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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School board wants more say in the naming of principals

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The Wake County school board majority wants more authority over how the superintendent handles filling of administrative positions, including principals.

The school board's policy committee agreed today to recommend changing the policy on the duties of the superintendent. They want the superintendent to get the board's permission before reorganizing Central Office staff and deciding on principals.

Currently, the superintendent makes the final call on transferring principals between schools. As a courtesy, the board is notified about the transfers.

The board technically approves the appointment of new principals, such as when a person is hired from outside Wake or when an assistant principal is promoted. But pretty much the board goes with the person recommended by the superintendent.

Debra Goldman, chairwoman of the policy committee, said they want to interject if the superintendent does something contrary to the wishes of the board majority.

The full board could vote on the changes July 20, the same day they're also set to give final approval on eliminating the requirement that the superintendent be an educator.


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Knightdale High School

“Looking at individual schools this year, one big red flag is that Knightdale High had the most teachers of any school requesting to leave. But the school had a relatively low number of people requesting to work there. Knightdale High School's results on the latest Teacher Working Conditions Survey are pretty bad.” _Keung Hui, WakeEd Blog


In brief, Teachers do not trust their embattled principal Miss Jernigan and her younger, inexperienced assistant Kengie Bass, because school administrators consistently do not enforce rules for student conduct.

School administrators do not support teachers' efforts to maintain discipline in the classroom. Teachers do not feel comfortable raising issues and concerns that are important to them. Teachers do not consistently enforce rules for student conduct because of Kengie Bass & Carla Jernigan’s history of lack of support and protection of their teachers and their lack of leadership skills as young adults.

An unplanned quick trip through the Knightdale High School commons area where their now infamous Smart Lunch Riot occurred a few months back would make even this hardened soldier blush.

Multiple obscenities by both females and males alike, vulgar banter was dished frequently and within earshot of this adult and the administrators previously mentioned. They were oblivious to the fact that I stopped, and tried to accomplish eye contact to give that look that only a mother can. Simply amazing!

(Oh, KHS' Smart Lunch was canceled the next day after the widely reported riot per then Supt. Burns.) Eventually a poorly planned Start Smart remediation program by the administration stumbled almost from the word go and was canceled after a four to five week run without any prior communication with the teachers. My source tells me that hundreds did not attend the Start Smart on a daily basis and roamed the KHS halls with an "I dare you to say something to me" attitude.

I saw a group of teens sporting their pants well below they rear-ends. Even a blind man could see their junk-in-the-trunk. White wires from iPod hung like jewelry from the ears of many with noize blasting.

There were Catholic rosary prayer beads with the cross at the bottom being worn by numerous youngsters. Fashionable and gang related-yes, offensive to true Catholics-yes, no worries- principal Carla Jernigan maintains her attitude of “I do public relations not discipline” and “I sure don’t want any complaints to get out the front door.”

There were close to five hundred high schoolers or more in the commons area this one day. I couldn’t help but notice a majority of them were all wearing purple shirts as well as many staff members on this particular Friday before Easter break.

This purple gang began screaming at ear piercing levels as they crammed into this small area of the makeshift cafeteria. Suddenly, out of nowhere, this huge group rushed and quickly surrounded a small, petit girl who was sitting having her lunch in a white styro-foam tray. The onlookers rushed in and cheered at a frenzied pitch. Chaos ensued. The purple mob, for whatever reason, beat that defenseless young lady silly, who would have been a goner if not for the many brave teachers who intervened quickly and intentionally on her behalf. Now I know why everybody calls Knightdale High School- “FIGHTDALE High School”.

As I realized what just happened, I watched as the purple mob ran to the stairs and the bottom floor. After all of the commotion around me I was aware my yellow visitor's sticker somehow was gone as was my belief that Knightdale High School was a safe place to learn.  

On the way out I counted exactly 274 lunch trays left behind for somebody else  to clean up. That somebody else was an older cafeteria worker. She told me it was like this just about everyday. This is leadership? What another terrible lesson to teach young teens.

