WakeEd

The WakeEd blog is devoted to discussing and answering questions about the major issues facing the Wake County school system. How will the new student assignment plan balance diversity, stability, proximity and stability? How will Jim Merrill replace Tony Tata as the new superintendent of the state's largest district? How will voters react to a $810 million school construction bond referendum on Oct. 8 ballot? How will this fall's school board elections impact the future of the district?

WakeEd is maintained by The News & Observer's Wake schools reporter, T. Keung Hui. While Keung posts information and analysis on the issues, keep us posted on your suggestions, questions, tips and what you're doing to cope with the changes in Wake's schools.

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Looking at the District 3 school board race

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It's the self-described "principled principal" running against three challengers who all think they can do a better job of representing District 3 on the Wake County school board.

As noted in today's article, school board member Kevin Hill is emphasizing his education background in his re-election bid. With the departure of Carolyn Morrison in December, Hill says he would potentially be the only board member left with experience as a teacher and principal.

"As a Board of Education, it's important to have some perspectives from an educator with both my experience as a teacher and principal," Hill said.

Hill acknowledges school board member Deborah Prickett's background as an educator, including her time as a teacher and guidance counselor before taking a job at the state Department of Public Instruction. But he said she's never been a principal.

Hill says that his depth and breath of education experience will aid the board in what it does, such as budgets and student assignment.

Jennifer Mansfield
charges that Hill is talking about his education background because he doesn’t want to run on his record.

“He really has nothing to show for the past four years on the board,” Mansfield said.

Heather Losurdo accuses Hill of under representing the parents of District 3.

"Hill has never represented me," Losurdo said. "He has ignored me. I hear that repeatedly when I talk with parents."

Eric Squires argues that they need more people like him with a business background.

"We've got thousands of moms and thousands of educators," Squires said. "We  already have that viewpoint."

Both Mansfield and Losurdo accuse Hill of not working well with parents who disagree with him, such as on the issue of converting Wakefield Elementary back to a traditional-calendar.

Hill says he's worked behind-the-scenes over the past four years, working directly with principals and schools to get them the resources they need. He cited his efforts to help Millbrook High School gets its International Baccalaureate program started.

Another example, Hill cited, is his admittedly unsuccessful efforts to persuade Superintendent Tony Tata to recommend that Wakefield Elementary be one of the multi-track year-round schools that switched to a single-track calendar for this school year.

Hill said putting Wakefield Elementary on a single-track calendar would have accommodated families and made it easier to put the school back on a multi-track calendar for the growth he sees coming.

Hill said he doesn't believe that they can afford to put Wakefield Elementary back on a traditional calendar. He said doing so could put Wake in the same kind of position it is in with making Hilburn Elementary a K-8 school now that Leesville Road Middle is back on a traditional calendar.

Hill said he hope that his position on keeping Wakefield Elementary as year-round won't cause people to vote against him.

“It’s my hope that voters will look at the entire package,” Hill said. “If voters want to go to the polls and vote on a single issue there’s nothing I can do about that.”

The candidates also had some interesting things to say about the new student assignment plan that will be voted on Oct. 18.

Losurdo said she is concerned about some of the proposed feeder patterns, citing in particular those for Brassfield and North Forest Pines elementary schools. She’s also worried about the 10 to 15 percent of families who are not expected to get their top choice in the new selection lottery.

Losurdo said she couldn't support voting for the plan as it now is.

“It may be best to slow things and wait another year,” Losurdo said.

Mansfield said she’s concerned that the new plan doesn’t include a guaranteed base assignment for families.

Hill complained that the board still hasn't spent the detailed time they should have as a body working on the plan. He said he wished they had spent three or more hours discussing the new plan at a work session instead of the show and tells he says have taken place.

Hill also said he’s concerned that the new plan doesn’t do enough to prevent schools from having large numbers of low-performing students. But he said he’s not advocating a return to the old diversity policy.

“The old student assignment plan is water under the bridge,” Hill said.

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Heather is playing catch up

“It may be best to slow things and wait another year,” Losurdo said."

Oh, that is rich. She's caught up to what Jennifer stated in her press release a month ago! As LL stated, Jennifer is the only one of the group data savvy enough to truly be able to think for herself and promote the best solutions for the students. Jennifer has been following school board issues for over six years (is it eight?) and that focus and knowledge shows.  Heather has been following politics for years and that bias shows. She has not been following school issues specifically. Likewise, that lack of experience shows. 

