After e-mail stirs anger, Wake NCAE head apologizes

Staff WriterNovember 12, 2009 

— The head of the organization representing Wake County school employees is apologizing for sending a message to group leaders in which she accused four newly elected school board members of not caring about children and teachers.

Jennifer Lanane, president of the 5,000-member Wake chapter of the N.C. Association of Educators, said she had inadvertently sent the message that she said was written in anger. Although she apologized this week, the message highlights the tension between new board members and her group, which didn't endorse any of the winning candidates.

"It was a mistake," Lanane said in an interview Wednesday. "We all make mistakes. I apologized."

But the damage may not be easily repaired.

"It's extremely disappointing that she would send this kind of message to her members," said incoming school board member Deborah Prickett, a former Wake teacher and past member of Wake NCAE. "It doesn't help the situation."

Prickett and three other new board members who are supporters of neighborhood schools and opponents of the district's diversity policy and mandatory year-round schools were elected this fall. They'll take office Dec. 1 and join current board member Ron Margiotta in forming a new majority on the nine-member board.

During the campaign, the leadership of Wake NCAE endorsed supporters of the diversity policy.

On Oct. 27, Lanane sent a message to her group's school representatives that said she had heard the new board members would do away with the weekly Wednesday early dismissals that allow teachers to meet in planning groups after school.

Many parents oppose the early dismissals, dubbed "Wacky Wednesdays" by some, because it forces them to make special day-care or transportation arrangements for their children.

But Wake NCAE says the planning time helps teachers do a better job of meeting students' academic needs. The group will hold a news conference today to invite community members to attend schools Wednesday to see what the teachers are doing with the time.

Lanane urged her members to lobby the new board to keep the early dismissals. She said the new board was "throwing teachers and students under the bus so that they can show how powerful they are."

"They don't care about children and it [is] now clear that they don't care about teachers...WE HAVE [to] PLANT OUR FLAG IN THE SAND HERE AND NOW," Lanane wrote.

The message made its way into the hands of new board members who complained to Lanane and the NCAE.

On Monday, Lanane sent new board members an apology by e-mail. She said that her Oct. 27 message was a draft she never meant to send.

Lanane said she hopes to work with the new board members despite the disagreements she said many of her members have with them.

"It's about making Wake County schools the very best in the nation," Lanane said. "If we're not talking, then it won't happen."

Prickett and new school board member John Tedesco said they'll try to put the campaign behind them to work with teachers.

"I take her and all others who now want to work with us at their word," Tedesco said. "I give them the benefit of the doubt, until they show me otherwise."

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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