Wake Ed

Wake County school board calls school opening smooth

A group of students from Wilburn Elementary demonstrate the procedure as Wake County Schools announce a new way for kids crossing the street to board a school bus during a demonstration held at the school in Raleigh on Tuesday, June 23, 2015..
A group of students from Wilburn Elementary demonstrate the procedure as Wake County Schools announce a new way for kids crossing the street to board a school bus during a demonstration held at the school in Raleigh on Tuesday, June 23, 2015.. Chris Seward

Has the start of the 2015-16 school year been the smoothest in recent years for the Wake County school system or are school leaders trying to spin things?

During last Tuesday’s school board meeting, several school board members took time during their comments to thank staff for how things have gone since school began. Board members talked about receiving less complaints this school year than during the opening of prior years.

School board Chairwoman Christine Kushner called the opening “great” and “amazingly quiet and amazingly calm.” She then proceeded to apparently contrast this year with the chaotic opening of the 2012-13 school year that was used as one of the reasons for firing Superintendent Tony Tata.

“I want to acknowledge that work (preparing for new school year) and thank every single one of our 18,000 employees for the successful start,” Kushner said. “Having served on this board when we had a start of school that was not so quiet, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank every single one of the folks who made it possible.”

School board member Monika Johnson-Hostler contrasted her second school opening on the board with the 2014-15 school year. Johnson-Hostler said she hasn’t had to call Chief Business Officer David Neter, who oversees transportation, as much this year.

“It’s been fabulous,” Johnson-Hostler said. “Less calls this year, less complaints. So I’m like you excited that most folks are off to a great school year.”

School board member Bill Fletcher was particularly effusive in his praise of how the transportation department has been reorganized the past two years.

“Transportation this year was properly staffed and organized to the point where the folks who were supposed to be in the various transportation offices could actually be in their offices and answer the phones if there were an issue,” Fletcher said. “To have our bus fleet fully staffed with drivers and operating on an almost perfect schedule – we had a couple of late buses and a little bit of confusion here and there.

But I just want to give a shout out to the transportation staff for their hard work in making the opening week as smooth as it was. I know there are still a couple of little bumps in the system, as there will be any time you’re trying to start up a system from ground zero and serve more than 80,000 students twice a day.”

School board member Susan Evans said it’s been the quietest opening during her four years on the board – to the point where she said she hadn’t gotten any e-mails complaining about bus service.

“It has by far and above been the quietest year so far for me so that means things are going well,” Evans said. “In terms of transportation in particular, I did not get a single e-mail, not a single email about a bus being late to pick up or drop off a child or their bus being too crowded.

I’m not assuming from that that there were no issues, but compared to years past if I didn’t get a single e-mail, there must have been a pretty significant drop in issues so you really are to be commended,”

School board member Kevin Hill was more succinct in his description of the start of classes.

“Thank you to staff, teachers, parents, everyone,” Hill said. “It was a very, very smooth opening from what I could gather as well, and I’ve lost count on how many Augusts.”

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