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Questioning how many extra teachers are needed to help underenrolled Wake County schools this fall

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Is 190 extra teaching months of employment enough to deal with sharply underenrolled Wake County schools this fall?

The issue came up during last week's school budget discussion when school board member Jim Martin asked how staff determined which schools would get new STEM and Global Schools programs for this fall.

Martin said that the new student assignment plan is projected to result in 33 elementary schools being below 60 percent of their projected kindergarten capacity. Based on the data, Martin asked why some schools that were less underenrolled got the new programs.

"We have a lot of schools that are showing indicators of major underenrollment," Martin said.

Underenrollment is a problem because schools get funding to hire teachers based on how many students they have. Schools that are severely underenrolled have a hard time offering some courses, such as specials, unless the school district provides more funding than a school their size would normally receive.

Superintendent Tony Tata answered Martin that underenrollment was only one component for determining which schools got new programs.

Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore, who headed the group that reviewed the applications, echoed Tata. She said that in addition to enrollment, they looked at factors such as how schools said they'd use the new program.

Moore also said that not all the underenrolled schools applied. She said they can't give a program to a school if it doesn't make the request.

“This is not just a strategy to fill underenrolled schools," Moore said of the program expansions.

Moore added that they've set aside 190 months of teacher employment in the new budget, just like this school year, to help underenrolled schools. Wake talks about months of employment rather than number of jobs because positions can be part time and shared among multiple schools.

As for Martin's earlier statement about the new plan leaving schools underenrolled, Tata said that 44 schools were "severely underenrolled" under the old assignment plan. Those were schools that were at 89 percent or less of capacity.

Martin asked whether 190 months is enough to help the schools that will be underenrolled.

"Is this enough to deal with the need"" Martin asked.

Moore said existing small schools already know how to deal with enrollment challenges. She said schools whose enrollments are projected to see a big shift down are the ones the district will most likely target with the extra positions.

For now, Moore said it looks like 190 months is enough but they'll have to see.

Tata pointed to how they used the 190 months this school year to help five schools.

Martin asked if they expect to serve five schools or some other amount this fall. Tata answered that they'll know after they finish filling the seats.

Moore said they're committed to provide 20 months of employment per school, meaning they could help nine schools. But she said some schools might need more assistance.

“We'll need to look at the numbers and see what the need is,” Moore said.

School board member Christine Kushner brought up how the May 15 school assignment notifications letters that out went out last year told families about the option of transferring to the small schools and the new STEM and Global Schools. She asked if it would be duplicated this year.

Tata called it a great idea that staff would take on this year.

You can follow pages 4-7 of this budget handout for additional info on how the new programs were awarded and what's being done to help the small schools.

1347246895 Questioning how many extra teachers are needed to help underenrolled Wake County schools this fall The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Paying $13,800 for Visiting

Paying $13,800 for Visiting International Faculty???  What school is getting this service?  (Page 13 of the handout)  Is this expense associated with an Early College Campus, Magnet school, adult ed?  This is a line item expense that I'd like an explanation/clarification on as to where/how utilized. 

Underenrollment kills schools.

FSandYou, it sounds like you need some enlightenment to help you with that trite attitude.  Before you dismiss the children and families at underenrolled schools so quickly, consider that schools that downsize have a tipping point at which electives and other program essentials start to get cut, creating an equity and equal access issue for even "basics" such as art, music, etc. A school that doesn't hit the minimum students required by the state's formula to get full-time teachers in these areas has to go with part-time teachers.  Then the following happens: Those teachers transfer elsewhere so they can remain at one school full time and be more effective; or those teachers are forced to work part-time at one school and part-time at another to remain fully employed.  The latter affects program quality and continuity, and ultimately diminishes school culture.  (A school play won't happen easily if the art and music teacher aren't there 2 out of 5 days a week, and usually on differing days.)   Once program quality and school culture are affected, the overall school climate suffers.    PTA can't raise much money at all due to to few families, so program support suffers.  And then parents want to transfer out because children don't have nearly the opportunities at fully-staffed schools (and who wants to be part of a school seemingly circling the drain?) and good teachers and staff will leave because fewer staff in a school means those that remain have to wear more hats.  For equal pay, would you choose to be a teacher at a larger school with lots of support (interventionists, full-time AG, ESL, specialists, etc.) to help with collaboration and school duties, or be at a small school where you have to do bus or carpool duty, monitor lunch because there are too few assistants, and still run your 4th grade classroom?  Most of the good ones bail.  And make that school a year-round school with multiple tracks and you have a cultural and scheduling nightmare.  So, go ask York, Green, Hilburn, Aversboro, Stough, Carroll, etc. what their school culture and offerings were like before their parents rose up in chorus and demanded a response from a silent school board and superintendent.  They only got support (and turned those schools around) from a new Board and superintendent who listened to parents, stabilized those schools by allowing more teachers to stay than a formula dictated, and awarded lucrative programs like STEM and Global Studies to boot.  And now a new batch of schools are in that same leaky boat as a result of the new choice plan.  Please don't disrespect those children and parents who deserve to be part of a healthy and thriving school with your "Oh well, who cares?" attitude.  

