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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Dealing with rising fuel costs

It doesn't look like rising fuel costs are about to force any drastic changes yet in Wake's school transportation policies.

As noted in today's article, Wake could lose $4.7 million due to the state Board of Education potentially having to make up a $50 million shortfall in funding for fuel and teacher bonuses.

Wake's fuel budget has increased from $5 million in 2006-07 to $7.2 million this fiscal year. It's not surprising considering Wake is now paying $4 per gallon for diesel compared to $2.13 per gallon in June 2007.

State budget shortfall for Wake

We're now seeing the ramifications of higher fuel costs on Wake.

In a message sent late yesterday to local districts, state officials are warning that they could face a $50 million budget shortfall due to rising fuel costa and paying for teacher bonuses. To pay for both items, the State Board of Education might have to basically rob Peter to pay Paul by stripping other funding meant for local districts.

As the state's largest district, Wake could lose $4.7 million in state funding if $50 million is reallocated.

The state Board will discuss the budget sitution today. They're urging school districts to lobby legislators to increase funding to reduce the shortfall.

You can listen online to the meeting, which begins at 3 p.m., by clicking here.

CORRECTION

Typo. I should have said $4.7 million. 

Reallocating Broughton's IB exam money

Broughton High School's loss could be a gain for lots of low-income students around the district.

During yesterday's budget discussion, board members agreed to remove the $113,841 that's now budgeted to pay the cost for students to take the exam needed to get an International Baccalaureate diploma. The money will now be distributed around the county to help students afford the cost of taking IB or Advanced Placement exams.

Here's how it unfolded yesterday.

UPDATE

See below for clarification and correction. 

Saving school board travel costs

School board members seemed to be on a mission yesterday to make sure their mileage costs are reimbursed.

Under the list of new programs, $27,270 was set aside to fund 500 miles per month of in-system travel for each board member at the IRS mileage rate of 50.5 cents per mile. The purpose, according to the budget, is "developing and implementing systems and organizational structures to support schools, ensure accountability and engage the community."

This line item wasn't in the superintendent's budget. But the board added it in April.

Reversing the budget stream

Some school board members may be wondering what happened after they left yesterday's budget meeting.

As noted in today's article, school board members spent Monday afternoon looking for ways to reduce the budget by $39 million. The meeting went so long that the idea of streaming board meetings online went from being in the budget to out of it by the end of the discussions.

Budget cuts made

Four hours later, the school board has made $39 million in cuts to the budget.

Some results include larger class sizes now more likely this fall, fewer dollars for school instructional supplies and no expansion in AG or foreign language programs. But school employees will keep their dental benefits and teachers won't have their supplements frozen at 2007-08 dollars.

The board also took no action today on mediation after discussing it again in closed session.

UPDATE 

Proposed school budget cuts

Staff has presented $49 million worth of budget cuts to choose from today.

The school board needs to cut $39 million to balance the budget. That includes $3 million that the school board would cut out for now because commissioners have withheld the money to make sure enrollment matches projections.

A lot is what is expected. It includes eliminating all the new programs minus the increases in salary supplment recommended by commissioners. It also includes cuts from March such as slashing employee dental benefits and freezing the teacher salary supplement to 07-08 dollars.

Some new things today include saving $3.2 million by hiring fewer new teachers, cutting $280,886 in instructional supplies for schools and raising an additional $141,840 by another $25 increase in student parking fees. Thh would come on top of the $25 per year increase already put in the budget by the school board.

The board is now beginning to discuss the changes it wants to make.

Debating mediation with commissioners

Will the budget cuts that are made today be enough to force the school board to take a route that could lead to a lawsuit against the county commissioners?

As noted in today's article, school board members have discussed behind closed doors the mediation process that state law allows for school districts to request more money from commissioners. It could be an option that the school board goes with at today's special meeting.

Mediation is an approach used by a handful of school districts each year. If mediation doesn't work school districts can file legal action.

"[Mediation] does strain relations between the two boards," said Allison Schafer, legal counsel for the N.C. School Boards Association.

Honoring Marshall Hamilton

The Wake County School board approved a request Tuesday to name Leesville Road High School after longtime athletics director Marshall Hamilton.

As noted in the North Raleigh News story today, Hamilton was highly regarded around high school athletic circles. He established the athletic program at Leesville when he helped open the school in 1993. He retired in June 2007, after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Hamilton died in December.

Typically, naming part of school facilities after individuals is a
rare. However, the district's policy does permit buildings or
structures or rooms to be named in memory or honor of people who have
rendered extraordinary service to the district.

Reassignment ramifications

The renovations at Wake Forest-Rolesville High have a wider impact than just fixing the campus.

As noted in today's North Raleigh News article, it also has major reassignment implications. In this case, it happens to be implications that the school district supports.

That heated 4-3 vote to approve the renovations means that Heritage High won't open as its own school in 2009. Instead of assigning students there for the 2009-10 school year, it will now be inhabited temporarily by Wake Forest-Rolesville students.