The Wake County Taxpayers Association announced today that it had filed a complaint with AdvancED asking the accreditation organization to investigate the actions of the Wake County school board majority.
The complaint hits on a variety of things, including the private meeting the new board members had with Michael Alves, the post-midnight vote on the student assignment directive and board member Jim Martin trying to arrange an assignment provision for parents going on sabbaticals,
Several of the allegations deal with the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, from the behavior of some members in the audience of board meetings to charges they've unduly influenced the board majority.
Some of the charges made by the WCTA are incorrect or subject to interpretation. For instance, the meeting between Alves, Hill and the new board members wasn't a quorum.
If AdvancED does act on the complaint, it's not going to help Wake's efforts this year to get its high school accreditation upgraded from accreditation advised status.
Here's the press release:
WCTA Files Complaint Against WCPSS BOE
Wake County, NC, (September 20, 2012) - The Wake County Taxpayers Association has filed a formal complaint with AdvancED/SACS against the Wake County Board of Education. The positive improvements acknowledged by AdvancED in their last report are slowly being eroded away by the continuous mismanagement and lack of governance by the new Board majority. More importantly, the hasty decisions, actions, and 5-4 votes have resulted in unnecessary fear and uncertainty with parents and disenfranchised stakeholders.
“The Taxpayers of Wake County are disturbed by the dysfunction of the Wake County School Board,” said Russell Capps, President of WCTA. “We have witnessed too much damage from certain Board members this year; and we, as well as citizens all over Wake County, are now fearful of the impetuous actions of this Board and its effect on the education of thousands of students,”
The Board is clearly being unduly influenced by a partisan group (see Compliant # 4), resulting in many areas of our school system having their needs and concerns ignored. The documents filed today with the accrediting organization specifically cite 15 complaints which are fully documented by accompanying attachments cited by date and source of each complaint. In addition, I and other members of WCTA were personal witnesses to many of the actions cited in the complaints.
A partial list of the complaints include:
Complaint # 1
While the Resolution Approving Student Assignment which was approved by a 6 -2 vote on October 18, 2011, included an agreement that the plan would remain in effect for a minimum of three years, allowing continuity for students and families, the new majority set about immediately to bash the plan and direct staff to create a new plan. (As of this date they are now considering still another student assignment plan).
Complaint # 3
Action by Board Member Susan Evans publicly rejecting the concerns and involvement of community advocacy groups, Wake Education Partnership, and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, who were intimately involved and consulted during the seven months of creating the new assignment plan. The complaint quotes Evans arrogantly arguing, “While I acknowledge that, first of all, the Raleigh Chamber and the Wake Partnership are valuable partners in our community … I just wanted to remind Ms. Prickett (School Board Member) and the Board that we are the elected officials charged with making these important decisions on behalf of the school system”.
Complaint # 5
Ethical violations. Discussion by Board Member Jim Martin, an NC State University Professor, seeking to create special benefits for other NCSU professors not available to others.
Complaint # 7
News & Observer report: Racist remarks by Board Member Susan Evans expressing concern that the plan would create too large of a percentage of "white kindergartners".
There are many other concerns documented in our listed 15 complaints filed with the Accreditation Agency. We are asking AdvancEd to investigate and report its findings in regard to the 15 Complaints outlined and documented in our filing.
Here's info from the attachment:
From the AdvancED Monitoring Visit Report, November 29-30, 2011:
Required Action 2:
Analyze and revise the “node” system of assigning students to schools to ensure objectivity, transparency and consistency. Action: Completed
1. The Resolution Approving Student Assignment Plan, adopted with a 6-2 vote on October 18, 2011, which supported the new Choice Assignment Plan, directed “..that the student assignment plan will remain in effect for a minimum of three years, allowing continuity for students and families.” This directive was communicated to stakeholders over the months of public engagement. On June 19, 2012, the new Board majority subverted that promise and directed staff to create a new plan for the 2013-14 school year. The expectations and agreement with the stakeholders on the promises of the new plan were immediately discarded.
Ø 2-1-1 Board Resolution Approving Student Assignment Plan, October 18, 2011
Ø 2-1-2 Sutton Precis
2. The intent of the Board to subvert the new assignment plan was not communicated to the public nor were any stakeholder meetings held to support the change in direction. The June 19, 2012 Board meeting was held late into the night and the 5-4 vote to drastically alter student assignment was done at 1:00 AM on June 20th. Chair Hill placed this item as #30 on the Board agenda and a 5-4 vote at 10:38 PM extended the meeting past 11:00 PM to accommodate this vote. The Board majority’s complete lack of transparency and exclusion of public input has created uncertainty and discontent among parents about their children’s educational futures.
