Wake County school board speaks out on end of Renaissance Schools

Posted by T. Keung Hui on June 19, 2014 

Some Wake County school board members say the board shouldn’t be blamed for not continuing the Renaissance Schools program.

During Tuesday’s school board meeting, board member Jim Martin and board vice chairman Tom Benton took exception to Sunday’s article about the Renaissance Program ending this month. Martin, who was a vocal critic of the program, said the board shouldn’t be blamed because it took no specific vote to end the program.

Funding for the program from the federal Race to the Top grant runs out this school year. Wake opted not to spend around $2 million in local funds to keep a program that would have allowed five high-poverty schools to continue to reduce class size, offer additional intervention to struggling students and pay signing and performance bonuses to teachers.

“On Sunday, I read an article in the paper that surprised me,” Martin said during board comments. “It was talking about – I think overstating – that the programs at Renaissance Schools were canceled by this board. This board has not had such a conversation. I must admit some frustration when I see things written in the newspaper about what this board has done when we have taken no specific action.

I’d like to be clear for the public, on the record, that what this board has been doing, as long as I have been on it, is working to try to understand how we can address differential resourcing, equity in our schools. This is a non-trivial matter. It’s not just for schools that got labeled as Renaissance Schools that need this attention. The attention is much broader than that.

And you have seen some of the programs that we have proposed and things that we would like to be able to do. But you also saw, if you paid attention to what was going on in our work session today, we can’t do it when there’s ‘not no money,’ and the Race to the Top funding has run out. That doesn’t mean that we have cut programs.

We’re trying to continue a lot of the programming that has been successful at some of those schools. We’d like to expand literacy initiatives. We know that we need to build up efforts in Eastern Wake County, specifically with the Knightdale Task Force. We can’t do that when there is no money.

This board has not decided to end programs. This board is trying to do the best it can when money is not made available, whether it’s from the federal, state or local levels.”

Benton said he wanted to thank Martin for his comments.

“I had the same issues with the newspaper article about the Renaissance Program when I know how hard the staff and the board has been working, and even previous staffs and boards have worked, to try to solve the riddle of helping underachieving kids in schools that have a high percentage of underachieving students,” Benton said.

It is a massive challenge, and there are lessons that have been learned from the Renaissance project – good and bad – that we’ll build upon as we move forward to try to help every student be successful and not only graduating but ready for employment or further education once they leave our schools.”

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