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Wake group to visit Fairfax County school system

Schools will be in the spotlight in a pair of inter-city trips over the next two weeks.

This week, the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Chamber will host visitors from the Richmond area in Virginia. Next week, four Wake County school board members are part of a chamber-sponsored trip to the Greater D.C. area.

During next week's trip, the Raleigh group will visit Fairfax County Public Schools in northern Virginia, whose assignment system had been cited as a model that Wake can use for its community-based schools.

Rejecting four-day weeks, half-day kindergarten and furloughs

If you're one of the people who've wondered if a four-day work week would be the way to deal with school budget cuts in Wake County, it's not considered a viable option yet.

Chief Business Officer David Neter laid out eight different options Wednesday they said had been suggested by people, including school board members, for coping with $20 million in state cuts. Those eight options were all rejected for various reasons.

Neter said it would take a change in state law to allow Wake to move to a four-day work week. State law requires schools to have both 180 days and 1,000 hours of instruction.

Adding voluntary diversity language to the student assignment policy

The Wake County school board may include language calling for voluntary diversity in the revised student assignment policy.

As noted in today's online article by Thomas Goldsmith, board members at today's policy committee meeting talked about having some diversity language in the new policy 6200. It looks like the language would be similar to what's in the voluntary desegregation resolution that was passed last week to apply for a federal magnet schools grant.

One of the continuing points of contention is that the new Policy 6200 didn't have any references to diversity.

Consequences of later start times for Wake high schools

Would you be wiling to send Wake County elementary students to the bus stop before 7 a.m. in order to flip schedules around to start high schools later in the day?

School transportation officials presented a model last week of what things could look like if high schools were to start after 9 a.m. But the model would involve flipping around the three-tier bus system so that some elementary schools start at 7:25 a.m.

It's not an option that most school board members are considering, at least for this fall. Whether there's interest down the road remains to be seen.

Hargens not commenting on school board actions

New interim Wake County Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens says she's learned a lot from the superintendents she's served under, including Del Burns.

But one of the most important lessons Hargens seems to have picked up from watching Burns is not to publicly criticize the school board. As noted in today's article, Hargens declined to give her opinion on the changes being advocated by the new school board majority.

“The board is dealing with complex issues,” Hargens said. “Those are governance issues. My focus is on learning and teaching.”

Potential changes in 2010-11 traditional calendar

Wake County traditional-calenar parents may want to keep their winter break plans for the 2010-11 school year flexible.

It's possible that the new school board majority may make changes that would eliminate teacher workdays scheduled for Dec. 22 and Jan. 3, respectively the first and last days of winter break. A work day on Oct. 1 might also be cut.

If they're eliminated, it would be done to build up more potential makeup days to avoid cutting into spring break.

Magnet parents worrying about bus service

Rumors are swirling around Wake County's magnet school community about the possible loss or reduction in school bus service.

Magnet parents probably don't have to worry about that kind of a drastic change in bus service for this fall. But you might want to be on the lookout for down the road.

The issue came up during Tuesday's committee of the whole discussion as school board members and staff brainstormed about ways to avoid having most elementary schools run from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. this fall.

Where were Goldman and Prickett?

Some questions were raised at Tuesday's Wake County school board meeting when board members Debra Goldman and Deborah Prickett weren't present for the start of public comment.

Both board members missed the first 11 of the 20 speakers. Their absence was noticed by Christine Kushner, a critic of the new board majority and member of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, who asked if she would wait for them to return before she spoke.

School board chairman Ron Margiotta's answer that Goldman and Prickett were in a meeting was met with audible skepticism by the crowd.

Wake's voluntary desegregation resolution

Here's the voluntary desegregation resolution that drew so much heat at Tuesday's Wake County school board meeting.

As noted in today's article, the board split 5-4 on the resolution's passage. The resolution is needed for Wake to apply for the next round of federal magnet school assistance program grants.

The resolution's supporters say that it shows Wake is still committed to diversity even though it's going to community-based schools. Opponents of the resolution say the call for diversity is hollow and only meant to secure the grant.

"Politics" of reversing the Lacy-Stough moves

The Lacy-Stough and Garner-Southeast Raleigh moves were approved Tuesday, but not without some melodrama.

As noted in today's article, the board majority voted 5-4 to reverse the 2009 reassignment of three nodes from Lacy Elementary School to Stough Elementary. But the vote came after Deborah Prickett objected to media coverage about how the Lacy families had given political donations to help the new board majority last fall.

Prickett called it "political" that the N&O had run a story that mentioned the contributions on the day of the board vote. She said the article gave the impression that "affluent parents aren’t supposed to have a choice."

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