Ø 2-2-1 June 19, 2012 Board Agenda
Ø 2-2-2 Original Precis for June 19 Board meeting
Ø 2-2-3 Board minutes for June 19 Board meeting, not publically available as of today’s date.
3. During this same June 19, 2012 Board meeting, Board member Susan Evans publicly rejects the concerns and involvement of educational and community advocacy groups, Wake Education Partnership and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, who were intimately involved and consulted during the seven months of creating the new assignment plan. Evans states “While I acknowledge that, first of all, the Raleigh Chamber and the Wake Ed Partnership are valuable partners in our community … I just wanted to remind Ms. Prickett and the board that we are the elected officials charged with making these important decisions on behalf of the school system.”
Ø 2-3-1 News & Observer, “Change in Wake student assignment plan draws reaction”, June 20, 2012
Ø 2-3-2 News & Observer, WakeEd blog, Wake Education Partnership "extremely disappointed" in Wake County school board's student assignment decision, June 20, 2012
Ø 2-3-3 News & Observer, WakeEd blog, Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce "disappointed" in Wake County school board's student assignment vote, June 20, 2012
4. Alteration of the Choice Assignment Plan was completed with extreme influence of Great Schools in Wake (GSIW), a partisan political group whose members include at least three of the newly-elected Board members. In an email dated 5/19/2012 from GSIW, its leader updates the members that the group has been “working to get the Board to at least direct the staff for the 2013 assignment plan.” Further, the leader of GSIW indicates, “…the need for New Plan directive for staff to start working on now”. Then, at the June 19, 2012 meeting, the Board majority approved a directive 5-4 that directs staff to create a new 2013 assignment plan immediately, exactly what GSIW dictates in the email. The Board majority violated Policy 1035, B2: Render all decisions based on the available facts and independent judgment and refuse to surrender that judgment to individuals or special interest groups; and Policy 1005: It is important that a Board member is nonpartisan in dealing with school matters and that he/she not subordinate the education of children and youth to any partisan principle, group, interest, or personal ambition.which is to subordinate education to a partisan group.
Ø 2-4-1 GSIW Directive, May 20, 2012
Ø 2-4-2 Indyweekly Article, stating that GSIW critque will be taken seriously, and the reason why, January 2012
Ø 2-4-3 News and Observer post asking – ‘how do they know how to set the stage for the June 5 meeting?’, May 21, 2012
5. Susan Evans and Christine Kushner were and possibly are still active leaders in this group; Jim Martin is a member. In February 2012, Superintendent Tata asserted publically that there was undue influence of the Board by GSIW.
Ø 2-5-1 Indyweekly Article stating Susan Evans member of GSIW, and alignment of Christine Kushner and Jim Martin with group, January 2012
Ø 2-5-2 Indyweekly Article stating Jim Martin is a member of GSIW, June 2011.
Ø 2-5-3 News & Observer post, regarding Susan Evans/Christine Kushner accepting award on behalf of GSIW, February 22, 2012
Required Action 3:
Establish and implement an agenda setting process to ensure that every member of the Board of Education and key system leadership are well-prepared for each Board meeting. Action : Completed
1. Board member Kevin Hill attempted to schedule work sessions thru the superintendent prior to being elected Board chair, circumventing the then-current chairman. Discussions and deliberations were being held amongst the new majority about their votes in electing new Board leadership. Board member Jim Martin acknowledges this in the media.
Ø 3-1-1 News & Observer, “Review of Wake school assignment plan likely”, November 21, 2011
Ø 3-1-2 News & Observer, WakeEd blog, Kevin Hill asking for Dec 7 work session on student assignment, November 21, 2011
2. November – December 2011, Board member Kevin Hill inappropriately scheduled a secret meeting of the newly elected Board majority prior to being elected and assuming responsiblities as chair. Further, on December 7, 2011, the newly sworn-in majority secretly attended said meeting to discuss reassignment with educational consultant Mr. Michael Alves. The remaining minority members (4) were not made aware of this meeting nor was the public notified. As a quorom was in attendance, meeting details should have been posted and the meeting should have been made open to the public. This is a violation of Board Policies 1300 and 1320 and again demonstrates the lack of transparency and secrecy of the Board majority.
Ø 3-2-1 News & Observer, WakeEd blog, Wake County GOP school board members complain about not being told of meeting with Michael Alves, January 5, 2012
Ø 3-2-2 News & Observer, WakeEd blog, Raising more questions about Michael Alves’ unannounced meeting with new Wake County school board members, January 13, 2012
Ø 3-2-3 News & Observer, WakeEd blog, County school board member Debra Goldman on becoming the board "watchdog" , January, 20, 2012
Ø 3-2-4 News 14, “Tensions between political parties rise on Wake school board”, January 5, 2012
Ø 3-2-5 News & Observer, “Secret meeting riles Wake school Republicans”, January 7, 2012
3. Chairman Hill allowed offensive and intimidating behavior by members of GSIW during public board meetings. This behavior, which was condoned by Chair Hill, created fear and uneasiness among citizens wishing to speak during public comment. Many chose not to attend due to the rude, disruptive and bullying behavior. Chairman Hill allowed this behavior to continue for much of the first and second quarter of 2012, until public outcry regarding the hostile environment was published in the local newspaper. This is a violation of Policies 1323, 1326 and 1330.
