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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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Time challenges for ending mandatory year-round in 2010

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Time did not seem to be on the new Wake County school board majority's side when it came to ending mandatory year-round schools in 2010-11.

As noted in today's article, the timetable set by staff to get back the parental surveys came too close for the board's comfort. Plus, staff raised concerns at this late date being able to guarantee where every student would go to for a traditional-calendar school if they didn't want to go to a year-round school.

As a result, the new board members withdrew the motion to begin ending mandatory year-round schools in 2010 and to halt plans to open new schools on mandatory year-round pending completion of the parental survey.

“I wish I could wave a magic wand and make everybody happy,” said new school board vice chairwoman Debra Goldman in the article. “But we're doing a disservice if we don't proceed prudently with proper planning.”

Goldman and other new board members stressed that they still plan to end mandatory year-round schools even if it's not for next school year.

“We need to know what the surveys say before we can move forward,” new school board member Deborah Prickett said in the article.

The initial survey plan had Supt. Del Burns reporting back in February with results. But staff said moving that quickly would mean an online-only survey.

Asst. Supt. Chuck Dulaney and Asst. Supt. David Holdzkom raised multiple concerns about online-only surveys, particularly getting responses from families without computer access. They said there's a difference between making families apply online for magnet/calendar school and taking a calendar survey.

After much discussion, the plan now is to have students take home surveys, probably in February, to their parents. Staff is giving Burns until the first meeting in April to report back.

Dulaney pointed out how that late a timeframe would be hard on families making summer camp and trackout plans for next year. He said it would also be hard on families who would be deciding in April whether to accept magnet or calendar seats.

He said they wouldn't meet their goal of notifying parents about school assignments by May 15. Wake missed that goal during the year-round lawsuit.

Dulaney also said that for the two new middle schools and new elementary school opening in July on a year-round calendar, it would be a challenge guaranteeing a traditional-calendar school for families who opt out.

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Roadblocks

My benefit of the doubt is running low.

http://www.wral.com/news/education/story/6636765/
So parents and students can go online and get instant access to information yet we cannot survey them in under three months? What?
FWIW, I think that SPAN is great and that is the type of thing that WCPSS can be proud of. There is no guarantee parents will use the resource, but giving parents the maximum number of options for being involved in their child's education is always a worthy goal.

Surveys

The return rate for  parent surveys at the middle school level  will be terribly low, most likely, if the survey is to come home with the student and  to be returned by the student. 

"There is no guarantee

"There is no guarantee parents will use the resource, "

In my experience there is no guarantee the teachers will use the resource.  We had a few in high school who used Blackboard and only 1 who used SPAN.   At least half didn't use any online resource and a  few of these  teachers rarely sent interims - at least to the A/B student.  Very frustrating.   

Relevance?

This has absolutely no relevance to the topic.  We know nothing about the process for defining requirements, evaluating systems, and implementing the system long before they piloted it.

SO what is the relevance of this topic to the survey??

relevance

SO what is the relevance of this topic to the survey?? 

 I believe that during the COW meeting it was said that there was no existing online interface where parents could login for each child they have.

Really?

Are you and others implying that because they have an interface somewhere in the WCPSS that parents interact with that they should just be able to reuse it with little change???

Wow.  

Nice try, again

Are you and others implying that because they have an interface
somewhere in the WCPSS that parents interact with that they should just
be able to reuse it with little change?

 No that is not what is being said.  But again, nice try.  What is being said is the during the COW, there it was said that there was no way for this to be done and there was no mention of any existing online interface.  At the very least it should have been said "we looked at SPAN but it would take too long to repurpose that tool for this kind of work".  But instead they said (and I paraphrase) "we have no way to do this online." Even you can see the difference in attitude between those two statements.

uhm, but isn't that how

uhm, but isn't that how magnet applications work now?

I Agree, Except..

