"We're letting the Southeast Raleigh families go to the school nearer where they live," said Tedesco, the board member. "What's wrong with that?" Read more: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/05/12/478395/affluent-exitingpoorer-schools.html#ixzz0njjcP47P

Students get boost for exams

BY DENISE SHERMAN, Staff Writer/Eastern Wake News

EASTERN WAKE COUNTY - Students taking AP and End-of-Course exams are getting treats to encourage them to do well.
"Kids like stuff," said Ericka Lucas, the principal at East Wake High's School of Arts, Education and Global Studies. Lucas saw evidence of that last year after handing out pencils with the school name on it and with an encouraging message before last year's EOC. "It was amazing how any kids who were absent that day came up and said, 'Where's my pencil?'"
"That small motivation can put them in the frame of mind, 'Okay I need to focus, here's what I know,'"she said.
So this year, Lucas is going all out. She's organized an EOC rally for May 19th, a week before exams start on the May 27. She's soliciting local businesses to give water bottles, gift cards and Mudcats tickets that will be given to the students on the day of the rally.
Students also will have a chance to vote on "teacher superlatives," Lucas said.
"Those pencils let me know," said Lucas. "It can be the smallest token, but they like it and they will respond to it."
The Knightdale Chamber of Commerce had a similar idea.
The chamber is putting together 48 goodie bags for Knightdale High school students who are taking the AP exam. Businesses donated gift items last week while students took the tests. They continue test-taking this week.
Knightdale 100, a grassroots education support group, is trying to get more students to take the AP exam at Knightdale High School. This year, they organized tutorial sessions during April and solicited for tutors from the community and refreshments for the sessions from parents.
"It's a way for them to say, 'Way to go and to support the students," said Tami Sakiewicz, PTA president and member of Knightdale 100.
"It's very beneficial for them to take that exam," said Sakiewicz. "They experience all the rigor that comes from studying for college exams."
Sakiewicz said the emphasis the organization put on the exam has paid off. Students benfitted from tutors in Biology and English - N.C. State college students and an East Regional Librarian. And the sessions spurred high school teachers to offer tutoring at school, she said.
Lucas said in addition to the EOC pep rally, the school is holding prep sessions for the exam called EOC jam sessions. The tutorial sessions after school or during lunch started April 26 and continue until testing begins.

Is it Knightdale’s turn for a magnet school?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Knightdale 100 Education Committee Community Forum  
Thursday, May 20th 7-8:30pm
Knightdale Town Hall, 950 Steeple Square Court   
Is it Knightdale’s turn for a magnet school? 
Forum Purpose: Tonight is the continuance of K100’s commitment to acquire the necessary resources for Knightdale’s students to be successful!   

Mr. Chris Malone, Wake County School Board
Dr. David Ansbacher, Senior Director of Wake County Magnet School Office
Mr. John Tedesco, Wake County School Board 
Forum Agenda

7:00-7:10pm Welcome and Review of April AP Tutor Action – Ms. Shannon Hardy
7:10-7:20pm Vision for Knightdale Schools – Mr. Chris Malone
7:20-7:45pm  Review of Magnet School Data – Dr. David Ansbacher
7:45-8:10pm Community Schools Model and Knightdale – Mr. John Tedesco
8:10-8:30pm Q&A facilitated by Ms. Shannon Hardy

Forum Facilitator:  Ms. Shannon Hardy – Parent and Knightdale Resident 

SUMMER FORUM:  How do we improve the social and academic discipline of Knightdale’s middle and high school students?

Students work to turn Neuse silver

Thursday, May 6, 2010

KNIGHTDALE - East Wake Middle School students became wildlife biologists last week and released shad they grew in the classroom as part of a "Silvering the Neuse" program.

"The kids are loving this connection to nature and this is just a good way to get kids aware of their natural environment and the world that surrounds them," said Patty Matteson, public affairs director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The program is sponsored by the service and the N.C. Museum of Natural Science. A grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Foundation paid for 10 tanks for students to raise fish and release them in the Neuse and Roanoke Rivers. East Wake Middle School is one of five schools in Wake County that participated. The idea is to help students value the ecosystem and to learn the way scientists restore fish killed off from pollution. It also helps them have a part in replenishing the dwindling population of shad in the Neuse.

East Wake Middle School teacher Karen Curry heard about the program at a science workshop sponsored by Wake County Schools that she attended last year.

It struck a chord with Curry, who majored in wildlife fishery science at the University of Tennessee. Her husband, Bob Curry, is the chief of inland fisheries with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

"It's something that I appreciated and I wanted the kids to appreciate it too" said Curry.

She sold eighth-grader Zach Moore, who pored over a microscope in the classroom on Thursday, looking for shad embryos.

"It's not like a regular classroom," he said. "It's hands-on stuff."

