Friday, May 19, 2006

No Surprise Here

I am not into sarcasm as a general rule, but… SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE!! Now the School Board is saying they might have to convert at least half of the elementary schools to mandatory year-round. Notice how many of us remained quiet after the vote on Tuesday night? That’s because we were waiting for the “real” decision. Well, the Wake County School Board must be on another planet if they think a bond has even the slightest chance of passing in November. I have openly shared my opinion all along that a bond is doomed unless the school board does TWO things: 1) Drop the threat of forced year-round school attendance and, equally important, 2) Take steps to at least stop the perpetuation of the intense mistrust that citizens have had for their board for as long as I can remember. They have done neither. In fact, with their latest “wishy-washy” discussions, they have just blown the slightest hope of instilling trust right out of the water. In doing so, they also turned real hopes of passing a bond for much-needed school construction into nothing but a dream.

Is it too late for them to salvage anything? Hard to say. The year-round threat still remains, plus they just succeeded in alienating those who might have been on the fence in regard to trust. Not too smart. A reporter for the N&O indicated that the School Board wanted to present a “united front” for their recent proposal. Thank goodness that Ron Margiotta is not the type to compromise his beliefs. He was willing to take the heat as the lone dissenter because he has never stopped fighting for our cause. By the way, he needs all of the encouragement he can get, and I urge you to let him know how much you appreciate his boldness. His email address is

As for a united front, the School Board must quickly join together on the following actions if they expect anyone to change their minds on supporting a bond for school construction. In my opinion it’s their only hope – and very slight at that. They need to:

  1. Abandon the mandatory year-round conversion threat once and for all – for everyone

  2. Conduct their own research on filling year-round schools voluntarily. Find out the volume of interest, where it exists, how (and if) it affects F&R ratios, etc. Don’t just speculate! They’ve got hundreds of parents, etc. willing to volunteer their time and effort helping with this.

  3. Go back to Governor Easley and request a temporary reprieve on the requirement to lower class sizes in third grade. Go as a board – don’t just rely on the Administration to ask this time. As a former third grade teacher, I’ll be the first to say that the lower class size would help in so many ways. But we are not in a position to carry that through right now. This would not increase class sizes, just keep them at status quo temporarily.

  4. Lobby, as a board, for help from the General Assembly!!!!!

  5. LISTEN to their constituents, be open and honest, and get a grip on reality!

Unless ALL of these steps are followed, I have very little hope that a bond will pass. It’s “iffy” even so.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

More Info At The N&O

Keung Hui over at the N&O has much more information on what happened at the School Board meeting:

"…In an effort to compromise with parents, the Wake County school board approved a $1.06 billion construction plan tonight that would convert around 16 to 20 elementary schools to a year-round calendar…"

"...The vote on the $1.06 billion plan was 5-3. Clark, Eleanor Goettee, Lori Millberg, Parker and Horace Tart voted yes. Rosa Gill, Ron Margiotta and Susan Parry voted no. Patti Head, chairwoman of the board, only votes if there is a tie."

A "Compromise"

From WRAL:

School Board Agrees To $1 Billion Bond Issue
School Leaders: No Bond Amount Could Get All Students In Permanent Classrooms

POSTED: 7:54 pm EDT May 15, 2006
UPDATED: 9:13 pm EDT May 16, 2006

RALEIGH, N.C. -- By a vote of 5-3, the Wake County school board agreed to a plan that would convert one-third of the county's elementary schools to a year-round schedule to ease the school system's overwhelming growth.

Earlier Tuesday evening, board members rejected 6-2 a year-round school proposal that would have converted almost all the county's elementary schools to year-round schedules and would have kept the school construction bond issue under $1 billion.

Live Video Feed of School Board Meeting

Live video feed of School Board meeting on WRAL. They just broke for 10 minutes, but will start at 4 PM for the regular meeting.

Update: Maybe the demand is too high for WRAL (doubt that) or they turned it off, but some people are having problems connecting using that link above. Here's a raw feed link.