I agree they should figure out a way to expand their online interface somehow for surveys.  The main issue is trying to guarantee that someone only fills out one survey.  There would need to be logons, etc that are validated.  The online application process as it exists today would allow people to enter 100 surveys if they choose and that would skew the results. 

Not if you use the magnet

Not if you use the magnet application. It is designed to accept only one response for a student. So everything would remain the same but the magnet program/ school options would change to whatever questions/ options the board needs parents to vote upon. There are any number of sharp technical people who could have modified the magnet system quickly to conduct the survey online.

thank you.  this was my

thank you.  this was my point.

Thank You For The Clarification!

Thank you for the clarification.  I was mistaken.   How do you insure that a person doesn't fill our 10 surveys for 10 different students?   

That would be identity

That would be identity theft. For someone determined, identity theft is not impossible (especially when helped by postcards with SSNs). I suppose the system can be designed to minimize fraud but to make it 100% foolproof would be expensive (more like what the military would spend, not a school district).

I Agree, Except..

I agree they should figure out a way to expand their online interface somehow for surveys.  The main issue is trying to guarantee that someone only fills out one survey.  There would need to be logons, etc that are validated.  The online application process as it exists today would allow people to enter 100 surveys if they choose and that would skew the results. 

I thought you wanted data driven metrics

They won't and I am not advocating anything.

I may have confused your statements.  I really thought that you were advocating for data and metrics.  All with the goal of identifying needs and strategies.

But if you aren't advocating that now, why?  Why would it be appropriate only for the previous board and not this one?  Aren't the needs the same?

the level of analysis I and others did back then hasn't been completely updated in some time 

Certainly the data has changed.  But the framewrok should still be relevant.  The statistical models employed.  Heck, even the format of the excel [or what ever tool ya used ] could literally just be continued.  

it is presumptious to believe that things haven't changed so much so
that revisions wouldn't need to be done in order to have a reasonable
chance of similiar success. 

Sure, sure.  I would expect that to be true of any modeling method.  I would think that modeling excercises for Toy r Us, or Home Depot or Sprint are all constatly being updated.  That this board also finds it true should be used as a roadblock [ Wink ] to implement progress.

 the complete process has many political elements that I believe were
previously mentioned that I ignore but others won't be able to.

Why wouldn't that have been equally as true 3 years ago as today?

Clearing things up

I really thought that you were advocating for data and metrics.

 Yes I am.  What went to court with Wake CARES advocated not only for a process but also a certain course of action.  That is what has changed.  The process for me would be the same.

Why would it be appropriate only for the previous board and not this one?  Aren't the needs the same? 

 Yes and no.  The costs and impact of conversion were greater than the current state of affairs which is continuing the existing operational structure.  Which is why I did what I did back then.  It is a lot more difficult to make a case for changing things than it is for leaving them the same.  I had that on my side when I was pushing for the course of action previously.  From a process point of view, I would have to reexamine certain inputs based on going the other way.

 But the framewrok should still be relevant.  The statistical models
employed.  Heck, even the format of the excel [or what ever tool ya
used ] could literally just be continued.
 

 True, it could, but I never designed it to do that, so I am not going to stand up and say that it will work.  Don't get me wrong, I know I or others can do it. I just don't know that it can be done by plugging in the way I did it four years ago.  When it comes to data, metrics and process, I think we can both agree that you have to know, not guess. 

Furthermore, the level of sophistication compared to things from Home Depot, like you reference, is simply not there.  There was no need for that.  This was a case looking at 22 schools being converted based on one set of defined population change parameters and including cost elements and other resources germane to the process.  Again, I don't want to presume that this model is applicable to the school system as whole since it was never designed to be.  My comment was simply that for the case of MYR we have an example of how a data driven process reached a conclusion that was ignored, but ultimately proved true.  This, I believe is how all decisions should be made, but that is not the same as me saying that the specific process I used is applicable or valid at this point.

