Did Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata give enough information on the new single-sex leadership academies before asking for the school board to approve them Tuesday?
As noted in today's article, three of the Democratic board members argued they couldn't give their support without having more information on the academies. But Tata argued the board had less information when it had voted to approve the Wake Early College at N.C. State that opened this year.
Throughout Tuesday's meeting, Tata pressed the board to act that day. He said it would show Wake's commitment to start the academies as it continued to build partnerships with other groups.
For instance, Tata said they've talked with the General H. Hugh Shelton Leadership Center at N.C. State.
"Before we can have discussions with them, they need to know we’re serious," Tata said.
Click here for the handout on the single-sex schools and the K-8 Hilburn Elementary plan.
Tata said the genesis for the leadership academies came after he was approached by school board members Keith Sutton and John Tedesco.
But in a sign of the discontent to come, school board member Kevin Hill said that it appeared some board members have only known about the single-sex academies for three weeks. It was officially presented to the board on Sept. 6.
"The rapidity that we’re being asked to approve millions of dollars has got me a little uncomfortable," Hill said.
But Tata, in response later to a question from Sutton, said some people say he's moving too fast and some say he's moving too slow. He said waiting a year won't help some students.
"We can do this in 12-13," Tata said. "We need a decision now on it. I feel this is an excellent plan meshed together with the right program and the right facilities. It can enhance educational quality."
The tenor of the questioning continued during the public comment section of the regular board meeting, which again like the crowd consisted of critics of the board majority.
Lynn Edmonds questioned the legality of diverting bond money approved by voters in 2006 for use in the leadership academies.
Later, Sutton asked school board attorney Ann Majestic to assure the public they could use the bond money for the capital costs for the leadership schools.
During the discussion at the board table, board member Anne McLaurin questioned approving funding for the leadership academies when they hadn't approved yet starting the programs. That remark drew applause from the crowd.
McLaurin questioned whether they were putting "the cart before the horse." She said they usually approve concepts first before voting on the funding.
McLaurin said they should have discussion on the leadership academies first, prompting Tata to say they had discussed it during the work session.
Hill called for a motion to divide up the resolution. He wanted three separate votes. One would be a vote on the funding for the leadership academies. One would be a vote on Hilburn. The other would be on the rest of the plan, such as the ninth-grade centers and the new high school in Apex.
School board chairman Ron Margiotta asked Tata if they needed to vote on the leadership academies Tuesday to push them along.
"I think we are ready for the vote today," Tata said. "I support a bundled vote and I believe that we have a strong vision to efficiently spend taxpayer dollars, create more space and broaden our program offerings.”
I don't think it's audible on the tape, but I could hear Yevonne Brannon, head of the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, saying from the audience after Tata's remarks that "you shouldn’t be talking against your board members."
McLaurin responded to Tata that she didn't follow the process was being followed correctly.
The vote on Hill's motion was defeated 5-4 on a party-line vote.
Next came the 5-3 vote on the bundled $130.3 million plan with Sutton being the lone Democrat to vote yes.
"I support the academies, and I think they are a very good idea," McLaurin said. "I just have trouble doing that at this moment without a little bit of further information about them so I'll have to say no. Sorry."
Hill said he couldn't support the entire bundle.
The other Republican board members, as they cast their votes, specifically said they were supporting Tata and his request.
Board member Carolyn Morrison said she too supports Tata but not his bundled request.
(There's a lot more stuff from the meeting to blog about. I'll try to get caught up on them during the day.)