by Burwell Stark
RALEIGH — July 23, the Wake County Board of Education held its routine, open full board meeting that was mostly notable for its silence about the controversial state budget that has been tentatively approved by the General Assembly. A budget which, if passed and signed into law, will remove teacher tenure and provide funds for certain low-income students to attend private schools.
Instead, along with routine matters, the board chose to celebrate the opening of the new, state-of-the-art Rolesville High School.
Additionally, Interim Superintendent Cathy Moore highlighted a new professional development initiative for teachers known as Teacher Leader Corps (TLC).
A SMART school
Board Chairman Keith Sutton, along with Moore and several other board members, chose to use their opening comments to sing the praise of the new Rolesville High, having attended the school’s ribbon cutting ceremony earlier that day.
Rolesville High is the only four-story high school in Wake County, and one of few in the state. Sutton described the building as an “amazing facility” and remarked on the design of both the classrooms, which are laid out to “encourage collaboration with teachers and students,” and the cafeteria, which is also four stories.
According to Sutton, the cafeteria was built in order to maximize the SMART lunch principles, which are currently implemented in some other Wake high schools. SMART stands for “Students Maximizing Achievement Relationships and Time” and was developed at Panther Creek High School.
The SMART lunch program has improved student-teacher relationships as its goal.
Moore described the opening ceremony as a “perfect blend” of community, elected officials and school system employees.
Do Wake teachers need TLC?
Moore closed her comments by showing a three minute video about Teacher Leader Corps. Developed in partnership with Discover Education, a division of Discover Communications, TLC is a “model of collective and sustained learning [that] will help to build the professional capital of their teachers.”
TLC works by taking four teachers from each of the 170 schools in Wake County and providing them professional development for five days a year over the next three years. The selected teachers will then return to their schools and pass on to the other faculty what they received.
The school system is promoting TLC as a way to learn “how to integrate digital content and how to set up a classroom that promotes 21st Century skills.”
Not mentioned by Moore or in the video, but stated on the Discover Education website, is the fact that every school in Wake County is required to purchase Discovery Education Streaming Plus content — the professional development the TLC teachers receive is on how to use that purchased content.
This comes while Wake County schools face a $5.5 million deficit in funding teachers and teacher assistants.
The sounds of silence
The proposed state budget has received much negative attention for its changes to education spending as it has worked its way through the General Assembly. July 22, North Carolina Association of Educators President Rodney Ellis said the budget “will position our state as a model in what not to do in education” and threatened to “immediately pursue legal challenges” should the budget pass.
Earlier in the year, Chairman Sutton said that the budget “would impact Wake County in a very significant way.”
However, during the July 23 open session, not a word was mentioned about the state budget or the actions Wake schools would have to take to cover any loss in state funding.
After closed session, David Neter, chief financial officer for the Wake County Public School System, said that Wake schools were working to prevent the job cuts by moving money around.
There were two other fiscal items of business during open session:
•The consideration of an offer to purchase surplus school board property at 3600 Wake Forest Road in Raleigh, and
•A proposal to offer $100 bonuses to 50 current teachers who refer a special education teacher, as long as that special education teacher is hired.
While the consideration of the purchase offer was eventually tabled for 100 days, there was some discussion among board members as to the time sensitivity and necessity of the offer. The offer, which came in at $5.1 million, is 25 percent less than the most recent appraisal value of $6.8 million.
Board member John Tedesco mentioned that if the board chose to wait, there may be higher offers in the future on the property. The board voted to defer action at this time on the current offer.
Lastly, the board voted unanimously to offer a “temporary special education hiring referral bonus,” effective from July 23 to Oct. 15, to help locate and hire enough special education teachers to fill the 50 vacant spots in Wake County.
After the vote on the referral bonus, the board adjourned to enter a closed session.