As for the political considerations, look at the makeup of the board.  Four years ago, it was 8 to 1, and I was on the side of the one.  We could go full bore, no punches pulled, in your face because we knew that there was never going to be enough votes to change the outcome.  At this point, the board is 5 to 4.  One wrong move and the balance can switch.  The hard, data driven approach that I am advocating is not always compatible with keeping a delicate political balance.  Personally, I don't care about that stuff, but I am also aware of the reality for others than can impact what I am trying to do.

These guys are the master of excuses

I agree that the staff work for the board. Tell them when to have the surveys done and returned. We can't is not an acceptable answer. I doubt any of these people couldn't be easily replaced by someone willing to work WITH the Board instead of trying to block it.

There is never going to be a "good" time to make a change. They will delay and delay as long as they can. Waiting until APRIL for survey results is ridiculous. That's 4 months. They can and should demand better than that.

I agree- the Board should demand the timetable they need.

If staff can't provide the data in that reasonable timeframe, perhaps we need new staff.

 

I still think that some of

I still think that al least some of the schools can be easily converted  -LMRS, Green ES for sure.  Also, parents should be given the choice of  closest traditional/year-round.

Again

And - wait for it - wait for it Here It Comes
But not now, not 2010 year, not looking good for later either
We were only kidding about change

Seriously let a few corporate heads get into this fray - they can teach how to kick A** and take names, and do something for clients (us) that the naysayers say just can't be done in that timeframe, on the budget given, and with the staff they have.

I have been in companies as a project manager - and let me tell you the corporate heads will just say - I don't care about that - just make it happen by Friday at noon. And it does get done.

If this new county group is going to do things the exact same way - the results next year at this time will be the same.

Those surveys are due back by Dec. 20th. That's a good 6 weeks ahead of Feb. 2nd when the change requests used to have to be in. Come on guys don't let us down.

I think the will and/ or

I think the will and/ or skill is absent. Here's my get-the-job-done timetable:

1. Surveys should go out over the winter holidays.

2. A reminder should go out 1/4.

3. Responses should be captured on or by 1/15.

4. Tabulate and analyze the data by 1/31.

5. Present findings to the board early Feb.

It sure is a logistical and project management challenge but going in with a "OMG, this can't be done" for sure will ensure it can't be done. The board should set the plan of action and timetable and get people in there who can get the job done. The alternative will be a four year long fiasco while status quo reigns.

RMC, you're singing my song!

Yes, please, don't let us down guys. These things can get done if the proper support is in place.

Can I sing too

Surprised

how about a special called meeting without all the circus sideshow for next week?  Change the demands on Chuck and Del, and the rest, and tell them YES, you will get it done and you have 48 minutes to do so!

Sing, sing a song, sing it till it's gone, that MYRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR, oh baby it's wrongggggggggggggggg, so let us sing, sing all night long, even on your front lawn and we'll sing it 'til dawnnnnnnnnn, until it's long goneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. 

The roadblocks are stunning

I wrote this earlier, but I think it is worth repeating.
Every comment from staff seems to be a "cannot do" rather than a can do. They say "we cannot get anything before the first meeting in April" instead of "if we X it will be to you by date 1, if we Y it will be to you by date 2 and if it Z it will be to you by date 3." If they were bidding on any work, they would never get the job. I am finding it hard to give them the benefit of the doubt and not see them as being intentionally obstructionist.

In Light Of Last Night

This one is kind of funny in a sad way:

"If they were bidding on any work, they would never get the job."

 We now know that if they were bidding on the work..... they would never get the job because the new board would give it to a political crony and then vote down the idea of competitive bids!!

Bidding

I wrote that well before the lawyer business went on, but there is obviously plenty of change needed to how things are done.

What should be the budgeted

What should be the budgeted value of a bid before it triggers an RFP at WCPSS?

Then Get Rid of the Obstructionists

There are hundreds of people looking for work in Wake County.   A nice county job would be a great snag.

Offer those roadblock folks the front door and a cardboard box for the stuff.