"Mansfield said she’s concerned that the new plan doesn’t include a guaranteed base assignment for families."

She had a lot more concerns with it than that. (get out your crib notes Heather).

The characterization was that Jennifer had a 'lengthy list of questions... "that have not yet been addressed by the School Board or Administrative Staff. Her analysis is published on her web site Voice for Equity (http://www.voiceforequity.com/), which she started several years ago to discuss the inequity in previous assignment plans."

Additional concerns regarding the Blue Plan that Jennifer submitted in her Sept 6 Press Release:

  • overly complex and is lacking in the transparency
  • public has insufficient information to evaluate these options
  • In Cambridge, MA, which uses a similar controlled choice model, only 83% of families received their 1st, 2nd, or 3rd choice for the school year 2009-10.  What factors contributed to this and could that be repeated here in Wake County?
  • Transportation costs have still not been calculated
  • Feeder patterns are disruptive in many areas
  • Magnet programs and how they fit in the assignment model have not been adequately discussed and neither have our new ‘themed’ schools.

Full text: http://www.newsobserver.com/content/media/2011/9/6/PRESS_RELEASE-Mansfield-2011-09-06%20(1).txt

As was the case in 2009 those with their finger on the pulse of what matters to voters, parents and students are not those with their feet in established political parties.  

Hey Woodstock, whaddya think of  Heather joining that 'evil plot of 'stonewalling' the Blue Plan? LOL!

Don't know what he thinks, but I know what I think

I think it's BULL! We have waited long enough! These candidates who want to stop it in its tracks, again, what's their solution for the 12-13 school year? More of the same BS we've had for years and years? How many more years do parents have to wait to know where their children will go to school? How many more years do we have to watch our kids suffer with their education because all this miserable system and many of its supporters want to do is focus on assignment? Which of these candidates will step forward and say they don't believe for a minute that a 'Left' majority, with Goldman on their side, will take us right back to where we've been the last decade or longer?

Next week is going to be a big downer for many who supported the change last time around because it sounds like starting next week we are destined to go backwards.

Again.

Nothing to show for last four years?

Mansfield says Hill has nothing to show for his four years.  I sure wish that was true.

I've said before all you had to do was poke Holdzkom and Hill would say "ouch."  Hill had "data" authority for whatever he wanted and Holzkom had a free reign inside Central Office.  This is not overstated.  E&R was in Hill's pocket and Holdzkom had a direct link to the school board chair.

This unholy alliance Hill and Holdzkom set up four years ago (as the school boad chair and the head of "accountability," respectively) has plenty to show in the way of results.  These guys RAN the school district (into the ground).

Now Hodzkom is teaching English at $130,000 per year and Hill is fighting to keep his seat.  But he has no alliance inside E&R now - and the real data will continue to render him politically ineffective.  He needs to be off the board.  Watch him at the next meeting for his continued resistence to equity using bogus data.

These days one hears plenty of Democrat leaders moaning about how they could have possibly been so far behind the curve on the data-revelations - on knowing anything about Wake County's lack of equitable access, assignments of high scoring kids to remediation, the real story behind the effects of bussing (why bussing was called resegregation but is now called water under the bridge), the real numbers and effects of biased suspension practices...etc.  It goes on and on - where was the data?

This didn't happen by accident.  There are people to blame for that abysmal lack of awareness.  So its not fair to say that Hill has nothing to show for his four years. Heck, he alone protected/prolonged/defended the Effectiveness Index for years after it was shown to be whitewash for massive educational negligence towards poor and minority students. 

Smoke, mirrors, resistence to accountability, E&R reports that can't be read (and say nothing and dodge relevant questions), hostility and accusations towards people trying to tell the school administration, the board, and the general population what was happening.  It goes on and on - there are plenty of "accomplishments" Hill can claim.

Add the continuing complicity of the News and Observer's Editorial section in not covering this sordid "data" situation as it has unfolded and you have the perfect answer to why all the leading Democrats are privately moaning about letting the Republicans end-run them on equity and accountability.  Their guy on the school board did everything he could to KEEP them from knowing.

This by itself is why Mansfield is the best candidate.  She alone is data savvy among the candidates in her district - the rest are pawns or players.

