Monday, July 11, 2011

Hello Wake County

While enjoying the summer, work continues for the Board of Education. We don't stop. We keep working for ALL of the children in Wake County. Our next public meeting is tomorrow, and I hope that I will see you there!

Friday, August 27, 2010

As the summer winds down, and the traditional calendar school students return to the classroom, it's time to reflect. What a summer. Last year at this time, I was revving up the campaigning. This year, I am revving up to support programs that focus on the academic success of our students in Wake County.
A lot has happened this summer.

Amid the Policy changes, the Superintendent search, cuts in funding, program cuts, program revisions and more was the budget. I have raised concerns about many of the items included in and alluded to by the budget. After failing to pass the Budget once, we held a long work session on August 3rd. Staff addressed many topics and the budget was brought forward for a vote on August 10th. Right before the vote, in Committee of the Whole, staff made recommendations. The Board did not have enough time to ask all of our questions and fully understand the implications of these recommendations. I had other questions, and many of them, particularly in reference to the proposed changes for Project Enlightenment. The Budget came up for a vote and I was the only Board member NOT to vote for it. There is a lot of work to do, and though it is described as a "fluid document", there is a tremendous amount that concerns me, on many topics.

To give just one example, the implication of one section is that Booster clubs now must pay for the watering of the athletic fields at our schools. At first glance, this might not sound like a lot, but it could run between 12 and 16 thousand dollars per year, per school. Our Booster clubs already supply the athletic programs with equipment, uniforms and much more. Now they are expected to pay the water bills! It will take an estimated 20 percent (or more) of their budgets to pay for this, which means that the same small group of well meaning parents that do all of the other work, will now need to raise an extra $16k per year. And, what if they can't? Will the fields potentially go unwatered and wither and die? This could render them unsafe and unusable for the future.

We have students that are gifted and talented in many different ways. Some students are gifted academically, artistically and some are gifted athletically. I feel that all of our students and schools must be supported to the best of our ability. We are very proud of our athletics in Wake County, and this new field watering plan just isn't feasible. BUT, this is only one of the many concerns that I harbor.

The Board voted at our last meeting to authorize the spending of $2.4 million to "predesign" three schools. On the surface, this sounds like it might be a good idea, we have some land banked and we do need seats. The concern is that our staff members are predicting that we will have an even steeper budget shortfall next year, and may/will need those reserves. And in actuality, we will only be able to afford to build two of the schools. Why not vote on which sites to use, and then do the predesign? Or, why not wait a few more months, until the new Assignment plan is complete, listen to the stakeholder feedback, formalize the plan and then decide where the seats are needed, vote on a site and then pay to predesign the schools for the future? A few months for careful planning will not make a huge difference in a school system that already suffers severe overcrowding at many schools. I'm thinking about Wakefield HS with over 60 modular units, or Garner HS with 38 temporary classrooms (including a trailerteria to handle the lunch crowd!).

We must make decisions as a Board, but they must be decisions with concerns for the future and vision. We will now have a full Board work session each month, and a full, public meeting. Under the old schedule, we'd have two public meetings with a committee of the whole right before each. The problem was that our COW would usually be less than two hours in most instances, not nearly enough time for the Board to have the opportunity to discuss and learn. We also had separate Committee meetings, and not all Committees would fully report to the Board, so we had on one hand, duplication of presentations, and on the other, Board members who were not aware of what happened in some committees. Under the new schedule, the Board will have these long work sessions, at our conference table, in a setting that is more conducive to discussion and learning, and working together to problem solve. Many of the staff presentations of information can happen in this setting, where we can discuss things without the need for microphones.

This is all really good news! We have continued to hold public comment sessions that extend far beyond the required thirty minutes. I have faith in our Board, that this practice will continue so that all will continue to be heard. The bottom line is that I am in favor of the Board being afforded this opportunity to be able to work together. This new plan may just be what we were looking for!

This is an exciting time, full of possibilities for each of our 143,000 students at each of our 163 schools! As the Board of Education looks more deeply into ways to increase the level of academic achievement, and ways to help students and align them with their goals for the future, I am feeling that the coming seasons will bring further success to all in the Wake County Public School System.

So, as the summer winds down, and the traditional school years gears up, I want to wish ALL of Wake County a happy first day of school!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Budgeting for the Budget

Here we are again.

