Former Wake County Superintendent Del Burns apparently has a lot to say about the school system in his new book "Preserving the Public in Public Schools."
But, as noted in today's article, Burns' new book isn't officially about Wake. Instead, he writes about the fictional Crestwich Public Schools, which is Wake in all but name.
The book talks about Crestwich/Wake's merger, adoption of magnet schools, busing for diversity, student reassignment, the impact of a new majority sweeping into office and a lot of other things.
Here are some examples:
Burns on magnet schools: "To maintain the draw and special appeal of magnet programs, the district prohibited non-magnet schools from duplicating special programs and offerings found in magnet schools. This created perceptions of unequal treatment. Parents and students in non-magnet schools wanted the opportunities available in magnet schools, but without the cost of having to leave their assigned school."
Burns on district schools vs. neighborhood schools: "Although some school board members issued frequent public reminders that Crestwich schools were district schools and not neighborhood or municipal schools, most residents identified with their neighborhood first, their municipality second, and their school district third.
...'Freedom from' inconvenience and instability became a rallying point for a growing number of residents who found it burdensome to be part of a consolidated school system that emphasized collective responsibility for public education. Part of that collective responsibility meant being willing to populate schools to help achieve district-wide goals."
Burns on the three-year student assignment plan: "The new three-year plan meant that for the first time in decades parents, students, school board members and staff would be able to take a break from the much-dreaded annual reassignment.
...But the effort to create some breathing room in the scheduled process of populating schools was unsuccessful as far as parents were concerned. Apparently, knowing you child would attend a different school in three years was little better than knowing such a change would occur next year."
Burns on mandatory year-round schools: "[Multi-track year-round schools] had become a source of great contention among many Crestwich families. They would become a focal point for supporters of neighborhood schools and parental choice. In retrospect, the financial costs that were avoided by expanding year-round schools were not worth the political and social costs of mandating them."
Burns on the Wake Wednesdays/Wacky Wednesdays: "Mere months before the school board election, the board of education implemented early student release on Wednesdays to provide teachers with additional planning and collaboration time to address student learning needs. Adopted by the board with the best of intentions as a strategy to improve instruction in the face of inadequate funding, it became the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back."
Burns on voter turnout in the 2009 elections: "In an off-year election, voter turnout was even lower than predicted. And with only four of the nine districts involved in the election, many voters were unable to weigh in on the change of direction at stake in this election. The four new board members were elected by seven percent of the total registered voters in their districts. 'The tyranny of a prince is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy' wrote Montesquieu.
Touting the majority of votes they received from a minority of voters, each newly-elected member declared they had won a mandate from the people. Like water receding from the shore, the first signs of the imminent arrival of the tsunami were revealed."
Burns on the board eliminating the diversity policy: “In Crestwich, the question in front of the public is how should the district balance the collective responsibility of educating all children with the rights and responsibilities of individual families and neighborhoods for educating their children? It’s not a very big leap to conclude that most citizens would answer that the district should keep some elements of the current policy of being responsible for the education of all children and adopt the best of the new policy for creating individual family and neighborhood responsibility.
That’s not what happened. Instead the new board majority struck the word ‘diversity’ from its policy documents. For all intents and purposes, such a policy never existed. Virtually every public high school student reads a book about a society in which words and history are being constantly revised in accord with the current political philosophy. Fortunately for the residents of Crestwich, that book is only fiction."
Reaction to the book varies.
“It’s an important book,” said Richard Kahlenberg, senior education fellow for The Century Foundation, a progressive thinktank in D.C. “Wake County is a national story and the book helps explain why school integration is important from the perspective of a leader who courageously resigned when a conservative majority came in and he refused to segregate the school system.”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less from a former employee who is bitter, who was replaced by a quality leader like Superintendent (Tony) Tata, and who wrote a bitter fictional book,” said school board member John Tedesco.