Friday, November 18, 2005

Wake turns to year-round schedules

N&O: "Students assigned to any of four new elementary schools in Wake County likely will have little way out"

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Letter From the Heart

I am printing a copy of a LONG letter that I sent to Wake County School Board members this week. It expresses my own personal reasons as to why I am so opposed to the concept of MANDATING year-round school attendance. Please just scroll down if not interested.
To Members of the Wake County School Board:

This is a long and lengthy letter about the mandating of year-round schools. You have every right, of course, to delete it now. I am asking you to please read it carefully, however, since I believe it will help each of you to more fully understand why some parents are so strongly opposed to the idea. My intent is not to change anyone's mind - it is only to shed more light on an issue that all of us are struggling with. I have been told that, as a board, you are not necessarily in favor of mandating year-round attendance. From my limited knowledge of who you are, I can believe that. But as you look at pros and cons this week, please carry the words in this letter with you - if only just to know how to deal with certain parents if and when the time comes to force a change. It is presumptuous of me to ask for your time to wade through this personal letter - especially because it is so long! However, I trust that you will, and I thank you in advance for allowing me, both as a former teacher and as a parent, to share my innermost thoughts with you.

First of all, let me say that I realize that you, as School Board members, HAVE to find seats for the children in Wake County - that's a given. It is imperative that all of us concern ourselves with the data, the studies, the "politics", the diversity, the money, the speculation, etc., etc. - but could it be, could it just possibly be that in doing so, we (self included) are missing the big picture?

We're good when it comes to "figuring things out." As impossible as this growth issue is, it is something we can lay on the table, calculate, point to, and come up with suggestions on how to deal with. Something will be decided, and we'll all carry on.

Recently, I received a very short email from a grandmother, grieving because her grandchildren might miss out on the simple - yet deep - memories and feelings that only a summer can offer. Somehow this short note, out of the thousands of letters I have received, has served as a life line, thrown to me just as I was about to be sucked into the mire of practicalities. Yes, I do get passionate about things that I know I should fight for, but I am also a very logical, mathmatical - minded person. But if I always gave in to that practical part of who I am, I would not be the parent of a precious 12-year old daughter right now.

I am not calling on the School Board or Mr. McNeal and his staff to ensure that every student in Wake County has a balanced, enriched life. Of course you can't do that - and you shouldn't. Even though all of you care about the "total child", you have to first focus on quality schooling - that's your job.

But quality schooling is only a piece of the huge pie that parents slice up for their children - a big piece, yes, but (not to offend anyone) not necessarily the most important piece. I'll continue to fight the "factual" fight (including some data that, as you know, I have shared with you), but I'm adding a new piece to my argument against mass mandating of year-round schools. I have likened such a move to forcing a lifestyle change on families. I still believe that to be the case. But when some people think of lifestyle change, they picture re-arranging family reunions and vacations, dealing with daycare issues, looking at loss of summer revenues, etc. - all of the things the School Board has on its list. These are important things that are huge considerations! Things that some people point to and say, "you traditional school proponents are just afraid of change". That, of course, is absurd for most of us. We're not afraid of change! Look at the changes we've put up with over the past 15-20 years!!!

The forcing of lifestyle change affects tangible parts of a family's existence, and to me is an unthinkable action, but certainly one within the power of the School Board. You do, after all, HAVE to look at the numbers on paper. The very thought of your task overwhelms me. It has occurred to me, however, that an even more unthinkable issue is what really lies at the heart of much of the opposition to mandated year-round schools. It really doesn't have a name, and you can't see it or touch it, so it has almost gotten lost in the shuffle. Yet "it" is arguably the most important component of all to consider, and it constitutes what lies at the core of family life.

Maybe this illustration will help to explain what I mean. We all have basic needs: food, water, clothes, shelter, exercise - fill these needs and we can survive. But when a baby is born, parental instinct kicks in. That baby is cuddled and rocked. That baby is held and hugged and sung to. That baby hears coos and silly adult "baby talk". Why? It could survive without those things. But, by doing those things, a parent knows that he/she is filling needs just as important as the ones I mentioned earlier - needs that can't be measured out or weighed; needs that can't be bought or built; needs that parents feel in their hearts and know are vital just because they are parents! It is absurd to think that any parent would ever be asked to compromise those needs, even though technically that baby would survive.

