Monday, January 30, 2012

Throwing stones

Do you remember AdvancED? They’re the group that Rev. Barber and his performance crew went crying to after the then-School Board began the process of changing student assignment in Wake County. AdvancED, for those who don’t know, is an accreditation company that…well…accredits our high schools. Sounds important, doesn’t it? Like someone we should keep happy. But are they really?

Consider the original complaint filed by Rev. Barber and the NAACP. It is nothing more than a rambling rant of how much they despised the Republican majority – Mr. Margiotta, in particular – and the Board’s desire to bring about common sense changes to student assignment.  (If you have a minute, you really should read the whole complaint to get an understanding of what started this ball rolling. The tone and inferences are, at times, quite comical)
Yet, as a result of this ridiculous complaint, AdvancED came marching in, demanding to scrutinize a variety of issues – many of which were completely irrelevant to accrediting a high school. If you recall, there was some debate as to whether AdvancED overstepped its authority in their review request. In the end, AdvancED came to town and placed WCPSS on “accreditation warned” status.

Fast forward to today. AdvancED’s new report lifts the warning and places WCPSS ‘s accreditation on "advisement".  Due to the hard work of the previous Board and Supt. Tata, the points raised by AdvancED, however disconnected they were to the performance of our high schools, have been addressed and corrected.

But, what has really changed – besides the political majority on the School Board? Are our high schools and their students better in some way? Even the Wake Education Partnership came to the conclusion that accreditation is just a public perception issue. We think it’s important only because we’ve been told it is.

The original complaint from 2010 accused the “Caucus” – which Rev. Barber condescendingly refers to the 5 Republicans that were serving – of violations in governance and leadership. One of those complaints – holding secret meetings. Ironically, we just recently learned that Chairman Kevin Hill arranged a private meeting for some of the Board members without the knowledge of others. The meeting itself was held less than 24 hours after the new Board members were sworn in. (Board policy requires a 48-hour notice for meetings.) And, remember, Kevin Hill wasn’t even Board Chair until that evening. Why was he even involved in the scheduling of any sort of meeting? It seems to me that some behind-the-scenes negotiations and discussions must have been going in secret with the other Board members.

Another point in the original complaint – “…Ms. Goldman, Mr. Tedesco, Ms. Prickett and Mr. Malone.…in lock-step, immediately unseated the experienced Chair mid-term and replaced him with Mr. Margiotta.” Well, isn’t that exactly what today’s Board did with Mr. Tedesco? Tedesco was readily removed as vice-Chair mid-term during the Dec 2011 Board meeting. As soon as Hill was elected as Chair, he, Sutton and their 3 new cronies replaced Mr. Tedesco with Mr. Sutton. 

Will AdvancED be hearing from Rev. Barber about these incidents? Don’t count on it. His friends are in charge now.

I’ve always wondered why people like Rev. Barber and his friends at GSIW who claim to want “high quality schools” for our children would want to risk accreditation that they deem so important. Could it be that they don’t actually care about our children and our schools – but only their own political agenda? As we witnessed with the election results last Fall, the fear and uncertainty created by these groups served its purpose. What a shame that these groups felt it was appropriate to use our children’s futures to achieve their goals. And what a shame that this Board feels they can behave in the same manner in which they complained about. Maybe AdvancED needs to look at their governance and leadership as well.

But, again, don't count on it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I have a PhD, you know.

It seems School Board members Jim Martin and Susan Evans don’t approve of the choices – or lack of choices – you have been making for your children. WCPSS just released the magnet application numbers and they are down from last year. Although WCPSS still received twice as many applications than there are available magnet seats and almost 2,000 students weren’t counted in the final number because the plan pre-assigns them to their magnet, the immediate reaction from Martin and Evans was dramatic distress and concern.  They just can’t seem to understand why parents, who finally have some say in their child’s assignment, aren’t choosing what they want them to choose. 