For five days, students nurtured the 5,300 eggs in a red tank on the shelf in the back of Curry's science class. That included monitoring pH, ammonia, nitrate, chorine and the temperature and removing fish egg sacs that won't hatch. From 30 to 50 percent of them will make it to "fry" or young fish, said Matteson.

The name - silvering the Neuse - came literally from the way the river used to run silver, said Matteson. Up until the 1900s, so many shad were returning to spawn, they turned the river a silver color. Now, because of pollution, shad have diminished.

Students learned that the shad they release will swim to the Pamlico Sound and some will travel as far as the coast of Nova Scotia before returning home to spawn.

The study also incorporated some historical elements like how George Washington fed his troops shad from the Potomac and how slaves who were shad fishermen helped "build" the Underground Railroad and spy on Confederate troops from their prime spots on the river.

Shad was such an important part of communities along the Neuse that shad parties are still thrown there today, Matteson said. Curry participated in one in Williamston when she went on a camping trip sponsored by the wildlife service.

"There are so many connections with shad in our history," said Matteson.

One fact stuck with student Alma Matias, who is troubled by the fact that every piece of debris outside usually makes it to the Neuse.

"I try to pick up candy wrappers and trash and throw it in the trash can," she said.

Majority of violent Wake schools are middle schools :: WRAL.com

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Majority of violent Wake schools are middle schools :: WRAL.com

Raleigh, N.C. — A WRAL Investigation found that seven of the 10 most violent public schools in Wake County are middle schools, and many of those troubled teens may not get the help they need because of budget cuts.

The state formula to determine violence in schools is based on several factors, including possession of a weapon, assault, robbery and possession of an illegal substance.

WRAL redacted the drug possession numbers since that is not a violent offense. Once the drug numbers were taken out, the crime rate was higher in middle schools than in high schools.

1 East Wake Middle 33 1,057 31.2
2 Moore Square Magnet Midd12 473 25.4
3 West Millbrook Middle 22 890 24.7
4 East Garner Middle 27 1,111 24.3
5 Southeast Raleigh High 32 1,584 20.2
6 Garner High 43 2,238 19.2
7 North Garner Middle 22 1,152 19.1
8 Carroll Middle 14 785 17.8
9 Carnage Middle 19 1,083 17.5
10 Knightdale High 30 1,752 17.1

Wake schools’ senior director of security, Russ Smith, said there were fewer incidents of violence in the 2008-09 school year than in years past. He presented the following statistics, which do not include drug offenses, per WRAL's request:

Middle schools 2008-2009
311 incidents
30,983 students
Incidents per 1,000 middle school students: 10.03
Incidents per 1,000 high school students: 9.43

Middle schools 2007-2008
380 incidents
29,978 students
Incidents per 1,000 middle school students: 12.67
Incidents per 1,000 high school students: 8.48

"Middle school incidents have decreased by 21 percent, and the gap between high school and middle school students has been significantly closed," Smith said.

He added, however, that gangs are a contributing factor to some of the violence in schools.

"Gangs are an emerging issue and have been an emerging issue over the years. That is going to contribute to some of the numbers that you see," Smith said.

Programs help get kids back on track

Juan Almendariz, who was expelled from Garner Magnet High, says he knows he “chose the wrong decisions.” Now he is working to get back into the Wake school system by volunteering with About Face II Inc., a non-profit organization that helps youth and families in Wake County.

Darien Chambers, an eighth-grader on long-term suspension from North Garner Middle, is volunteering there as well. He says “being stupid” is what led to him getting suspended.

"I found out here that life is not going to be what you want it to be. It's going to be some ups and downs, but you can conquer it," Darien said. “I’m finding out that my choices do have consequences."

About Face is just one organization in Wake County that was created to help troubled teens and give them “a second change to succeed in life,” according to Director Robin Flow.

"Sometimes I think that having that extra attention means a lot to these students – being told that they are loved," Flow said. "And it's OK, you made a mistake, but let's not do it again. This is how we can do it differently. This is how we make a difference – tough love. We show a lot of tough love."

Leaders at Haven House say they have a common denominator – large numbers of middle school students with discipline problems.

“That’s a difficult age. That’s a time when kids are trying to figure out who they are and what they want to be and who they want to hang out with,” said Michelle Zechmann, executive director of Haven House.

The organizations are also fighting for funds to keep the programs alive. State and local funding for those groups is being cut off because of the budget crisis.

"We don't know where the program will go from here," Flow said. "That's very alarming, because we are the only program in the Garner area that serves long-term suspended kids."

“Almost all of our programs have waiting lists,” Zechmann said. “When we look at that, there is a need out there in the community. When we look at cutting funding, we’re going to see bigger waiting lists (and) more kids not getting served.”

John Wall, the reigning Wake County Principal of the Year, said he is not ashamed that his school, North Garner Middle, is the seventh most-violent school in the county.

“I would submit that, as a principal of North Garner Middle, if I was included in that group it’s simply because I’m very vigilant in ensuring that the rules are enforced,” he said.