Update 2: This is not a live feed, but here's the video from TWC News 14 on today's protest outside Central Office. Here's the text and the referring page.

Let Them Know What You Want Them To Do Today!

Please contact the School Board again about this. Some School Board members are seriously considering the impact of thousands of citizens against mandatory year-rounds who have made their opinions be known on this issue, and the fact that if a bond issue includes mandatory year-rounds, it is doomed to fail.

From Today’s News and Observer:
"We've heard from a number of people who say, 'Go for it and let the public decide,' " said Patti Head, school board chairwoman. "I'm still wrestling with it."…School board member Lori Millberg said an option that avoids mandatory year-round schooling might mobilize enough parents for a bigger bond issue to win. "I don't know if $1.3 billion will pass," Millberg said. "But if $998 million won't pass, why don't we go with what we really want? We clearly don't want to force anyone to go to year-round."
The whole N&O story is here.

From WRAL:
"That last $200 million or so it takes to get it under $1 billion is really what has forced the year-round issue," said school board member Lori Millberg. "And it does not appear that that has made any people any more likely to vote for the bond."
The school board could also look once again at increasing the bond to give parents more schooling options.
"None of us want to go to mandatory year-round (schools) if we can afford to do something better. We'd much rather it be a matter of choice," Millberg said.
Wake County commissioners say they will back what the school board decides, even if the bond amount increases. The school board wants to present it to the Board of Commissioners on Wednesday.
"It's OK with us, and we'll support that, but of course, it's up to the voters of Wake County to decide," County Commissioner Tony Gurley said.
The whole WRAL story is here.

Monday, May 15, 2006

BIG Meetings Today And Tomorrow

Please make arrangements to attend the Wake County Commissioners meeting today at the Wake County Courthouse, 7th Floor, Room 700. Comments from the public will be received at 3 p.m. for 30 minutes. A signup sheet for those who wish to speak during the public comments section of the meeting is located in the back of the Board room. Today’s meeting is scheduled to be broadcast on cable channel 11 starting at 2PM.

Also, tomorrow (5/15) is a big day over at WCPSS Central Office. The School Board Committee of the Whole (COW) meets at 2PM (no public comments will be taken at the COW meeting), and the regular meeting is at 4 PM. The standing rules for public speakers at the School Board meeting are posted here.

UPDATE: Some clips of the speakers are available here in Windows Media Format:

Louise Lee speaking to Wake County Commissioners 5-15-06

Dave Duncan speaking to Wake County Commissioners 5-15-06

SECOND UPDATE: Louise speaking at the Wake County School Board Meeting on 5-16-06

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Mom, take the day off. Forget about this school stuff for today!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Ask Friends Without Children To Help

Be sure to pass the word to your friends in Wake County who do not have children in WCPSS. Their letters to the N&O Editor, the School Board, and the County Commissioners, are greatly needed and really do make a difference.

It's the quality of the county at stake, not just the lives of families with children. We need their help in maintaining it.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Before It's Too Late...

This is very long, but I thought that it was important to share with you this email I just sent to the School Board. Another late night tonight fighting this thing, just like many of you.

From: Louise Lee
Sent: Friday, May 12, 2006 12:38 AM
To: Wake County School Board Members
Cc: Wake County Commissioners
Subject: Before it's too late......
Dear Wake County School Board Members,

I've included at the bottom of this email a couple of notes I received from a husband and wife in Florida who are rethinking their planned move to Wake County. It saddens me to say that I have no choice but to discourage this family from moving here. Most of you seem to be concentrating so much on the bond amount that you are missing what is happening now right before your very eyes. This is not an isolated case. For years, you have been warned and informed about the repercussions of mass mandating of year-round school attendance - yet you refuse to take seriously documented accounts of failure. You have already been shown statistics from NAYRE, the national advocacy group that pushes mandatory year-round conversion, which show the steady decline of year-round districts in the U.S., and the drop-off (30%) of year-round schools in N.C. over the past five years - yet you turn a deaf ear to reports indicating why systems are returning to traditional calendars. How can you continue to sit back and refuse to face the clear-cut facts - in other words, the truth - about what Wake County's future will look like if your proposed solution becomes a reality?!