The Effectiveness Index

was a teacher evaluation index.  It WAS NOT a student placement measure.  Why can't folks figure that out.  It was used to help teachers determine how effective they were being.  Stop confusing yourself about this. The Effectiveness Index was not designed to be used to misplace poor students. 

Sorry you can't figure out the E&R reports - they are pretty full of numbers.  There are a lot of them too - and quite well written. Not for everyone though.  So funny that you say the Hill and Holdzkom ran the school district into the ground when Wake consistently tops lists of great places to live, Wake's SAT scores are higher than ever and graduation rate is 3rd in the nation (of 50 largest school districts). Even Ron M. is talking about how great Wake is and taking credit for achievements that are the result of policies that he's working very hard to destroy.

If you want to talk about resistance to accountability - look at the current board's rush to push through policies without public input or fiscal accounting.   They know perfectly well that creating high poverty schools will cost the county millions upon millions of dollars more that the measly amount spent currently to bus students for SES/achievement balance at schools - it's about 3% of students (not counting magnet students.  Wake stands to lose big if the currently majority gets bigger.

But the Effectiveness Index

But the Effectiveness Index DID reward teachers who saw declining performance in their F&R student populations.

So, no it wasn't "designed to be used to misplace poor students".  It was designed to allow them to slip through the cracks while rewarding teachers for letting them slip.

You stand on your soap box and rant about how great the district is and how busing was a great answer.  Busing was a convenient way to hide our shortcomings as a district -- nothing more, nothing less.

So ask a kid that's being bused how great it is.  I doubt they'll share your opinion.

It was an effective index

And of course, I never said it was used in student placement.  But it was occasionally misused to give individual student assessments fo acceptable growth.  I said it was "shown to be whitewash for massive educational negligence towards poor and minority students."

Which it was.  It measured teachers as effective, sometimes even when their poor students didn't learn.

So it was also an effective index of how busy the district was covering up how entirely sanguine they had become about their expectations for poor children.  That was nicely illustrated in those episodes at Wake Forest-Rolesville when it was (mis)used to create target individual scores for lists of students and they projected negative growth for some as acceptable.

Hill's unflagging support of the Effectiveness Index continued up to the last moment that the procedure was scrapped, claiming it was still an effective tool that should be used because it cost so little.

Kevin Hill

Politics aside, two years ago I had to go before the school board about the detrimental impact my child felt from being at a school suffering from the effects of 1. being an opt-out school for those that did make yearly goals and 2. being an opt-out school for those families who wanted a traditional calendar instead of year-round -- The numbers at the school increased drastically over the summer, and my child seemed to be lost in the craziness with very little homework for the first few months and a real disconnect with the teacher. Kevin Hill listened to my concerns and supported my child. It would have been easy to move quickly down the agenda, but he took the time to ask questions of me that made my case stronger than my two minute brief synopsis to the Board could do alone.

Congrats!

It's not often that anybody is able to get Hill to do something to help them.  He has 3 challengers in the race largely because he's ignored the needs of his district.

Just food for thought

You continually talk about how Kevin HIll is unresponsive but, when asked for specific details, you mostly point to not converting Wakefield to the calendar you would have preferred.   I'm pretty certain you do not have a complete tally of the specific proportion of District 3 residents Kevin Hill has helped versus hindered, even counting all of Wakefield in the hindered category.  Now Longtime Lurker provides considerable food for thought as does Ms. Nordone about other aspects of Hill's tenure that give me real pause on very substantive issues.  

Fair 'nuf...

It's true that I'm biased toward what I see around me and that is going to be focused on the needs of my kids' school.  There are plenty of other reasons not to vote for him, but I'm most in tune with how he affects my kids.  And, that's the real question everybody in D3 has to answer for themselves: "How has Kevin Hill impacted your kids' education?"

Hill impacted ALL kids'

Hill impacted ALL kids' education by approving budgets which preserved central office jobs at the expense of teaching positions.

Hill impacted ALL kids' education by fighting to continue the use of EI and the discriminatory practice of holding minority and poor kids back from higher-level math placement.

Hill impacted MANY kids' education by voting to reassign 26,000 students.

I could go on.

Oh, don't stop...

How about his support for the Effectiveness Index and his lack of support for expanded Algebra opportunities.  Wasn't he also a Wacky Wednesday supporter?  