He acknowledges that there has been “an increase in gang activity” in the 12 years that he has been principal. To combat problems, Wall said he is firm but fair and requires every administrator to volunteer time with students.

“It’s all about relationships. Kids trust me, and I trust (them),” he said.

For Juan and Darien, the journey back is slow but not without reward.

“I know enough now for me not to do the things I did and not to hang with the wrong people,” Darien said.

* Reporter: Dan Bowens

It wasn’t broken, but Wake County ‘fixed’ it | The Chronicle

It wasn’t broken, but Wake County ‘fixed’ it | The Chronicle

Posted using ShareThis

By Laura Keeley
March 29, 2010

Durham, North Carolina. It’s a real place, and we live here.

It is rather easy to forget, though, that Duke does not actually exist in a bubble—it’s part of a community, many communities in fact, and one of them is the Research Triangle that exists between Raleigh (Wake County), Chapel Hill (Orange County) and Durham (Durham County).

Alright, pop quiz time: How many of you are aware that a decision made by the Wake County school board last week is causing national uproar and has been blogged about by The Economist, written about in the Los Angeles Times, condemned by the NAACP and spotlighted on The Today Show? I’m going to go out on a limb and assume not many.

Here is the decision in a nutshell: Last Tuesday, the Wake County school board voted to end its socioeconomic diversity-based school assignment program that had existed since the 1970s. Now the board will move to neighborhood-based schools that will almost certainly leave lower-income students in the dust.

Wake’s diversity program has been hailed as a national model, and the American Association of School Administrators named then-superintendant Bill McNeal the National Superintendant of the Year in 2004. He has voiced his opposition to the new plan in the (Raleigh) News and Observer: “My fear… as I witness from the sidelines is that we’ll fall into the abyss with ‘have’ schools and ‘have-not schools,” he said in a March 21 article. “That breaks my heart that that could happen and would happen in Wake County schools.”

It is no secret that low-income schools struggle to perform at the same level as higher-income ones. The reasons are numerous, including the fact that low-income schools have trouble attracting high quality teachers, a higher teacher turnover and lower parental involvement at their schools and thus in their children’s education. In case the board members did not realize this, Charlotte County schools can provide a concrete example. Charlotte abandoned busing for diversity in favor of neighborhood schools in 2002. And surprise! The number of extremely high poverty schools has blossomed under the new policy.

“You don’t have to guess what Wake County will look like in four years,” Amy Nelson, a principal intern at a high poverty elementary school in Charlotte said at a panel discussion full of educational researches the Saturday before the vote. “You have a case study three hours down the road. It’s not pretty.”

Back in 1976, the Wake County school board realized what Charlotte knows now, and when Wake County and Raleigh City schools merged that year, the board sought to avoid creating these low-income schools.

The goal was to have no schools with more than 40 percent of its kids eligible for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. Wake County has experienced an explosion in population recently and as the number of low-income students has risen from 20 to 31 percent, that target has been forced to slip. There are currently nine elementary schools where more than 60 percent of its students are free- and reduced-lunch eligible. However, the other 150 schools have fewer eligible students, and no school is overwhelmed with low-income kids. Furthermore, suburban kids have the option of attending one of inner city Raleigh’s award-winning magnet schools that offer advanced education in topics such as math and science.

This was the status quo since before we undergraduates were born. Like I said, the district’s superintendant was named the best superintendant in the entire county in 2004 (in case all you private schoolers out there are unfamiliar with this concept, just trust me, it’s a big deal). Now the district does not even have a superintendant because Del Burns abruptly announced his resignation in February. He was placed on administrative leave in March by the board because he gave media interviews—in other words, he was transparent and explained himself to the taxpayers who fund his schools—voicing his opposition to the board’s plan to end diversity schools. Oh, and get this—the decision to oust Burns for speaking publically was made in a closed meeting, the third secret meeting the board had held since February. Ironic, no?

And one more thing: The district is implementing this complete systematic overhaul at a time when there is a $20 million funding gap for next school year. The cash situation in Wake County is so severe that the district had to sell $125.8 million worth of federal fixed-rate bonds for building projects. But making this fundamental structural change to neighborhood-based schools will need to be researched and planning costs money, right?

Or maybe they won’t spend any money and just kind of shoot from the hip. That would seem about par for the course.

The catalyst for all of this (I’m assuming that you, like me, cannot see an obvious one) is the new right-wing school board majority that was elected in 2009. School board elections are held in off years, mainly to ensure that only people who care enough vote, so last year four new school board members, all Republicans, were voted in and changed the majority. They were voted in by 4.5 percent of the county’s electorate. Yep, four school board members, voted in by a whopping 4.5 percent of voters, combined with a fifth Republican board member to say “screw you diversity!” and destroyed a national model of public school success. In its place, Wake will set up a “have” versus “have-not” school system, right in the backyard of one of the most elite educational institutions in this country.

Laura Keeley is a Trinity junior. Her column runs every other Monday.