Please send this as a letter to the editor

Seriously, you are 100% correct. For the last 10 years no one understood the ramifications of under enrollment. It is horrifying that the new board does not get it. I know Kevin gets it, he should be doing a better job of educating his fellow democrats. Everyone lives in fear of harming our magnets by strengthening the base. I have yet to understand the logic behind wasting money and creating pockets of educational poverty by starving the base (usually Title I) and allowing schools to be so severely under enrolled. As a parent I lived this for years in a Title I school and I am choosing to not live it any more. I love this school but no longer can justify sacrificing my children's opportunity.
We need one answer from the new board- why was the base not good enough for your children? Why did you not stay? Why do your children deserve better than ours?

board

If I'm reading Keung's post correctly, it looks to me like Martin was asking if Tata was doing enough to help underenrolled schools, and if they had enough resources devoted to them. Certainly it seems that Martin gets how much it hurts a school to be underenrolled.

I have never gotten the impression that he gets it

I work at NCSU and he and I talked in his office for almost 2 hours one day. There was not much understanding at that time. I like Christine a lot but I have not heard her speak about equity and resources and the base, just constant never ending concern for the magnets. Denying only 60% of applicants was not enough for them. I graduated from Enloe, it did not used to be this excessive and there was not this sense of entitlement. I loved that school but I would not send my children to that school now given its inequity. It sends a strong message to children that there are two classes of people who can co-exist but are not equal.

 I do not see any balance or fair representation on this BOE at all right now. I would love to be wrong.

NEWSFLASH!

"downsizing has a tipping point at which electives and other program essentials start to get cut, creating an equity and equal access issue for even "basics" such as art, music, etc."

 "teachers transfer elsewhere so they can remain at one school full time and be more effective; or those teachers are forced to work part-time at one school and part-time at another to remain fully employed."

 "Once program quality and school culture are affected, the overall school climate suffers. PTA can't raise much money at all due to to few families, so program support suffers."

 "parents want to transfer out because children don't have nearly the opportunities at fully-staffed schools (and who wants to be part of a school seemingly circling the drain?) and good teachers and staff will leave because fewer staff in a school means those that remain have to wear more hats."

 "Most of the good ones bail"

Love this Gem, "make that school a year-round school with multiple tracks and you have a cultural and scheduling nightmare."

I totally agree with all of your points. You obviously did not pick up on mine, but anyway, all the things you mentioned came into play for many of us at under capacity year round schools, whether they were Title 1 or not, especially your "Gem" point.

Many of trekkerone's

Many of trekkerone's statements are true but not only of underenrolled schools but also of schools in western wake that have been overenrolled.  We had only a part-time AG teacher, no plays, supposedly lower-class size (overcrowded by second year) PTA unable to raise funds because parents "bailed" (kept getting reassigned in and out of our school) and then finally--the "overcrowded" schools had to be changed to MYR schools where we got to experience the cultural and scheduling nightmare.  I don't think Salem ES/MS; Highcroft ES, etc. were considered underenrolled schools prior to conversion to MYR and many of these same issues came into play at these schools.  Perhaps it is a function of decisions made by principals in HOW to use MOE and staff schools just as much as enrollment numbers at the specific schools.

 

 

 

How money is used

I completely agree. Though underenrollment causes all sorts of problems, I do think some principals manage the money in ways that make it worse. For instance, at a middle school near our house, the principal panicked after a sudden drop in enrollment and fired all the arts teachers to save MOE's for the classroom teachers. Over the summer she realized that every student in the school could not take the two electives she now had left, and had to rehire some people and move around her MOE's because she had essentially gutted her own school to the point that it wouldn't function.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.
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