Most parents I know who oppose the mandating of year-round school attendance do so because of an intrinsic belief---no, an intrinsic KNOWLEDGE---that a summer break is a necessity for their family. Not a preference - a NECESSITY. That's hard to explain to people, and even when an explanation is attempted, it cannot convey that intangible "it" that I spoke of earlier. Sure, I could list (and have done so) important considerations such as educational and job opportunities, time with relatives on traditional schedules, etc., but I can't put the whole picture on paper.

A lengthy way to say that when it comes to the mandating of year-round education, the School Board and Administration can't make decisions in the usual way. This issue is different. I don't care how you mask it, it is just flat-out wrong for us as parents to even have to THINK about abandoning these "gut feelings" we have about what is right for our children. It is wrong to ask us to compromise on something that is intangible - something that has been instilled in some of us practically our entire lives!

Parents who CHOOSE a year-round school do so (I hope) because they instinctively feel that such a schedule fits in to their knowledge of what is best for their child's overall well-being. The same holds true for parents who CHOOSE a traditional calendar. Isn't that the goal for all of us? We just want to have that choice - a reasonable, do-able option (those words are key)!

There has GOT to be a way to solve Wake County's growth problem without requiring parents to put aside their instincts! No wonder this is such a soul-wrenching issue - many of us will be told to do something that is impossible for us to do! That is why year-round schooling will NEVER be an option for my family.

School attendence is a necessary law. But I daresay that when that law was passed, no one in their wildest dreams imagined that it could be used to force parents into abandoning intrinsic beliefs.

So, you ask, what is the answer?

I realize that year-round schools are inevitable at this point, but I am counting on this School Board and Administration to totally explore and take action on any means possible to ensure that they are VOLUNTARY. There should be, in my opinion, sacrifices made in several areas, so that no one group has to bear the total brunt of the consequences that more year-round schools will bring.

I have before me the data which shows, by individual school, how many requests for year-round attendance were denied this school year. The number is astounding! It is my understanding that diversity figures would not be exact if these requests were granted. I understand the concern there, and I regognize our system's commitment to maintaining those numbers. However, I am assuming that you will at least explore what effect it would have if those figures were even altered by one or two percentage points in certain areas of our county. Would it allow for more voluntary participation in year-round schools and less forced attendance, even while keeping diversity figures at an acceptable level? I would love to know. I am only one small voice who can't see or control the future, but there is no doubt in my mind that extensive mandating of year-round schools will, in the long run, have devastating effects on our successful school system.

I have never written an email this long, and I apologize for taking up so much of your time!

With sincere appreciation,

Louise Lee

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bill McNeal Resigns As Superintendent of the Wake County Public School System

More to come later....

Monday, November 14, 2005

Mandatory Year-round Decisions Could Come This Week

Click on the link to read important information about the School Board meeting on Tuesday, November 15th.

Monday, November 07, 2005


Don't forget to vote on Tuesday for new School Board members if you live in Districts 1 or 9. This is a run-off election, and will be a determining factor in decisions the School Board will make on issues such as student re-assignment, sex education policies, and student achievement. Even if you can't vote in this election, please, please contact people you know who live in these districts and urge them to cast their ballot! The candidates who are most supportive of the SOS-NC viewpoints are CURT STANGLER (Apex, Cary area) and TILLIE TURLINGTON (Wake Forest, Knightdale, Wendell, Zebulon area).

Friday, November 04, 2005

Wake board designates 4 elem. schools as year-round

SOS Wake County

At its meeting Oct. 18, the Board of Education approved a proposal to provide additional school capacity to meet the tremendous increase in students. Student enrollment grew by more than 6,400 students this year and by more than 16,000 in the last three years. As part of the school construction program, Barwell Road Elementary, Brier Creek Elementary, Carpenter Year-round Elementary, Holly Springs High and Panther Creek High were the new schools originally scheduled to open in 2006-07.

To provide additional classroom seats for next year, the Board of Education approved at its Oct. 18 meeting opening two more elementary schools and designating those plus Brier Creek and Barwell Road as year-round. Holly Grove Elementary students and staff will begin a year early in space at Holly Springs High School (opens with 9th- and 10th-grades) while the permanent elementary school is being constructed. Similarly, North Forest Pines Drive will start early in the modular complex on Spring Forest Road.