The actions of the Wake County school board's new majority members at their first meeting Tuesday have stirred up more letters than we have room to print. (Find some on tomorrow's editorial page and Sunday in Sunday Forum). Here are nine.
What has happened to transparency and ethical behavior of elected officials that we as North Carolinians value? The behavior of our newly elected school board members and Ron Margiotta at the Dec. 1 meeting does not represent the core values of Wake County.
It seems very suspicious that they showed up with a last-minute revised agenda, without prior review, ready for vote. All of this had to be orchestrated prior to being sworn into office. Could it be that Margiotta, Chris Malone, John Tedesco, Debra Goldman and Deborah Prickett were actually meeting privately prior to the board meeting and possibly in violation of the N.C. Public Meeting Laws?
Apparently, they did not have enough respect for the other board members to let them know ahead of time what they would be asked to vote on. Does this convey to the public that they are trustworthy, ethical and transparent?
I find it very interesting that the five majority members approved a resolution to appoint interim special legal counsel, naming Thomas A. Farr with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak and Stewart to that position. I wonder whether Farr or any of his partners gave campaign contributions to any of the newly elected board members. Why would this new board find it necessary to appoint additional legal counsel if they are being transparent and ethical?
I also wonder how much that special legal counsel is going to cost the school system, taking money away from teachers, books and lunches.
Also of special note is Malone’s resolution to cease all expenditures on the H-6 high school site in his area to seek alternative sites. Malone says that his district is ready to face the consequences of further delays, and that he is OK with sites outside the attendance area of the high school. Does this mean that he is in favor of this school NOT being a “neighborhood” school? Really?
Can we trust this new board? Are they really serving “every” child in the
Wake County Public Schools? The actions of this school board will affect all Wake County citizens and businesses, whether you have children in the public schools or not. We need to take action, and let this board know how ee feel.
The behavior of the newly elected school board and its constituents for change is quite ironic. These local Republicans, who have been quick to criticize our president for change, have done exactly what they claim our president has done. The new board has initiated swift change with no regard for the views of the other side. At least President Obama has attempted to build consensus for his ideas and has not rammed his ideas down our throats.
If Obama had acted as our school board has, we would already have a national health insurance plan, would have left Iraq and Afghanistan, and would have taken steps to reduce global warming. Instead, Obama has taken a slower approach, much to the chagrin of many of his supporters, trying to build consensus; remembering that he is the president of Democrats and Republicans.
Maybe our school board should consider a similar approach.
An open letter to John Tedesco:
By holding private meetings with undisclosed groups before you were officially sworn in as my representative and by presenting decisions made during those secretive meetings as official school board business, you have denied me the opportunity to share my concerns with you. Who knows – I might have supported your decisions had I been privy to the deliberations that led you and your four cohorts to dismiss current board policies. Your actions to date lead me to wonder which special interest groups have access to you and how their agendas will compromise my children’s education. Your participation in the disrespect of your fellow board members and in the subversion of the intent of the Open Public Meeting Laws has caused you to start your term as my representative with my mistrust instead of my respect.
I expect you to fulfill your responsibilities as my school board representative by gathering facts, considering the recommendations of education professionals and soliciting comments from your entire constituency. When you conduct your school board duties in a respectful, thoughtful, and inclusive manner, I will support your efforts, regardless of whether I agree, or respectfully disagree, with your decisions.
The old school board ran over Ron Margiotta like a steamroller a hundred times when it had an 8:1 majority. Where was the indignation then? Margiotta called for proof that proposed programs were or would be effective, and they blew him off. When he challenged the costs of land and construction, they ran over him. When parents asked for explanations and reasons for actions from the old board, they were ignored. So far, the worst the new board has done was to mimic the arrogant behavior of the former board.
I would like to see the new board keep some form of magnet school system, but the old system was a poorly disguised plot to bribe students from Caucasian families in West County to transfer to East Raleigh schools while blocking out many bright kids who lived in East Raleigh who wanted and needed to get into the magnets.
The goal of the WCPSS should be to educate all students. Let’s wait until the test scores are in before you get out the tar and feathers.
Winston T. Hooker Sr.