In addition, you seem to ignore valid suggestions by the citizens of Wake County on ways to cut down on the projected additional 6,000 number of school seats needed in 2007-08. Have you pressed the administration to go back to Governor Easley and stress the urgent need for a temporary reprieve on the requirement to lower third grade class sizes? Have you conducted a "what if" study to show what would happen if you opened year-round schools up to voluntary attendance ( to everyone - not just those who applied for next year)? If so, where are the figures showing what the results would be? You say that F&R ratios would be compromised. Where is the data showing which schools and by what percentage? Have you publicized how you plan to minimize school construction costs by building functional, efficient schools - not by compromising educational needs, but by omitting all structural and physical "frills"? Have you gone before the Wake County contingent of the General Assembly and urged them to advocate lifting the cap on charter schools? The citizens of Wake County deserve detailed, straight answers instead of contradicting statements that keep them confused.

You continue to base support for a bond referendum on questionable poll results. Are you keeping up with comments from your constituents, 2,250 of whom have signed a petition against mandatory year-round school attendance? That petition has only been online about four and a half weeks, and signatures continue to pour in as news of its existence spreads, mostly by word-of-mouth. To my knowledge, no reference has even been made to the suggestions and opinions of these individuals.

I have saved the most important consideration until last. What about teachers??? This one absolutely astounds me, and leaves me wondering why you continue to threaten the public with talk of forced year-round school attendance, when you know that staffing those schools would be next to impossible! Everyone is scurrying around in "panic mode" trying to find one magic solution to our overcrowding problem, knowing full well that without enough teachers any plan is doomed! What is needed is a mega-dose of reality! Go ahead and admit that it is not feasible to charge ahead with plans for the large-scale mandating of year-round school attendance. Do it now! Even as you and other county leaders toss this proposal around, quality teachers are leaving - not just threatening to leave - they are officially resigning! The proof lies in letters such as this one, taken from the N&O WakeEd blog - "As a high school teacher whose children will next year be forced to attend to new base year round school, The current high school schedule (and even the proposed new schedule) did not allow me enough time off with my kids (one of the major reasons I became a teacher - it certainly wasn't for the money!) You know what I did? I am leaving the district. I have been offered a job in a neighboring county. My children will the other district for free and we will have the same schedule. Yes, I will make a couple thousands dollars a year less than I am this year, but I will not have to pay for trackout childcare and I still will have time with my kids! If this new plan takes hold, I imagine that there will be a mass exit of high school teachers with children. The neighboring school districts (Durham, Johnston, Harnett, Chatham, etc) will benefit greatly and Wake county will have problems attracting teachers to fill the vacancies. (BTW, I am one of those hard to replace highly qualified physics teachers.)"

Teachers such as this can't afford to wait for last minute discussions, or for political games to be played out, or for elections to take place, or for bond amounts to be set. If a new opportunity for employment presents itself now, they have to make a decision - now. The best and the brightest will be highly recruited. What are we to think when we read quotes from Central Office personnel stating, " The majority of them {teachers} would not leave", yet we have friends who are already making plans for early retirement or for employment in neighboring counties? What are we to make of emails from teachers in other states who have decided not to include Wake County among their resume recipients? Some people are saying that teachers will stay because they are dedicated to helping children. I know that is true in many cases. However, those that have to work during the summer to make ends meet won't be able to stay. Neither will those whose time with their own children would be sacrificed. I was one of those dedicated teachers, but if I had to choose between my teaching career and my family - well, that's a "no-brainer"! Again - read the comments on the petition! Take them seriously. Take the teacher survey results seriously as well. I only wish that you could see the many emails I have personally received from teachers whose whole schools are against this!

