At a press briefing on Friday, Wake schools Superintendent Tony Tata further outlined the schedule for developing a new comprehensive student assignment plan.
He said that he and his six-member student assignment task force have been reviewing research and policies in “a couple dozen” similar districts around the country. Using 18 separate criteria, they have developed nine options.
“We’ve looked all the way from a complete free choice plan to a complete neighborhood school plan,” Tata said. “Each of the plans is unique to what we do now.”
“We’re still at the concept level,” he added. “We’ve done a lot of looking at data upon which to build a plan.”
Although Tata offered no specific details of any of the plans, he briefly outlined what the task force is seeking.
“The plans focus on standards like proximity and stability,” he said. “Stability is the clarion call I’m hearing from parents.”
Tata will release the nine student assignment options with their 18 criteria by mid-May, when they will be posted on the district’s website for online feedback from the public before a public hearing is scheduled.
“We intend to be very transparent,” he said.
In mid-June Tata will report to the board of education on the topic of student assignment, but he may not have a final plan for the board to vote on at that time.
“June is a stake in the ground to have something very tangible to bring back to board,” he said. “Is there going to be a perfect solution by June? I don’t think anyone has intimated that.”
Budget Waiting Game
At the briefing, Tata also addressed the budget uncertainty prompted by machinations in the North Carolina General Assembly.
As the school board discussed at a public work session on Tuesday, the State House of Representatives has proposed an 8.8 percent decrease in funding for public schools, which would require deeper cuts than are already present in the superintendent’s budget proposal.
“These budget cuts I find very severe and could quite possibly lead us to the point where we have to impact classrooms,” Tata said.
Tata’s budget doesn’t fire any teachers or teacher assistants or increase student-teacher ratios, but targeted House cuts would eliminate funding for teacher assistants beyond first grade.
“Teacher assistants perform a variety of critical tasks each every day,” Tata said, including “building and maintaining strong relationships with children” and “clerical support for the teacher.”
When asked if the district would ask for additional money from the county to make up shortfalls, Tata expressed doubts that the county had more money to give.
This is the third year in a row in which school funding from Wake County has remained flat.
Tata said that he will meet soon with the Wake delegation to the General Assembly and ask them to avoid cutting public school funding beyond Governor Bev Perdue’s 5 percent reduction.
14 Year-Round Schools May Go Single-Track
At next Tuesday’s school board meeting, Tata will make a recommendation on whether or not to move 14 under-enrolled year-round schools from multi-track to a single-track.
The intention is to save money by operating the schools only during certain periods.
Earlier this month Tata tasked principals with surveying parents about the option to go to a single track. He has received about 2,400 responses.
In addition to survey data, Tata is examining each student in the 14 schools to determine how students and their siblings would be affected.
“If we cannot align them on the same track we will recommend then that’s not an option,” he said. “We don’t want to have that impact on families.”
On Tuesday, Tata will make a recommendation about each school separately.
The following schools are under consideration:
- Alston Ridge Elementary
- Ballentine Elementary
- Banks Road Elementary
- East Garner Elementary
- Harris Creek Elementary
- Highcroft Elementary
- Lake Myra Elementary
- Rand Road Elementary
- River Bend Elementary
- Timber Drive Elementary
- Wakefield Elementary
- West Lake Elementary
- East Cary Middle
- Holly Grove Middle