I believe the Knightdale High School NC  Teacher Working Conditions Survey is a voice we must listen to. Mr. Keung please place the link so we can all see it.

This would not be allowed in

This would not be allowed in "favorite" schools like Leesville or Apex.

Really sad that everyone

Really sad that everyone must wear the same color and be impeded from crossing the line.

It will all be fixed for

It will all be fixed for next year.

Knightdale's assignment zone for next year is a contiguous area, so I'm sure it will be much improved as a community school.

It will all be fixed for

It will all be fixed for next year.

Knightdale's assignment zone for next year is a contiguous area, so I'm sure it will be much improved as a community school.

Seems to me the discussion is about principals, the tone they set, and how they can make or break a school. And it sounds like the leadership in this school is not doing the job.

The last election and the

The last election and the rhetoric of the new school board and its supporters leads me to believe that all WCPSS problems were related to busing for diversity and will be solved by community schools.

That principal will magically be interested in individual students next year, since Knightdale assignment is going to be all local kids.

Don't forget that the cost

Don't forget that the cost per student will drop, achievements will skyrocket, and global warming will be a thing of the past.

Regardless, don't forget

Regardless, don't forget they will need more resources whether for a change of shirt color or belts to hold up their pants or anything else. Without pumping more resources these hard working disciplined students will most tragically fail to cross the finish line because their parents and taxpayers failed to give them opportunities to succeed.

I agree.  Also need to have

I agree.  Also need to have staff members who know how to work with the students and elicit their cooperation.  It is possible but it will not happen as long as staff responds with anger toward the students.  It's amazing and gratifying to connect with these student and can be accomplished while enforcing rules and maintaining expectations.  They really can change.  Of course it helps to be creative with interventions.

Imagine meeting with a group of students bused in for diversity with the identified problem of fighting....with one another.  At one point the girls started arguing (prelude to fighting).  This is usually handled by staff yelling over them in an attempt to get them in control.  Shouting at them reinforces their behavior.  That's exactly what they were doing.  A better intervention would be for the staff member to remain calm and maybe take a very heavy book and hold it over her/his head.  This behavior certainly gets the attention of the students.  At this point, it is likely they have stopped fighting to find out why the staff member is engaged in this , rather odd, behavior.  It could be explained to the students that you were looking for a table where you could slam down the book to get their attention but being that they quieted down, it will not be necessary. ( It worked.....fighting stopped...group progressed.

I have only question

You specify "a group of students bused in for diversity with ...".   But the behavior you specify is not unique to children who are bused, being fairly common in adolescents wrestling with the changeover from child into adult.   There is a need to be creative with kids in high school as you try to acknowledge their increasing maturity regardless of where they originate.    Can you highlight what is unique to the situation about this group of students bused in that would need to be handled with less creativity and differently if they were in their own community school rather than a school they were bused to for some other reason?  

I would have handled it the

I would have handled it the same way whether they were students bused to a North Raleigh  school or if I was working with them in their own community.

You are correct in noting similar developmental issues in in all adolescents. What is unique to this group was how they coped with their circumstances.  All of them saw nothing wrong with settling disagreements by physically fighting.   Fighting never settled anything. Fights would be broken up. Students suspended, only to resume fighting over the same or other issue at another time. Each of the girls had been suspended on numerous occasions for fighting.  They also had a tendency to engage in loud, heated conflicts, even in the middle of a class, or the middle of the hallway .  They had little to no capacity for empathy. They had numerous anti social personality traits that we don't see in "normal" (that's a relative term) functioning adolescents.

The point I was trying to make was that whether these students are bused or in a community school, there is a need for additional intervention by professionals who understand the dynamic of their behavior.

Thank you

There is so much sensitivity around the topic of busing for diversity that I appreciate your clarifying your original post.    People who can interact and engage adolescents, especially those are not deemed "normal", are a special group of people who could teach all of us a lot!

Maybe they will want to be

Maybe they will want to be able to "rename" the Principals too if they don't like their names ...

Yeh and Then Meeker Can Sue...