While I don’t necessarily approve of the way the new Wake school board members acted recently, did they perhaps take their cue from the Obama administration, which promised “consensus building” right up till the moment he took the oath? Both the stimulus package and the health care bill featured no effort to “reach across the aisle,” voting on bills no one had read, pushing important legislation at breakneck speed, etc. Maybe the new school board members should just accuse the other side of being “obstructionist” and “having no better (or new) ideas” as they use their new found clout to ramrod legislation.
Can the new school board members be impeached?
Rena C. Stevenson
Over the course of the last year, the new BOE majority has accused outgoing board members of acting in arrogance, carrying out personal agendas and ramming through changes without adequate notice. But at their first meeting Dec. 1, these same individuals exhibited exactly those behaviors they found so objectionable in the past.
They introduced major systemwide policy changes without giving the public, media or fellow board members any notice. When questioned about the need to make decisions without giving anyone time to study the proposals, they gave no justification. They authorized the hiring of an attorney with little education experience for an undisclosed fee and in so doing gave the new chairman unprecedented power. And they did so right after passing a resolution to reduce costs! They reversed a program that improves student outcomes and provides invaluable professional development for teachers, at no additional cost, without any attempt to study its effectiveness.
Most voters assume that anyone who runs for school board – whatever his or her politics – is doing so out of a sincere interest in children and education and will put those interests above political agendas. Little evidence of that was shown Tuesday night.
I learned that the new school board has decided to eliminate early release Wednesdays at the close of this academic year. I wonder whether the board members who so voted understand the demands placed on elementary teachers during the work week? Let me provide an illustration.
At my school, which is a WCPSS school, our teachers are with students 7:30-2:45 daily. Yes, students do go to lunch and recess daily and have three 35-minute specials a week, but freedom to work without students during these times is unpredictable. If a student is sick, needs extra assistance on academic skills, is distraught over an issue at home or school, can’t go outside due to weather and /or requires attention to follow through with a behavior plan, it is often the teacher who handles the situation. Specials, lunch and recess minutes are quickly eroded.
As a result, teachers use the time after school to accomplish many tasks. If one uses an eight-hour workday schedule (7:30-3:30) this leaves the teacher 45 minutes a day to work without students present. In that time, the following tasks must be accomplished:
Prepare 5.5 hours of engaging presentations daily. This includes researching materials and ideas for teaching reading (decoding and comprehension skills), writing (composition, grammar and spelling skills), math (calculation and applied math skills), science and social studies. It also includes making materials for the developed plans. In the areas of reading, writing and math, this includes planning for 2-3 groups working at different levels to meet the needs of diverse learners. The typical elementary school teacher may be responsible for developing and making materials for up to 11 lessons a day. How many hours does a corporate employee usually require to prepare an engaging hour-long presentation?
Evaluate and document individual student performance on academic and behavior objectives.
Develop academic and behavior strategies as needed to address needs of struggling students. Monitor and document progress as strategies are implemented.
Write Individual Education Plans (at least one per special education student per year).
Meet with parents to develop plans and review progress.
Evaluate and document progress quarterly on report card (all students) and IEP progress note (if student receives special education services).
Meet with staff to discuss student concerns.
Meet with staff to discuss schoolwide concerns.
This has been the picture at all three elementary schools in which I have taught. It is the situation for many of our elementary teachers.
And now the school board proposes to eliminate the one dedicated hour per week for all staff to be released from student responsibilities to collaboratively analyze student progress and provide support in developing strategies as needed? Where will that hour be found in the schedule listed above? Teachers already spend hours past the 40-hour work week (at school and at home) to accomplish the above tasks.
I know the school board has stated it would find other ways to accomplish the same tasks. I hope that means hiring enough staff to provide each teacher with a dedicated one-hour planning period a day, as provided for middle and high school teachers.
Lead teacher, Bridges Alternative Elementary
To the new members of the Wake County School Board: Shame on you. Shame on each and every one of you. Why in the world would you consciously choose to alienate all of the other side and the sensible half of your own side right away? Maybe it was the euphoria of winning. Maybe it was mob mentality. Maybe it was the middle-school bullying that you never got over and need to pay somebody back for. Maybe it was the same arrogance that you tried to pin on the outgoing board. Whatever motivated you to act like the outlaw band come to shoot up the sheriff, shame on you. Surely your mamas taught you better.