5 Wake schools go to new schedule

Schedule shift will affect 3,000 students

Staff writersMay 4, 2011 

  • Wake County school board members, superintendents or top staff seeking school transfers for their children would have to receive approval by the full board under a proposal discussed at Tuesday's work session.

    Most parents request transfers by submitting forms to the administration. The forms are vetted first by staff members and by board panels in the case of appeals. In cases known as administrative transfers, the superintendent or designee can approve the move.

    The issue arose after acting Superintendent Donna Hargens approved a transfer for board member Debra Goldman's daughter early this year. At least one board member recommended that all transfers go through the same channels.

    "It seems to go off track from the normal process that we have," board member Deborah Prickett said.

    Terri Cobb, Wake's chief of staff, said the new policy would only take effect if the idea for the transfer came from the administration. After an investigation in the Goldman transfer, Tata found that it had followed school policy, but also suggested taking a second look at the process.

    The proposed new policy will be considered at a subsequent meeting.

— With the shadow of next year's bare-bones budget hanging over them, Wake County school board members voted Tuesday to change schedules at five year-round elementary schools, a cost-saving move affecting more than 3,000 students and their families.

The board also adopted a $1.2 billion budget proposal Tuesday for the coming fiscal year that likely will be changed once the extent of state funding cuts is known. But in the interim, the board approved giving teachers a one-time $500 bonus.

Schools making the schedule change are Alston Ridge and Highcroft in Cary, Rand Road and Timber Drive in Garner and Lake Myra in Knightdale. Though they'll remain year-round schools, all the students would be on the same schedule instead of four different ones as is usual at year-round programs.

Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata maintained that the schedule change could save $400,000 in reduced transportation, utility and staffing costs.

"We believe this will help our budget in these austere times," he said.

The savings pales next to the tens of millions Wake is on the brink of losing because of reduced state contributions and status-quo county funding.

Republican board members turned back a last-minute move by Democratic board member Dr. Anne McLaurin to ask the Wake County Board of Commissioners for about $8 million more to maintain per pupil funding to keep up with enrollment growth.

"I do think we have a responsibility as a board to seek more funding, particularly given that we are in the third year of flat funding," Democratic board member Keith Sutton said.

Republican Vice Chairwoman Debra Goldman sighed before her vote, weighing her desire for more support with her knowledge of the county's financial straits and the advanced stage of the budget process.

"I'm really torn," Goldman said. "But I have to vote no."

In developing the budget, Tata said he identified 14 under-used year-round schools. School officials then surveyed the parents, students and teachers at the schools to get their opinions.

School staff ranked the schools based on criteria such as teachers' and principals' support, parents' opinions on transferring out and middle schools' ability to accommodate siblings.

Each campus would follow one schedule, instead of dividing their students into four groups, called tracks. It's expected that the schools will choose track 4, which is closer to the traditional-calendar, beginning classes Aug. 1.

Some speakers urged the school board not to make the change, saying those schools will hold fewer students while operating on only one track.

Also Tuesday, the school board delayed voting on an overhaul of the student discipline policies. Board members said they needed to review the changes in more detail.

thomas.goldsmith@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8929

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