Yeh and then Meeker can get some of his buddies to sue when people are hired he doesn't personally approve of! 

I like that idea.

I like that idea.

Should have been a reply to Keung's post above...

Interesting info. Thanks!

The change is more procedural and semantic...

...but is sort of chilling at the same time.

The school board technically approves administrative hires, all of which are submitted 10+ days in advance to be placed on the board agenda . If someone on the board has a problem with a candidate, there is plenty of opportunity to address the situation - the superintendent should not be able to sneak anyone by the board. On the other hand, it is pretty ridiculous to   expect the superintendent or HR to submit every candidate for board pre-approval. There are 150+ principals and over 450 assistant principals. That's a lot of micromanagement.

For all the supporters of the junta who want to compare WCPSS to a business and advocate for a non-educator to be superintendent, how many companies require their CEO to receive explicit board of directors approval for the hiring of 150+ division chiefs? Most CEOs at that level of experience are expected to be competent enough to select and supervise their employees.

More dithering and meddling by the junta, and further evidence of the debilitating distrust between professional WCPSS management and their non-educator directors.

Actually, board members

Actually, board members don't generally know who the new principals are until they hear about them during the closed session of that meeting.

I did not realize that

Then why do recommendations for administrative hires have to be completed by supervisors 10 days before a board meeting? I wonder if that is that not revealed to keep confidentiality. As others have said, if word got out who was up for a particular job, a stink could be raised before hand. Then again, as others have said, the board needs to trust its CEO and its staff to do the right thing.

Thanks for the heads up, Keung. Obviously the general public doesn't know what transpires in closed session.

As a courtesy, the

As a courtesy, the superintendent will usually notify ahead of time the board member whose district the new principal is located in.  The other board members won't know unitl the closed sesssion.


For the life of me, I can't figure out how the Board having more authority over principals and Central Office will improve our schools.  Can someone explain that to me?  I would think it would scare off good Superintendant candidates who would be rightfully concerned that the board would micromanage, second guess the decisions of the Superintendant and/or undermine his/her authority.  I would also think it would have a chilling effect on educators speaking their mind, if they have to worry about their job prospects if they piss off the Board. I think the Board needs to educate itself as to the role of a Board of Directors vs. management.  I also can't understand the whole renaming Enloe thing.  That'll just suck desperately needed funds out of the system to change signage, etc. and nobody but Tedesco and Margiotta have requested this change.  I wish this board would start thinking about how the WCPSS can better educate our kids rather than all this nonsense.  This is utter foolishness. 


Let's wait and see what the change is.  In smaller school districts, decisions about hiring administrators (and teachers in many cases) are often done by the school board -- I was under the impression that Wake County did it differently only because we're big enough that doing so would consume all their time. 


Please share where these smaller


school districts are located Bob.  I am curious to learn what school districts hire teachers and principals.  I can not think of any public school district that uses only the school board to hire its teachers and principals.


What's missing in your first sentence?   Didn't understand it.

I don't know of any where the board completely takes over the process - didn't mean to give that impression.  But, there are those where the board has more input than effectively finding out after the fact, as the WCPSS appears to do.  For example, having the the school board be able to look over the list in advance, so they can privately suggest to the Superintendent "Hey. You may want to check into this principal -- I've heard nothing but complaints about her."

That's a bit harder in a big district than it is in a district where the school board members know most of the teachers by name.

its in the heading

the first sentence starts in his heading.  took me a second too.

What's prompting this change - real concern or politics?


In my mind this just sets up a perfect scenario where a minority vocal group within a school could/would short cut the regular process for principal assignment by appealing d directly to their board member.  The district could loose a lot of good future principals because of a single issue a group doesn't agree with.  Shoot a group wouldn't even have to be affiliated with the particular school.  A better move would be to review and strengthen the process of principal assignment to make sure candidates are thoroughly vetted and the school community is involved.  This change could certainly introduce gridlock and politics to the principal assignment process.

Where there some recent controversial assignments?  

I dunno...

I'd be interested to hear what sparked this.

