Here are some of the juicy highlights:
Over the past 14 months, the Wake County Public Schools have experienced significant governance issues that have caused tremendous uncertainty throughout the community. This period of instability began during the Board of Education meeting on December 1, 2009. At the beginning of this meeting four new Board members (John Tedesco, Chris Malone, Debra Goldman, and Deborah Prickett) were installed as a result of the October 2009 election. Once installed the four new Board members joined forces with current Board member, Ron Margiotta, to launch a premeditated act that resulted in destabilizing the school system and community. Interviews with Board members revealed that these five members planned to set in motion actions that were designed to disrupt and redirect the work of the system.
As Chris Malone noted in his interview these were calculated acts to "deliver a shot across the bow." The resulting actions dramatically reshaped the environment and direction of the school system.
During the review process staff presented data that showed the school system was experiencing positive gains related to student achievement. In interviews, some board members expressed a different view and claimed to have their “own data” that refuted the data shared by staff and other Board members. This lack of alignment between staff and board has led to ineffective policy decisions. A review of student achievement data by the Special Review Team indicated that the system is experiencing noted improvements. School system staff provided student achievement data that indicated the system is closing the achievement gap between Caucasian and minority students; decreasing the dropout rate for minorities at a faster pace than Caucasians; improving the graduation rate for minorities as compared to similar urban systems in the United States; and increasing the performance of students in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. High School principals indicated that student performance has been steadily improving over the past decade.
As exhibited in the school system’s charts and graph below, the system provided numerous examples of evidence that demonstrate the school system’s gains in student performance. For example the following chart illustrates the system’s success in closing the achievement gaps
Interviews with Board members revealed a very different perception. Each of the four newly- elected Board members, as well as Ron Margiotta, refused to acknowledge the student achievement data compiled by the school system and displayed on large posters in the Board meeting room. Each of the five Board members indicated a reliance on their 'own' data to support their conclusions and defend their actions. Board member John Tedesco asserted that the previous Student Assignment Policy distributed low achievers throughout the system so that their needs would be hidden and consequently not be met. Mr. Tedesco has repeatedly advocated for concentrating low achieving students in a school so that their needs are not hidden.
However, when Board members were asked how they would ensure that schools with a significant population of low achieving students would be supported there were no solutions or plans offered. High school principals noted deep concern that the new policy would significantly compromise their ability to meet the needs of students. Additionally, principals indicated that there is no plan for providing the additional resources for a school with an exceptionally high proportion of low achieving students. Given that the school system is facing significant financial challenges there is much doubt among administrators that the necessary resources will be available and targeted to support the need for instructional interventions.
In several instances, Board members indicated that Wake County was struggling with improving the graduation rate of African-American males and that Wake County Public Schools are not keeping pace with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Although Wake County trails the state average as well as the success rate in Guilford County Schools, according to data provided by staff, the graduation rate among African-American males exceeds that of Charlotte- Mecklenburg Schools and the national average.
Since December 1, 2009 there have been several meetings of the Board in which members of the Board have added action items at the beginning of the meeting in clear violation of their own Board policy. Most of these items are in the form of resolutions that have been drafted by one or more members of the Board. When resolutions are presented, the Board is expected to act on the resolution even though all members of the Board may be inadequately prepared to consider the resolution prior to voting. In addition, late additions to the agenda make it impossible for the superintendent and professional staff to provide the Board with relevant and reliable information related to the resolution. The practice of adding action items at the start of a meeting is being done to deliberately place other Board members at a disadvantage. As Board member Chris Malone indicated in his interview, "we deliberately added these items to the agenda to make an opening statement." Many members of the Board indicated that this practice has had a significant negative impact on the Board's ability to conduct professional, informed meetings representative of an effective governing body.
The Wake County Public Schools have experienced significant growth resulting in a majority minority student population. Most systems in the nation that have experienced the type of change that Wake County has experienced in the past 10 years have also experienced a decline in student achievement. However Wake County has closed the achievement gap and increased achievement levels for minorities as well as decreased drop-out rates while increasing graduation rates. The vast majority of high school principals, teachers, students, and parents indicated during the interview process a belief in the benefits of the prior Student Assignment Policy and concern with the potential negative impact of the recent changes. In fact, high school principals noted that the previous policy did not create unstable environments nor did it result in low performing students not getting the support they needed to succeed. Student performance data clearly indicated that low performing students were realizing gains in student achievement that outpaced their peers in other school systems.
What more do you need to know? The school board is a miserable failure. We must continue fighting for our children!