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Wake School Board recognizes student leaders, tackles resource officer issues
by Clellie Allen
CARY — The Wake County School Board failed to name a superintendent during its board meeting Tuesday night, instead appointing Deputy Superintendent for School Performance Cathy Moore as interim superintendent. Moore replaces Stephen Gainey who starts as the superintendent of Randolph County Schools July 1.
Although board staff had previously released statements that the new superintendent would be announced as a part of the meeting, Tuesday afternoon Chairman Keith Sutton said in a statement, “As much as we would like to make an official announcement tonight, it would be premature until all aspects of the appointment are crystal clear. The board wants to ensure the best interest of the Wake County Public School System is represented on all fronts.”
The board narrowed a field of 23 candidates down to three last week: Dr. Dana Tyrone Bedden, Superintendent of the Irving Independent School District in Irving, Texas; Ann Clark, Deputy Superintendent for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and Dr. Jim Merrill Superintendent of the Virginia Beach City Public Schools. All three finalists visited Wake County last week, touring schools, meeting with staff and participating in a community forum.
Sutton and the rest of the board members did not comment further on the delay nor was a time frame given as to when the decision would be made.
Suspensions to be examined
After hearing from a number of parents and students alike about concerns over school resource officers (SROs), the board removed from the consent agenda two items concerning SRO contracts with the towns of Raleigh and Cary. Sparking the concerns was the recent arrest of several Enloe High students for participating in a water balloon fight. A parent was also arrested after he tried to intervene between police and a student.
Board member Dr. Jim Martin used the opportunity to raise concerns about SRO training, claiming that he was threatened with arrest by a SRO several years prior during a misunderstanding at his child’s school.
“I was threatened that I better be careful or I would get arrested,” he said.
Particularly concerning to Martin is that there is no board policy concerning documentation of action taken by SROs, only of action taken by school personnel. As SROs are not employees of the school system, they do not have to document their activity in the same way as staff.
He expressed an interest in reviewing all the due process policy.
Also at issue was the apparent disparity in the ethnicity of the students receiving suspensions.
Of the 14,626 suspensions in the prior school year, black students comprised 60 percent, or 8,802, of the suspensions, despite only making up about 25 percent of the student population.
Sutton agreed with examining the due process policy and even brought up the possibility of a moratorium on short-term suspensions.
It wasn’t all work at the meeting. After the first round of public comment, board members took time to recognize the coaches and team captains of each team earning a state championship in the 2012-13 school year. There were 15 state championships, including one from Wakefield High. Coach Ann Graham of the Girls’ indoor track team was recognized for the team’s state title.
Also honored were the valedictorians of this year’s graduating class. There were 31 valedictorians in all and between them, they received more than 3.5 million in college scholarships according to board staff member Kathy Chontos.
Local students recognized were Bailey Craddock and Ethan Wenker from Heritage, who tied for the top spot. They will both attend NCSU in the fall, with Craddock studying biomedical engineering and Wenker studying software development,
Wakefield also had a tie: Vyom Buch will attend UNC-Chapel Hill and study neuro-medicine while Zachary Park will attend Boston College and study medicine.
Wake Forest-Rolesville’s valedictorian is Hannah Moyles who will attend Duke in the fall and will study psychology and public policy.