Wake Ed

Wake County school board talks about “messaging” having a one-year student assignment plan

The words “messaging” and “message” were repeatedly brought up at the end of Thursday’s Wake County school board student assignment seminar to describe how to publicly explain the change in scope of the new plan.

As noted in today’s article, school administrators said the new plan should only cover the 2015-16 school year because they don’t yet have all the school sites in the following years. It was enough of a change in scope that administrators asked board members for input on how to explain only having a one-year plan.

"How does the board feel about a one-year plan based on what we've told you here?” said Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance. “And then what would be some key messaging around that if that's where we end up because we don't even have the land for all the schools for the next year?”

Most school board members said it’s not a big deal to only have a one-year plan for the 2015-16 school year.

“I think it's a messaging issue here,” said school board member Jim Martin. “When it comes across as a one-year assignment plan, the perception is we've got a plan, then we're going to change it, here's another plan. That's not what we're talking about.

What we're talking about here, if I'm understanding correctly, is a plan for next year in the context of our student assignment plan. I think our student assignment plan, our goal is to be building this thing that's going to have staying power, that's not going to be a one-year thing, that sets out the principles that are going to go year after year after year. We're not going to get that all perfect.

When we talk about the student achievement issues. which we really haven't scratched the surface on yet, we're going to have to look at some things and we're going to have to decide do they get implemented right away? Do they get implemented over some time? What are all the issues with that?

So I don't think we can sit here and say we're gong to have the assignment plan for next year and then a different one. But we need a plan for next year. So I'm good with working at supporting a plan for next year as we work on a student assignment plan that has legs for staying power.”

But some board members were concerned about reducing the scope of the plan.

"I've been telling a lot of my constituents for a long time that we've been working on an overhaul of all our schools' base attendance area, and that's going to be forthcoming,” said school board member Susan Evans. “It's not siting well with me to just say that we're going to take another year."

School board chairwoman Christine Kushner tried to address Evans’ concerns.

"I think the messaging, to your point, is exactly where we should focus as far as presenting a long-term strategy in one -year increments that are responding to efficiencies to updated data,” Kushner said. “You know, changes that are deliberative but that are still focused on a long-term strategy for assignment that we need to work on."

But Evans said that "the wording one-year assignment plan is making me uncomfortable.”

Tim Simmons, the chief communications officer, asked Evans if it would work better to think of it as “the first year of a long-range framework.”

By the end of the meeting, board members seemed to agree on a way to explain it to the public to say that they’re still thinking multi-year even if the new plan is only for one year.

“A multi-year framework, the first year of a multi-year process, I like that,” Kushner said.