 

 

if you're not with us,

if you're not with us, you're against us, right? where have we heard that before??

Yes they are

however, I think this board should demand more!  I could care less about the time frame!  I can wait until April or even May, just as long as it's moving in that direction and gets done!  This is why I don't think a survey should be done, they have a big chunk of a budget to cut, operating empty classrooms and collapsed tracks seems to me to be a huge waste when we obviously need the money to prepare for the Armageddon coming our way according to Mr. Budget Gloom & Doom.  If we need parents input then the online option works just fine.  If parents don't have access they can go to their kids school or a library or where ever.  It didn't stop them in the past, as some have noted.  If parents want to have input then they need to find a way to have that input and deal with the circumstances of how that input is being collected. With momma Meeker wanting public comments I'd tell her no, we've had enough of that over the years and it's just the same bunches that show up anyway.  How many times do we need to hear from the same people!  I know FULL WELL they and we want this board to do things right and not rushed, but if we start off allowing things to get pushed back by No Do'ers then where will we be in 1 year?  2 years? 4 years?  I'll stop short of saying what I would have told Mr. D. and Del yesterday, for now, but as a supporter of our new board I say make them get it done.  Get ALL of it done when YOU want it done and tell these people their excuses are over!  Surprised

Where are the SOLUTIONS?

Get ALL of it done when YOU want it done and tell these people their excuses are over!

We are all tired of excuses, laziness and trying to play nice in this sandbox while watching people get paid for not doing their jobs. ENOUGH already!

Furthermore, I am confident that certain contributors to this blog (you know who you are) could get a survey done for (almost) FREE. On top of that, it would be more thorough, unbiased and statistically representative than anything the administration could put together. Lastly, it would be done in PLENTY of time to implement many of the changes necessary to implement key directives that result from the process!

Want more? How about the $40K on a legal audit? With all of our legal contacts within this group, could we not find SOME firm willing to take on this project pro bono, for the sake of becoming more fiscally responsible and perhaps being given the option of participating in an RFP process for future opportunities to provide counsel to WCPSS?

I strongly encourage this new Board to look outside of the current Admin to get the support they need, when they need it, and to think beyond the traditional (broken) avenues to progress.

Oh -

just go ahead and admit the truth   :^)

It may be true

It may be true, and while I have had serious disagreements with staff in the past, I have always been very reluctant to impugn their intentions.  I, like you, have put myself in a position where my intentions could be easily criticized, and found those critiques more hurtful than anything else.  I recall, Louise, that you were particularly upset at accusation of being a shill for corporate interests.  I have a hard time saying that anyone, no matter how poorly I view their actions, is acting with malicious intent.

Me too

I was just kidding - I know you and I agree that open accusations of that sort do more harm than good. At least we can (so far!) still think things without the whole world knowing  :^)

 

 

better man than I,

better man than I, because I have NO problem with it...watching Chuck's delaying and belittling (oh you are new so let me explain how it works....REALLY?  seems to me STAFF works FOR the BoE, not the other way around)tactics once again, Hill's eye-rolling, Sutton's obvious intent to derail conversations and even Ms. McLaurin's comments at the end of the COW...the REPEATED references (even by legal counsel) to the "meeting two weeks' ago" with condescension dripping in every tone....the whole thing was quite sickening. (even the magnet parade aside)

lol

If those single minded blinders were any narrower Angela you would be blind.

Intentions

Yeah - the "who works for who" thing has always been one of my pet peeves (to put it mildly). Oh, and they definitely have their own "agendas", that's for sure.

Bob--my thoughts exactly! I

Bob--my thoughts exactly! I can't believe that Holdzkom and Dulaney now care that some parents don't have computers and that there's a difference btw mag/cal applications and a survey. Don't get me wrong, I agree that the survey should not be just online but good grief could these 2 be any more transparent? They have not cared what those parents thought before.