It seems to me that if parents are going to be unhappy with a principal, it will be only after he/she had been at a school for a while -- when they come in, they're probably a blank slate.  So, it seems more likely that a school director will hear complaints about a principal after they're in place for a while, and then may question whether they deserve to be promoted when the opportunity comes around.

I have heard complaints that Wake has a habit of promoting principals whether they're good or not.  When was the last time that a Wake principal was fired, other than for criminal conduct?  I find it hard to believe that we've been so lucky as to never have any that were worthy of firing.

Do we know what the proposed policy change is?  Until we do, this just seems like a lot of Hubaloo about something that could be a non-issue.

The " worthy of firing" at

The " worthy of firing" at least in one case, was promoted to asst superintendent.  The staff member who happened upon the information was set up to look dishonest, in case the facts ever came out, then was  forced to resign.

Maybe this is being done to keep administration honest.

hiring not firing

I can remember times when some parents were concerned about a new principal based on their reputation at previous schools. But, either way, it sounds like the board wants more authority related to hiring new principals, not firing them.

Interesting point

Why would the BoE be more interested in who becomes a principal where than how well any of the principals performs once at a given school?   Seems like their on the job performance is more important to student achievement.


The performance of a principal is just a part of the story.   A good or bad principal can make or break a school.    We lost our beloved principal at our school.  The area superintendent interviewed parents and staff about what kind if principal we think would be a good fit for our school.  I have to say she wasn't listening .  It looks like she just picked a person that was just next in line.  This person has alienated parents and staff.   This person is the most unfriendly person I have ever met.   The kids don't even know the principal.  She sure doesn't inspire the kids to do better.  Thank goodness we have great teachers (of course many of them are transferring because of this person).  It's amazing how just one person can change the whole general feeling of the school.   

I suspect I know which area

I suspect I know which area superintendent you are referring to......if so, it's no surprise.

The measure of their

The measure of their performance is how well they can keep a cap on problems in their school.  I was pretty disgusted when I came to that realization.

Truly sad

Yet exactly why I would think, if principals are going to be micro-managed, performance across all schools would be the first policy change rather than just looking at new placements.

What makes you think that?

What gives you the impression that they are?  Just the fact that they mentioned it first?  That's not much to go on.

Forgive me

I continue to think student achievement should come before rearranging deck chairs.


Long-term, my goal is to raise my kids to make good choices and be productive members of society.  But, that doesn't stop me from cutting the grass from time to time.

Point being that the fact that the school board is doing something unrelated to achievement doesn't mean that they're doing it INSTEAD of focusing on student achievement.

Your example actually

Your example actually highlights my problem with the BoE.   They are treating student achievement as a less frequent and less important chore when it should be the central and main goal of what they are doing.  If they truly want to improve student achievement, it has needed and will need a much higher proportion of their time and focus -- much more like the focus they are giving student assignment --  instead of something they focus on from time to time and some months, not at all.  

I Will Disagree....

I believe student achievement and how this assignment policy has been implemented in the past are somewhat tied.  In the past they looked at 'healthy' schools and their solution was just to move a bunch of kids around regardless of how some kids were doing.   I personally believe a lot of kids got lost in the shuffle by doing this.    If you give kids stability in regards to where they go to school you can truly study what is working or not working in regards to how the kids are doing.   If a child is making progress in a specific environment, we need to figure out what they are doing and share that approach with other schools.  If a child is not making progress we can study why and make changes to help them.  In the past when Johnny was moved from school A to school B and did better was it because school A had issues or that school B was doing something better.   I know you might not agree with me, but stability is one factor in how we study and fix student achievement.    It's not the only one, but it's a step in the right direction.

I disagree

Even the slides from Dr. Johnson presented to the ED Student Achievement Task Force show ongoing efforts in WCPSS with the RACP endeavors which included EVASS in 2008.   You cannot say that WCPSS was doing nothing previously.  What you can say is that previous boards were making the same mistake this board is making -- focusing on assignment ahead of achievement to the detriment of the students.

CEO Material

A good CEO would insist on autonomy of hiring/firing, today's actions by the board would be a concern.  