Has it occurred to either of them that this new assignment plan offers many of the benefits that parents previously sought within the magnet system? How many families attended a magnet school in the past because it offered long-term stability? How many went to avoid MYR? How many attended to have an understanding of and priority to their next level school assignment? It’s obvious that many families are still choosing to send their child to an academically-rich magnet school for the right reasons. Too many to seat, in fact. So, what’s the issue?

But, during the magnet discussion at yesterday’s Board work session, the cherry on top was listening to Mr. Martin drone on and on about his son’s middle school, Carnage Middle. This isn’t the first time we have heard Mr. Martin discuss his son’s school and I’m sure this won’t be the last. Mr. Martin simply isn’t happy with all those poor kids feeding into Carnage from Walnut Creek Elementary as he is convinced that they will lower Carnage’s performance as a school and take away too many magnet seats – as if they are less deserving to attend Carnage. He didn’t show the least bit of concern for what the families of those students may want or what is best for those students’ education – just that his son may be affected somehow by something at some time. And Evans nodded ferociously in agreement.

My advice?

If you want a good education, have your child attend the same school as Mr. Martin’s son.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dancing (and singing) around the issue

Anyone who has been paying the least bit of attention to the Wake County School Board over the past few years knows about the arrests of Rev. Barber and the other protestors for disrupting and refusing to leave a School Board meeting.  What some might not know is that District 8’s very own School Board representative, Susan Evans, was an active participant in those disruptions at that June 2010 meeting.

In this video (at the 21 minute mark), you will see Mrs. Evans (front row on the right, green shirt) standing in support of the protest, participating in the disruption by clapping, singing and praying along with Rev. Barber and those arrested, and eventually walking up and linking arms with the protestors.

An article ran in the News & Observer this week indicating the new Board had a closed session discussion about these arrests and chose not to change the decision of the old Board to pursue prosecution. After this meeting, Mrs. Evans posted this on her Facebook page:
Clarification: We did NOT vote last week that we wished to take protestors to trial!!! We were informed that the District Attorney could exercise his own judgment with these cases and we place out trust in Mr. Willoughby to do what is fair and most sensible for the taxpayers. Mr. Keung Hui of the N&O could not be present at the discussion, as it was a closed session, so he is speculating on the discussion and trying to incite the public. This is very unfortunate!!!
First of all, there’s a reason that the Board discusses some issues in closed session. Maybe someone should clue in Mrs. Evans about those reasons – and how Facebooking about them isn’t really a good idea.

Secondly, I fail to see how Mr. Hui’s reporting qualifies as inciting the public. Dancing and singing at a School Board meeting with the purposeful intent of halting the public’s business will do more to stir up a crowd than a news article.  As I see it, the decision to prosecute was made prior to this closed session, a discussion was held during the closed session (thanks to Evans’ Facebook post we now know some of the details) and the decision to prosecute remained after the closed session meeting.  Pretty straightforward, if you ask me. The decision to not change the decision is – a decision.

Lastly, I am just amazed that Mrs. Evans sees nothing wrong with her involvement in Board discussions about these charges while she maintains a personal relationship with those arrested. (Yes, at least one of those arrested helped her on her campaign last Fall.)  Has she been advised by the Board’s attorney to recuse herself from these discussions due to her rhythmically-challenged participation in these protests?  To avoid an obvious conflict, Mrs. Evans should withdraw herself from these discussions about the fate of her friends. Maybe her next Facebook post will be an apology to the citizens she represents for her disrespectful behavior.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Good morning. Really good morning.

How does it feel to wake up and no longer have to face reassignment ever again? In fact, you will never have to speak that horrible word again. Pretty darn good, if you ask me.

Without much fanfare, the choice selection process of the new Wake County Choice Student Assignment plan begins this afternoon. Gone are the days of getting up on a chilly December morning to type in your node to see if your family was one of the unlucky that would be reassigned the following year. Today, at long last, parents have been given back control of their child’s education.

It’s about time.