I am not sure about a survey

I am not sure about a survey ... say the parents all come back saying they want traditional schedule and we know we can not seat all the kids I am not sure what was accomplished .... I guess we can start planning for more schools to one day meet that desire ...While being aware of parent's opinion is good, I don't think the BOE should run the system by opinion poll ... 

If all the parents want traditional calendar

then doesn't it look like there will need to be more schools built?

Personally, I don't mind, and as a taxpayer I wouldn't be averse to a tax increase to pay for more neighborhood schools being built.

I think the board is right to slow down and consider all this carefully.  Also, parents should also know whether traditional year schooling will mean super big schools with lots of trailers.   Parents should also assume that "neighborhood schools" are currently being defined by the board as the school they are closest to, regardless of whether that school was built with bussing for diversity in mind or as a neighborhood school.  My daughter's base is Reedy Creek.  It is clearly a school built for bussing and I'm not sure the physical structure is all that great for a community/neighborhood school.  There are lots of things to consider here.

On the other hand, it seems there is room for the board to go through and make some changes especially for the people who are most unhappy with their current assignments.  Wouldn't that gp a long way with their constituents?  Having their concerns addressed individually?  The old board seemed to have a tin ear when it came to listening and responding to individual concerns, the new board could generate a whole lot of goodwill by turning that around.

BTW, last nights' was the first board meeting I have attended.  I found it fascinating and  also recognized a couple bloggers from here there, most of whom were well spoken.  Although I wasn't crazy about the board turing down what looked like competitive bidding, ( I could be wrong calling it that-a different term was used), for the legal audit,  overall it was a respectful, well run meeting.

True

True, we cannot run by opinion poll, but we know what you say won't be the case.  There are people who want YR who don't get it and vice-versa.  We can never make everyone happy, but we should absolutely try to do our best to give as many people as they want what they desire.  YR is just like many other things in WCPSS, money, magnets programs, new schools, and so on.  The amount may be a problem, but the problem is magnified by poor allocation.  The way in which resources are managed is in many cases epically bad.

"The way in which resources

"The way in which resources are managed is in many cases epically bad."

 

Agree ... I think that "epic badness" comes from a lack of defined long-term goals .... as long as what school do changes each year with new BOE, new CC, new Supt ... they will end up with a hodge-podge of half completed projects that only satisfy the powers of the day ...  I am not sure how to navigate out of the YR issue ... some families want it and some don't ... unfortunately, they can not both go to a local school and be both ???? or could they .... is it possible to have a local school that some kids go to YR and some traditional schedule?

I will take that even further

a lack of defined long-term goals

 Not only goals, but a lack of follow up, review and measurement of outcomes.  Much like we found out when they talked about the survey, we see again that there is no established process for anything within the WCPSS.  Concurrent to the establishment of MYR there should have at the very least been defined metrics that would report if the goals of increased facility utilization and decreased cost were being met.  Yet instead, the head of the department in charge cannot answer questions about how well the program has worked.  Question that should never have been asked since the data would have been available.

It seems that you and I may come from different sides and leave going different ways.  But I feel as though we meet in the middle, expressed quite well by the statement "it ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it." 

"It seems that you and I may

"It seems that you and I may come from different sides and leave going different ways.  But I feel as though we meet in the middle, expressed quite well by the statement "it ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it."   

dare I say the D word (Diversity) ... if problems were easy, the kids would have solved them already ... different ways of solving a problem ultimately lead to a better solution ...concerning YR ..  personally, I am confused ... by all the data ... we either have enough seat for everyone for the next five years or we don't ... simple question ... if we don't , than some kind of facilities arrangement like YR needs to take place ... all this school is at 200% and this one is 50% is so confusing ... personally, it appear we have enough seat to just make this year in total - 140k kids and 140 seats ... I really don't want to talk about it should be 139,540 or Leesville is xxxx... it seems like we have 10-20% trailers unequally spread around with not much room for expansion and ultimately costing more than a building ... so, I wonder if we will have more kids than seats as we jockey new schools coming on line what do we do with those kids?  And given the overage is unequally spread out, how can everyone stay local without seats...