Our Agenda for tomorrow's meeting shows that we are asked by staff to finalize the WCPSS 2010/2011 Budget.

Where are the answers to the questions that I have been asking since January? Where are the details to the spending that I have requested ad nauseam since early this year? Where are the lists of who has the almost 3600 cell phones/blackberries with plans that the taxpayers are paying for? Why were new contracts signed when I specifically asked for the information BEFORE this would occur? Why are we making cuts that directly impact our students in the classroom, and through Project Enlightenment, while at the same time, committing to spend over a quarter of a million dollars for cell phones for bus drivers? Why can't we use good old fashioned radios (with free airtime)? Why do we put this mechanism in the hands of drivers, so they can talk and text while driving our children around? Who has the other 2500 phones that WE are all paying for? Why do they "need" them?

Additonally, why are we paying another quarter of a million dollars this year for Blue Diamond testing when we have a huge Evaluation and Research Department? Why do we pay a staff member to act as a lobbyist? Why aren't we budgeting for the Budget???

We have had many instances of late, where information has been brought to the Board of Education in a last minute "you MUST approve this tonight" methodology. I do not agree with this tactic. I will not rubber stamp items that directly impact our children, our teachers and our community. I am asking a lot of questions. Tomorrow's meeting could be a long one...

I remain true to our children, our families, our faculty, our local businesses, and all of the stakeholders of the Wake County Public School System.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Superintendent Search

I'm back to blogging! How else will anyone know what I am working on?

Today, I'd like to talk about the search for our new Superintendent. During our Committee meetings, I feel that it is very important to give everyone the opportunity to express their opinions and to be heard. We are having some great discussions, working together and reaching consensus as to how to proceed. This will all ultimately benefit the children of Wake County. Last week's meeting covered a lot of ground and gave us a great opportunity to analyze the different search firms that are vying for the job to help us select our new Superintendent.

The new Superintendent will be the leader of our school system. Quite an important role! As the Board makes policy, the Superintendent will be responsible for implementing it. This new leader will be directing the Administration, Faculty and Staff towards a higher level of academic achievement for ALL of our students. It's vital that we give our stakeholders an opportunity to share what you feel are important characteristics for this new leader.

To date, we have reached consensus with the Board, voting to hire a professional search firm, and to allocate dollars from the Fund Balance to cover the costs associated with the search. The process must be transparent and open. I am enjoying the process and thank all of those that have chosen to participate:)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Open Mind

As I go forward to a closed session and then more public hearings this week, I feel it is very important to remind everyone that my mind is completely open on these topics.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Decisions--And learning how to post!

I just realized that I never actually published this post until today. It was from December, 2009:

Decisions are not easy, especially when they involve so many people, with so many differences of opinion. This past week, I had hoped to visit the PLTs at Sanderson High School. I was looking forward to viewing what has been happening during the collaboration time at this school. I had to make a difficult decision. 90 minutes before my appointment at Sanderson, I was asked by our Superintendent to attend a meeting at the NC School Board Association. The meeting had representatives from 115 school boards across North Carolina. I was asked to go to represent the WCPSS in our quest for Race To The Top dollars. This could provide potentially millions of dollars and valuable resources for our schools, but only if North Carolina is selected. I was able to gather information to bring back to the Board and Staff. I have not decided what my personal viewpoint is on this program.

I was disappointed to miss my appointment at Sanderson High School and look forward to going to view their progress in the near future. Decisions aren't easy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Preparing To Serve

I have spent the better part of my time since October 6th preparing to take office. I have met with parent groups, individuals, teachers, PTAs, school staff, administration, municipal leaders across the county, and just about anyone else that was willing to meet with me. The effort has been all-consuming, but well worth it.

I have been reminded of three things. One-Everybody has an opinion. Two-Every opinion has a counter point. In essence, I am listening to what people have to say. This way, when it is time for me to cast a vote, or to express an opinion I will feel that I have really researched the topic and made the effort to seek out public opinion. This leads me to Three-It will not be humanly possible for me to make everybody happy. I will strive to do the best that I can, to seek out information and to drill down on the issues, before making a determination or casting a vote.

I am looking forward to serving the people of Wake County.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Welcome to my Blog!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support. I look forward to serving you as a member of the Wake County Board of Education. I began this blog to better communicate with you, the parents and taxpayers. I look forward to working for you and I encourage you to check back often for updates!