Oh yes, Wacky Wednesday. 

Oh yes, Wacky Wednesday.  That policy change was rammed through so quickly that most of us never saw it coming.  Funny how Mr. Hill thinks it is important to use a deliberate decision process when he's not rubber-stamping a proposal from the NCAE.  WCPSS wasted a fortune putting up new school zone signs for that one.

When the new board majority was elected in 2009, they sent a letter to Mr. Hill asking him to stop work on the old H6 site, because they would be voting to move the school to another location.  Mr. Hill put his head in the sand and voted to continue work on the original site, knowing that it would be changed, and wasting over a million dollars.

Wacky Wednesday

Wacky Wednesdays = Teacher Professional Learning Time.  People seem to forget that there was a very important reason for the PLT time.  Once my husband and I got used to the schedule, we were fine with it.  It was a SMALL price to pay for better education for my kids.  The new board didn't even wait to learn about its effectiveness before ending it and moving PLT to Fridays, the worst day of the week to do anything productive (duh). So much for helping teachers.  Prickett had a session on PLT (after ending Wednesday time) and teachers and administrators were 100% in support. So much for the board's interest in improving student achievement.   Hill is thoughtful enough to make good decisions for education.  He gets the complexity.  We need good people on the school board, not reactive non-thinkers like Losurdo.

Greatest Oxymorons

Military Intelligence and Teacher Workday. Followed closely behind by Jumbo Shrimp.

not so

biggest oxymoron is ethical politician.

Huh?

So, teachers can't be effective on Fridays? 

It's conceivable that the former approach was absolutely the best way to do PLTs and the total benefit was so great that it overwhelmed the downsides.  But, if so, the former board screwed it up by doing such a horrible job of selling the plan to parents.  Heck, the plan passed so quickly that the municipalities didn't even have time to change the school zone signs.  Had they done a substantially better job, then Wednesday PLTs might not have been widely labeled as "Wacky Wednesdays"."  Once that monikor stuck, Wednesday PLTs were doomed.  

They didn't sell anything

They forced it up our _sses with less a month's notice.

There was no never any attempt to sell anything.

Silly BoE

Silly Board Members, focusing on student achievement first, parental convenience and sales pitches second or third.    What was Jeffrey's metric?   Less than a minute per student per year?   And yet, for the miniscle amount of time, teachers and principals proved it was effective.   The only thing it wasn't, was convenient to some proportion of parents.   So it had to go.  Oh wait, oh no, it had to be canned and then reinstated with even less time to change signs than the first time around.   Isn't that similar to what happened with the NCSBA?   Now that is definitely wacky.

Heh...

Lesson one in government: Prepare the ground before you do something that's likely to be unpopular, at least if you expect that thing to last.

If the current board hadn't gotten rid of Wacky Wednesdays, then getting rid of them would be the #1 issue in this year's election, and the candidates who supported dropping them would win

Lesson one?

Lesson one?  I thought Lesson One was never compromise when you're personally confident that what you're doing is for the benefit of the children in the system.  Isn't that what so many here have told us to excuse the current BoE's lack of "preparing the ground" and creating such a massive palaver on student assignment?   although maybe that was okay because it was never even really about student achievement so doesn't mess with Lesson one?

Well....

The real lesson one is never start a ground war in Asia.  Lesson two is never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.  Lesson three is what I said above.  

I agree that the current board could have done a better job with it as well.

Sorry Kevin ---

Your opposition to unconverting WES is a significant reason that people in the Wakefield Community are going to vote against you. And, as to this claimed "I tried to get WES run on a single track" line, sorry, nobody believes you.

"It may be best to slow

"It may be best to slow things and wait another year," Losurdo said.

Increasingly, Losurdo seems to be parroting Mansfield's message.  I'm sure most will remember that Mansfield was out in front on this one with her press release asking the board to take a breath on the blue plan.  Question is, will those Losurdo supporters who criticized Mansfield now admit that she was right?

Interesting Campaign strategy....

Stealing your opponent's platform then claiming it as your own.  Will we be seeing Losurdo signs in yellow and blue next?

Brought to you by

As with the carbon copy of this disguised as a "news story" (wink, wink) ...

Brought to you by the Kevin Hill For School Board Committee - T. Keung Hui: Communications Manager.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.
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