 

YR

 personally,
I am confused ... by all the data ... we either have enough seat for
everyone for the next five years or we don't ... simple question ...

Unfortunately, it is not a simple question.  As you said later in your post, are the seats in the right place?  Previously, the question of the need to set the student population percentages was a major factor.  It was no coincidence that most of the conversions were low F&R schools that now have higher F&R populations as a result of assignment.  Of course, those aren't called assignments for diversity, since they are filling capacity and can be labeled a growth issue.

It is also complicated by the definition of number of seats.  When I was doing my own analysis of the reassignments, capacity numbers would change with no change in mobile units, no change in statutes for class sizes and no explanation.  Same thing for year round conversion.  There was no indication how the new capacity numbers were generated and they changed frequently.

Again, it goes back to the lack of process.  We don't even have a good idea how much space we have, so figuring out if we will have enough in the future is a fool's errand, don't you think?

Don't get me wrong, you have good questions, but the root problem is that the answers you get simply aren't reliable.  The past few years and the enormous gap between what was projected for MYR and what has been returned is proof that the factual basis for proper decision making wasn't present then and I see no evidence that it has changed.  In fact, based on Mr. Dulaney's responses yesterday, I think it is clear nothing has improved.

In total agreement

Concurrent to the establishment of MYR there should have at the very
least been defined metrics that would report if the goals of increased
facility utilization and decreased cost were being met.

Here is where I agree with you wholeheartedly.  There absolutely should have been measurements created, benchmarks set and progress tracked.

 This is where I think the new board has a chance to step up and do some good.  There can be a real chance here for these folks to initiate this process and begin the measurement we so desperately need.

Have you seen or heard any indication that they will?

This IS a problem, but....

"Concurrent to the establishment of MYR there should have at the very
least been defined metrics that would report if the goals of increased
facility utilization and decreased cost were being met."

 Hard to argue with that.  But on the other hand...what's the point of a wasting money on a metric if NEITHER side gives a damn whether the  policy is or is not working before deciding to keep/abandon it.   '

Certainly you'll admit that even if there were such a metric and it hypothetcally showed MYR working (putting aside the fact that weve only had MYR for 6 months now) the new board would be ending it anyway? They promised to and they made that promise before MYR even existed in Wake County, much less before they had any idea whether it was or wasn't working.

I think you have me mistaken for someone else

Chaboard, I think you have me mistaken for someone else.  I fought against the MYR proposal because it was being done the wrong even though that same proposal placed my child in the school I wanted, the school that he was denied entry to just one year prior.

I will not deny that the political element ruled the day before and still does.  As I said, my whole push is to move away from that and get a data based decision making process implemented.

On point:

if there were such a metric and it hypothetcally showed MYR working (putting aside the fact that weve only had MYR for 6 months now) 

There is no need for hypothetical.  It was shown that it wouldn't work as outlined before it began.  The last six months have just been so obvious no one can deny it even in the face of the most dogmatic devotion.

I thought you said there isn't data/metric?

There is no need for hypothetical.  It was shown that it wouldn't work
as outlined before it began.  The last six months have just been so
obvious no one can deny it even in the face of the most dogmatic
devotion.

Does the data exists that shows this?  Is it in "private hands" and the board just hasn't adopted it?

Data

It went to court with the Wake CARES suit.  It was ignored by the board.  It showed that the conversion gains were overstated as was the population growth in the elementary schools subject to conversion.  Later assignments used to attempt to fill those schools were from nodes not in the areas of "explosive growth" specifically outlined by WCPSS as being the catalyst for MYR.

There are no real metrics, just the work of concerned parents like me who were blown off.  I wouldn't consider what I did to the standards required of a multi-million dollar decision like this was, but pretty much every contention that was made and ignored has turned out to be mostly if not entirely true.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.
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