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Wake County school board weighs whether to restore cuts to school instructional supplies

Should the Wake County school system move now to offset a $2.1 million cut in school instructional supplies or hold off to see if the money is needed to deal with other budget cuts?

As a quick refresher, the budget proposal adopted May 1 by the school board calls for cutting instructional supplies by $13.96 per student. That covers things like paper and pencils. With some board members balking at approving the budget, staff said they'd look for ways to mitigate the cuts.

The proposal presented by staff at Tuesday's board work session is to give schools an additional $2.1 million for supplies in this fiscal year. The cut for the 2012-13 fiscal year would still occur but this infusion of money would offset it.

Wake County school board narrowly passes budget request

The Wake County school board came very close on Tuesday to not having adopted a budget request for the 2012-13 school year.

As noted in today's article, the 6-3 vote in favor the budget proposal was very much in doubt until the roll call vote. Every vote was needed because it took a two-thirds majority to waive a policy that limits Wake from using more than half its fund balance to balance the budget.

Signs of the budget being in trouble came early in the discussion when Democratic board members Kevin Hill and Jim Martin said they couldn't vote yes. They didn't feel that the requested $8.8 million increase from the Wake County Commissioners was enough in light of cuts in recent years.

Wake County school board member asking for more money to eliminate cut in instructional supplies and to increase school cleaning

The Wake County school board could ask county commissioners for an even bigger funding increase than now is on the table to avoid cutting school supplies and to increase custodial services at schools.

The proposed budget from Superintendent Tony Tata includes asking commissioners for an $8.8 million funding increase for the 2012-13 fiscal year. School board chairman Kevin Hill proposed today also asking commissioners for enough money to eliminate a potential $2 million cut in school supplies and to cover an amount to be determined to increase custodial services.

Hill cited the impact on classrooms by cutting $13.96 per student for instructional supplies and the health gains from increasing cleaning at schools. The school system had cut back on custodial services for this fiscal year.

1335306644 Wake County school board member asking for more money to eliminate cut in instructional supplies and to increase school cleaning The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wake County schools facing new $2.75 million budget hole

The Wake County school board got some more bad budget news today with a new $2.75 million funding hole in the 2012-13 budget.

The bulk of the shortfall comes from two areas. One, the board's decision to adopt a scaled-back bell schedule proposal means they'll now have to add $1.3 million to the budget. Two, the state's discretionary education funding cut will be $1.1 million more for Wake than projected.

To make up the bulk of the money, staff is recommending cutting $2.1 million in school supplies. The $85 per student allotment would be cut by $13.96.

UPDATE

Click here for a handout on the gap. The first page shows where the shortfall is coming from. The second page shows the cut in school supplies and how much each chief has to cut from his/her department.

Wake County schools may "kick the can" by using fund balance to avoid layoffs

It looks, like for now, the Wake County school board will sign off on staff's recommendation to use $28.8 million out of the $33.9 million in the rainy-day fund.

As noted in today's article, staff made two pitches for using most of the money in the undesignated fund balance. One, staff said it's needed to avoid layoffs. Two, staff said they can replenish much of the fund balance for one more year in 2013.

"Long term, for the health of the school system, we do need to get away from using a significant amount of the fund balance toward recurring expenditures," Chief Business Officer David Neter told the school board. "That is not fiscally ideal. But again as I shared with you when I presented the budget a couple of weeks ago, we’re in survival mode at this point."

Looking at Wake County school employee salaries

For those who are curious, the Raleigh Public Record has posted the salaries of Wake County school employees as part of Sunshine Week.

Not surprisingly, the three-highest paid employees as of February were Superintendent Tony Tata at $255,222, Chief Business Officer David Neter at $150,831 and Chief Facilities and Operations Officer Don Haydon at $150,666. for privacy reasons, the Public Record didn't list the names of people making less than $75,000 a year.

There's one caveat to the list. It lists the salaries of interim principals. But while Gerald Pickett would be paid the equivalent of $127,246 if he was on for the full year, he actually works on a month-to-month basis.

A number of retired Wake principals are called back to fill in as interim principals for various reasons. Because of their experience, they often have higher monthly salaries than the people eventually hired to fill the jobs permanently.

Wake County school board member Debra Goldman objecting to private briefings before budget is released

Is it appropriate for Wake County school board members to hold private meetings with staff to go over the budget before it's publicly presented?

As noted in this online article by Thomas Goldsmith, school board member Debra Goldman is objecting to board chairman Kevin Hill's request that Superintendent Tony Tata set up private meetings between board members and Chief Business Officer David Neter before the budget is made public March 6. In addition, board members must agree not to publicly share the information before March 6.

It's a practice that was typically done by prior boards. But it was not exercised by Ron Margiotta when he was board chairman in 2010 and 2011.

"We should be having these discussions as a Board, together, transparently and publicly!" Goldman writes in an email to Hill. "Why the secret meetings and information embargoes?  It all just begs to ask one question... WHY would you want to hide this from the public?"

1351217426 Wake County school board member Debra Goldman objecting to private briefings before budget is released The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wake County school board to vote on hiring Michael Alves to help implement new student assignment plan

Michael Alves stands to get hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Wake County school system for his help implementing the new controlled-choice student assignment plan.

The school board will vote today on this contract to pay the Alves Educational Consulting Group up to $110,000 for the rest of the fiscal year. The contract pays Alves' firm for services in support of implementation of the assignment plan and the continued utilization of his proprietary "Controlled Choice" software system.

The contract expires June 30. But the contract also contains wording that it's expected to be renewed and in effect for at least the next three years.

UPDATE

The contract was approved 6-3. Jim Martin voted no. I'm not sure who else did.

1328674575 Wake County school board to vote on hiring Michael Alves to help implement new student assignment plan The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Raising more questions about Michael Alves' unannounced meeting with new Wake County school board members

The issue of Michael Alves' unannounced private meeting with the new Democratic members of the Wake County school board won't seem to go away.

The issue was revisited with some heated comments during Tuesday's board meeting. The discussion, more of which is detailed later in the post, shows the continuing wariness between the Republican and Democratic members.

More recently, Terry Stoops, director of education studies for the conservative John Locke Foundation, brought up the issue in a Thursday blog post.

1347254398 Raising more questions about Michael Alves' unannounced meeting with new Wake County school board members The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wake County school board members on the level of scrutiny of the student assignment plan's implementation

Are the new Democratic members of the Wake County school board doing their job to make sure the student assignment plan is ready or are they micromanaging the process?

That was a point of contention between Republican and Democratic board members during Tuesday's review of the assignment plan. The first half of the meeting dealt with a look at how the school system is handling its outreach efforts, particularly informing parents about their options and getting them to register if they're new.

Some tense words were exchanged over the issue of whether school registrars and data managers are able to do the job of getting students registered and informed about their options.

1347334003 Wake County school board members on the level of scrutiny of the student assignment plan's implementation The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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