Ø 3-3-1 News & Observer, WakeEd blog, Wake County school board members Deborah Prickett and Debra Goldman sound off about GSIW and the public’s behavior, including email sent to Chairman Hill from concerned parent, April 10, 2012
Ø 3-3-2 News & Observer, Letter to the Editor, March 29, 2012, “F is for Courtesy”
Ø 3-3-3 Email to parent from Chair Hill, March 28, 2012
Required Action 5:
Provide on-going cohesive and consistent training to all members of the Board of Education regarding their roles, responsibilities, and the strategic direction of the school system. Action: Completed
1. In March 2012, an email was exposed in which Board member Susan Evans refers to Superintendent Tata in a derogatory manner. Those included in this email were all leaders or members of GSIW. This is a violation of Policy 1035 which is the Code of Ethics.
Ø 5-1-1 News & Observer, “Tata Claims School Board Members Have Potential Ethics Violations”, February 21, 2012
Ø 5-1-2 Email from Board member Susan Evans to members of GSIW, March 7, 2012
2. During the May 15, 2012 public Board meeting, Board member Susan Evans tells Board member Debra Goldman to “just hush”. Minutes later, she tells Board member Deborah Pricket to “get a life”. There seems to be little understanding by Ms. Evans of meeting decorum and job requirements. This is a violation of Policy 1035 which states: “Encourage the free expression of opinion by all Board members and seek systematic communications between the Board and students, staff and all elements of the community.”
Ø 5-2 News & Observer, WakeEd blog, Wake County school board on the level of bus service for preassigned feeders students, May 16, 2012
3. In an email exchange between Board members dated 3/28/2012, Chair Hill requests and encourages off-the-record and private discussions and deliberations between the Board members about school business. In this email, Hill states: “If concerns continue to exist, I believe that professionalism dictates that concerns / questions of this nature be discussed face-to-face and not in the public eye.“
Ø 5-3 News & Observer, WakeEd blog, Wake County school board member Jim Martin alleging political partisanship in bell schedule changes, April 9, 2012
4. Private deliberations were held regarding the placement of WCPSS Leadership academies at Peace University with a majority of Board members. Peace College had initially agreed, and then after the private deliberations with the newly elected majority – at the exclusion of the minority, the President of Peace called the agreement off by stating that ‘due to the division and controversy on the Wake County Public School System board’, the university was removing itself from consideration.
Ø 5-4 Peace University Backs Out – compilation of articles from the News and Observer, WCPSS and Peace.
5. Board member Jim Martin, a professor at North Carolina State University, requested a discussion in the Policy Committee to create a policy that would specifically benefit NCSU professors. Per Dr. Martin, the provost of NCSU requested his assistance in this matter. This is a violation of Policy 1036 and 1035, using the Board positon for personal gain and avoiding impropriety.
Ø 5-5 News & Observer, WakeEd blog, Wake County school board committee debates guaranteeing school spots for families who want to return, May 30, 2012
6. On July 8, 2012, Chair Hill presented a document titled “Possible Seat Allocation for 2012-13” via email to the Board. That document included a draft date of “6/18/12”. The 5-4 vote to alter the new choice plan with these new directives was not taken until June 19, 2012 (actually close to 1:00 AM on June 20th), the day after the document was drafted. This is further proof that the Board majority is deliberating and discussing their votes privately, moving forward assuredly with decisions that have not yet been voted upon. This violates the Open Meeting Law requirement of conducting Board business is an open and public manner.
Ø 5-6 Draft of Possible Seat Allocation
7. During the July 25, 2012 Board work session, the News & Observer reports Board member Susan Evans’ racist comments about the trends of the new choice plan and her concern with the percentage of “white kindergartners”.
Ø 5-7 News & Observer, “Wake school board delays decision on low-income students”, July 25, 2012
After an examination of this overwhelming evidence, we conclude that the actions and behaviors of members of the Wake County Board of Education undermined the efficacy of Required Actions outlined in the 2011 AdvancED monitoring report. Moreover, the actions described here do not adhere to the accreditation standards and policies articulated by AdvancED and administered by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS/CASI). For these compelling reasons, we ask that your office commence an investigation to determine the validity of the claims and the corrective actions to be taken.