For the sake of every public school student in Wake County - make that every citizen in Wake County - I ask you to do something that I know will not be easy. Please, please - stop - set aside the proposals, updates, reports, analyses, revisions, etc. from Central Office staff. Concentrate on the irrefutable facts you have read about districts which have tried mandatory year-round schools. Think about the number of citizens who are just now starting to speak out about this issue. Go back and see why they oppose it. Remind yourself that you will see a noticeable flight of supportive families from the public school system - it is already happening. Consider the "Likely Consequences" list, and how this one decision will affect more than just families with children. Be realistic about the teacher situation, and admit that this proposal will not work! Go back to the drawing board and come up with a combination of options that, when added together, will work.

My subject line reads, "before it's too late." I was wrong to put that. It should read, "it's already too late, but you can stop further damage." Much better to admit you've made a mistake now than to find out the hard way that you have underestimated the passion and savvy of citizens who are determined to protect their families and save their county. I, for one, will never give up.

Louise Lee

Tim King said...
Can I sign the petition if I do not live in Wake County. My wife and I have our home up for sale in Florida with the hopes of moving to Wakefield. But since the recent developments of the year-round schools, we have halted our move :( We absolutely LOVE the area and it is our dream to build a house there, but having 3 kids in different grade levels (elementary, middle & high) year-round school would kill our family time to travel or do anything together. Another question...if the school board approves in May and the bond goes on the ballot on November...if the bond does not get approved, do year round schools go bye-bye???
8:04 AM, May 01, 2006

My name is Nancy King and we currently reside in Central Florida. We are thinking of moving to Wake County area in Wakefield, but now are so hesitant due to the schools going year-round. I just do not see how that makes anyone happy. Even when I read what the school board is saying about it, they seem saddened and discouraged, which in my opinion is a good sign that this may not be a good idea if even the school board members are sad about it. Anyhow, do you know the latest on this issue? My realtor keeps telling me that there is a lot of opposition and that it probably won't go through, but I need to hear the truth before I sell my home and leave my family and friends for our big move!!! Any info on the subject would be greatly appreciated! I have been on Wake counties website and it seems as though the elem. is definitely going year-round. What about middle and high school? If/when this passes, I will have a 4th grader, 9th grader and 11th grader. Thank you for your time and keep up the good work!!! Nancy King

PS- we tried YRS in FL and it flopped!!!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Exodus Begins

If you are not familiar with the WakeEd blog that Keung Hui runs over at the N&O, take a look sometime.  Here’s part of a comment posted by a Wake County high school physics teacher with elementary children on how she is dealing with the current turmoil:

“As a high school teacher whose children will next year be forced to attend to new base year round school, The current high school schedule (and even the proposed new schedule) did not allow me enough time off with my kids (one of the major reasons I became a teacher - it certainly wasn't for the money!) You know what I did? I am leaving the district. I have been offered a job in a neighboring county. My children will the other district for free and we will have the same schedule. Yes, I will make a couple thousands dollars a year less than I am this year, but I will not have to pay for trackout childcare and I still will have time with my kids! If this new plan takes hold, I imagine that there will be a mass exit of high school teachers with children. The neighboring school districts (Durham, Johnston, Harnett, Chatham, etc) will benefit greatly and Wake county will have problems attracting teachers to fill the vacancies. (BTW, I am one of those hard to replace highly qualified physics teachers.)”

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Ninth-Grader Speaks Out

Here’s part of an email that Kelsey Svoboda, a Wake County ninth-grader, sent to members of the General Assembly on April 27th.  Her mother says she has not heard back from any of them so far.

I honestly think that the best place to start with the problem of school overcrowding is to pass something that would require schools to be built to accommodate at least 3 years of projected growth.  From what I hear, the schools are supposed to be built for the number of kids they have now so that the schools have no extra space.  But that is what has led to this entire problem, isn't it?  I know that you are concerned about spending too much money on building schools and then not having them filled to capacity, but isn't it better to have too much space and be ready for the future as compared to not having enough space for the current moment?  Most if not all of this redistricting problem could have been avoided if schools were required to be built for a couple years' worth of growth.  This might also have prevented the year-round proposal.”