I hear Dolores Umbridge is available, seems like a perfect fit. 





Dolores Umbridge has always reminded me of Patti Head -- and not in looks alone.

This issue may be the wake

This issue may be the wake up call for those who have been on the sidelines but still concerned about the schools. News at 11.

Bob, I get the feeling that

Bob, I get the feeling that Ron and John have not put much thought into renaming Enloe ... they heard a presentation that Mayor Enloe was a bad man and they want to change the school name/ .. shouldn't they check the fact first?   Ask the community?  I get the impression that for minority areas like Enloe and SE (e.g. moving kids out of Garner without notice) that they just do things without asking for community input like they would if the school was a White one like Apex. 

I agree...

I don't think they thought it through.  But, I also don't think they were just going to make the change at the next board meeting -- there's a process to go through to make the change and had they stopped to think before publicly opening their mouths, they would have realized that.  The whole thing has been blown out of proportion. 

I think this principal thing has been blown out of proportion as well -- we don't know what the policy change is going to be. 

At this point, Tedesco could say "The sky is blue," and Nancy Petty would be up in arms because he claimed to be God by declaring the sky to be blue, and what about nighttime or clouds?  It's just getting to be silly season -- next, I suspect we'll have an argument about whether Obama was really born in the US, or whether Ronald Reagan really was the Beast of Revelation.

The drama is beginning to

The drama is beginning to make the afternoon soaps look pretty boring.  With the mayor threatening to sue the board (of which his wife is a member), the locals fighting for control of their school system, the rev and his entourage, an infiltration by the north trying to inflict their values by force.  I'm think'in Civil War.

The question is

The question is--why are they making this change?  Aren't there more pressing matters the Board should deal with?  What the heck is with the Enloe name change.  That's nuts.  That would be a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars.  We're increasing class size (friend of mine who is a fifth grade teacher has 30 kids in her class and no teacher assistant), laying of folks and they want to spend dollars on changing signage????  What happened to the kids in all of this? 


It would be more than changing signage. Every uniform would have to be changed for instance -- that's $24,000 for the band alone.  This is just something to do to stir the pot and take people's minds off what's really important.

They seem to want to control every single thing

Over-control has a strangling effect, on many things.

There obviously is very little trust in the hearts of the School Board majority.

They do not trust Wake County staff, or citizens (students,  parents, or pastors), or data, or history, or experience, or expertise, or training, or even - remarkably - education. They don't trust their legal advisers, the NC School Boards Association, their superintendent -- and now they don't even trust their imaginary future superintendent. And they don't trust school principals.

Their wide ranging lack of trust leads me to distrust their judgment, and to distrust their motives. (If absolutely everybody but you is wrong, perhaps it's time to rethink your position.)

They want to be in charge of every lil' thing, which will reduce the effectiveness of their performance. (Hey ... maybe keeping themselves overly-occupied with minutiae would be a good thing for our beleaguered schools?)

Based on all decisions to date, the School Board majority chooses ideology over expertise, every time. What a shame. To paraphrase Barry Saunders, our kids don't need ideology, they need an education.


You forget

You forget that their experiences are with small school districts. Margiotta is still back in Highland Park, NJ - 1,300 students with an operating budget of $24m.  School board meetings consist of approving $1,400 to fix a pump in the boiler room. 


9. Approval of Contract  


I move that the Board of Education approve the contract with General Plumbing 

Supply, of Edison, New Jersey, a geothermal pump in the boiler room at Irving 

School, for a total contract amount of $1,417.72. 



They get caught up in the legal witch hunt of focusing on a $1m budget out of $1.2B.  They have no idea but the shame of it all is they do not care to want to learn. As Malone put it - we are right and they are wrong. I am sure it was a shock for them to learn that PLTs actually provided a benefit and given more time would have yielded significant results at virtually no cost.  But they are on their crusade.  I am looking forward to the fall when the zones come out. They have underestimated the reaction people will have when the lines are drawn and they are officially placed in a box. All the while the focus on true education and achievement takes a back seat. 
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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.