Read the whole letter here.

It's Not An Either/Or-Type Decision

In corner #1, you’ve got those who don’t want to spend one more dime of tax money on public education. In corner #2, you’ve got those who want to give the school administration a blank check with no strings attached.  Neither of these strategies is sound.

Unfortunately, some members of the School Board do not want to talk about any solution unless that single solution alone will solve everything – hence they have proposed county-wide mandatory year-round school attendance.  Instead of discarding good ideas simply because individually none of them are a silver bullet, we need to take the best ideas, use them where possible, and come up with a combination of solutions that will address the overall problem.

WCPSS Has Posted The Teacher Survey Results

20% of Wake County teachers are “Totally Opposed” to the recommendation that “all non-magnet elementary schools be placed on a four-track year-round calendar.”

16% are “Not Very” supportive.

Full survey results available here.

UPDATE: Be sure to look at the comments on this particular post. Elementary teachers are even more strongly opposed, according to data that was distributed to the School Board yesterday.

We're Still Here

Since about 9:30 AM Tuesday, the hosting site for many blogs including has been unreachable by most would-be visitors.  They should have it back up soon.

Monday, May 08, 2006

What About the Teachers?

Question of the day:
Where are the results of the brief teacher survey the Wake Co. School Board conducted? The deadline was last Wednesday, May 3. I know they have the results, because a school board member told me that at the Friday, April 28 meeting, in the morning, they knew results from the 2,255 elementary teachers that had completed it so far. Well, on that date, the survey had only been out for two days max, so obviously the turn-around time for survey results was quick. So again I ask, “Where are they??”

Update: Click on the posting title above (What About...) for a pdf version of the survey the teachers were given. Click on the thumbnail image below for a (very large) jpg version.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Letter To The N&O Friday

Friday, May 05, 2006

Passing This Along To You

A group of Wake County parents asked me to share this with you about a meeting that they are hosting this Monday night:
7:00 PM
Room 202

Thursday, May 04, 2006

An Email I Sent Tuesday Night

From: Louise C. Lee
Sent: Wednesday, May 03, 2006 12:45 AM
To: Wake County School Board Members
Subject: sorry I missed the meeting

To All Members of the Wake County Board of Education,

I am so sorry that I wasn’t able to speak at your meeting on Tuesday. I thought I would try to put some thoughts on paper since I won’t have another speaking opportunity until May 16. Thank you in advance for taking the time to carefully read this.

You already know all too well where I stand on the issue of forcing year-round school attendance in Wake County. I trust that you are carefully reading every single comment on the online petition. Those comments are addressed to you and to the County Commissioners, not to me. To only skim through them would be committing a gross disservice to your constituents.

I am writing today to ask you to please take action on the following points:

A…. Share the whole story with the public, even if it “hurts”! These are people’s children whose lives are about to be turned upside-down. Every citizen deserves to know both sides of the issue.
** Let them know that this is a “Band-aid” solution, and not a permanent “fix”.
**Tell them that even though they might save money now, new schools will have to eventually be built, at an even greater cost to them due to the giant increase in construction costs.
**Share the research facts, that I have passed on to you, with them – not opinions, but facts.
**Explain what happened last Friday! You are aware of the fact that reports are still representing your vote as a “done deal”. And why shouldn’t they?!? After all, you did vote, even though you didn’t have to. A Board member explained to me exactly what that vote meant, and that the “real” vote still won’t take place until May 16. Try telling that to the general public – it makes no sense! To make things worse, you voted when the member who most adamantly opposes the proposal was out of the country! And what about the teachers? You sent out a survey on Wednesday, then had the nerve to vote before the survey was even due, much less tallied! Even the results of the News and Observer teacher survey had not been made public. Imagine how this looks to people! I would like to believe that none of this was your intent, but it’s hard to explain away. I even drove out to Cary to see first-hand what was taking place, but you had adjourned early. To make it even worse, this only deepened the lack of trust that so many people have for the school system. That mistrust is, in my opinion, one of the main factors driving opposition to a bond referendum – the other being a deep resentment for what parents see as a threat to their families – mandatory year-rounds. I share all of this with you not to place you on the defensive, but to let you know that this is a general perception that is shared “on the street.” You need to know. I hope you don’t mind my blunt honesty!

B….Urge the Administration to go back to Governor Easley and stress the vital need for a short reprieve from the requirement to lower third grade class size. Solicit the aid of Wake County’s legislative contingent if need be.

C….Go back and accept applications from those who want to go to year-round schools! This one is totally incomprehensible to people. Over 2700 denied last week – is that right? You would have even more volunteers if some parents had not given up after being rejected year after year. If the reason for non-acceptance has to do with F&R ratios, ask the Administration to “pretend” that all 2700+ applications were accepted. Have them show you what schools would be affected and by what percentage. I want to see those results.

D….Join me and other citizens in asking the General Assembly members for help legislatively.

Please put your ear to the ground and really hear what people are saying. As you know, polls are only as good as the wording of the questions and the interpretation of the results. The Chamber of Commerce poll never mentioned the word “mandatory”, and questions pointed out the merits of year-round schools. This poll that drew so much excitement from education leaders is the same poll that showed that 53%, if you add in the ones who said they didn’t care or it didn’t matter, said that they would be more likely to pay more in property taxes if it meant reducing the number of schools on a year-round calendar. 63% of the participants had heard very little or nothing at all about the bond referendum. Is this the group you’re placing your confidence in?

I continue to keep you in my prayers as you grapple with this issue. I have no magic answer, but I think it’s going to take a combination of options – rather than one “quick fix”, to rationally deal with our growth problem. There are no good options. In my opinion, however, the one you are currently supporting is flat-out wrong.

Respectfully Yours,

Louise Lee

Ode to Wake County Public School System

A Wake County parent sent this creation to the Wake legislative contingent, and graciously allowed us to reproduce it here:

Ode to Wake County Public School System
Oh schools of mine in the county of Wake
Many puddles you gathered to form your big lake
Shiny shallow waters now muddy and deep
No sense of community at all do we keep
Now rather than learning your students are drowning
The smiles have faded--the parents are frowning
S. M. McBean says "Year round will fix it."
As he headed off to the "Developers Banquet."
“And the lottery, too." Said McBean to his pupils
(Though numbers were small and it cost our scruples)
And he laughed at the irony hidden within
Expecting gold when you're trading in tin
They want no more taxes and also great schools
Something for nothing, the anthem of fools
Year round just delays the inevitable cost
And adds to that fee more community lost
I'd like to go on but I must go to bed
Too often this school system is hurting my head (& heart)
-Matt Clawson
Wake County Resident
Parent of WCPSS Students


In the hope of answering questions about my personal views in light of recent developments surrounding the mandatory year-round schools “saga”, I am trying to put my thoughts together in one place. I warn you, it’s going to be lengthy, but hopefully helpful and informative! I know things are looking bleak, but we are already making a difference! We just might not see results as quickly as we would like. Keep pushing signatures on the petition, letter-writing, etc., and spread the facts! I know it gets old after awhile, but I promise you, we are chipping away little by little. Nothing would please the decision-makers more than for us to give up and back off. Also, please bear in mind that just because you don’t see or hear about proactive efforts, doesn’t mean that they are not taking place. Some of us are making significant gains working on “behind the scenes” strategies – it just takes time! Thanks for all of your hard work!!!!!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Great Job Folks, Keep It Up

I don’t know if you had a chance to look at the Sunday Forum in the N&O yesterday, but this is exactly what we need to be doing – spreading the word about our opinions on mandatory year-rounds.  Typically, it seems that the Forum editors try to put the same number of letters for each side of an issue, but we sort of tipped the balance this week.  Thanks to those who took the time to write the N&O.