Saturday, May 26, 2007

Choices and Voices

Thanks to all of you who gave me your name to read to the School Board members at their meeting this week. In a 36-hour period, I received over 75 names. That's not bad, considering the very short notice and "word-of-mouth" publicity. I was proud to represent the many, many parents who really had no choice but to opt to stay in a year-round school that their child considers "home". I also pointed out to the School Board members that many of the parents would have been at the meeting themselves, except the vast majority of schools in Wake County dismiss between 3:00 and 3:45. Public comment at School Board meetings is from 3:00 until 3:30. Yet some members complain about seeing the same old faces at every meeting. This really needs to change!

The personal stories that you took the time to share with me really speak to the heart of what this is all about. I think it is important that certain other folks hear these accounts. More about that soon. In the meantime, have a blessed Memorial Day weekend, and take a moment to remember and to thank those whose bravery and love of country made it possible for us to freely voice our opinions today...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Key Points

Today’s post topic is no surprise – the forcing of year-round school attendance. I know some say it is a “done deal” now, but the magnitude of recent decisions has not begun to sink in. There are some key things that the public should have known (via the media) long ago.

#1 – This debate is not new. I jumped in 6 or 7 years ago, and have worked with the School Board and the Administration since then to provide data, research, etc. (on this and many other topics). Naturally, they get my opinions and other feedback as well, but they know that, as a Wake County teacher for 14 years and as a parent and advocate in the field of education for double that number, I have a good feel for the “pulse” of the grassroots folk. I am not a School Board “basher” – they know me as someone who tells the truth in a straightforward and respectful manner, yet expects them to have accountability. I am also quick to commend when the occasion arises. Same with the Administration – I have served in many capacities on various committees, task forces, etc. over the years, and am currently enjoying my tenure as a member of the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council.

These leaders have received countless copies of studies and documentation on the long history of large-scale mandatory year-round conversions across the United States. They have known for over a year that the track record is dismal at best, and why the concept has failed. Time after time, I have asked to see the success stories of this much-touted plan, but not a one has been proffered. They know that if any such accounts even exist, they are few and far between.

Over three years ago, in February, 2005, I attended a Wake Education Partnership “roundtable” on mandatory year-round schools. The Administration shared a power point presentation in which they included the following bullet points: “Mandatory year-round has not been successful in other districts” and, “The districts who use year-round as a choice option are the most successful.” Please do take a look at the entire presentation available here in PowerPoint format or here in PDF format. In a letter a few months later, I reminded the board of those findings, and questioned their sudden change of heart..

#2 – Thousands of citizens expressed their opinions and asked for help on the MYR issue very early in the game, but were ignored. Helpful alternative options were offered as well. There’s plenty of proof, and to me, this is huge.

Over a year ago, in September of 2005, my husband talked me into setting up the blog (one-way communication) to keep the public informed about local school issues - most specifically, the MYR debate. I have posted countless fact sheets, copies of letters, personal findings, research results…and on and on. (SOSWake post archives can be accessed on the lower right side of the main page.) But perhaps most importantly, I set up a petition, promising those who signed it that I would pass their names and comments on to the School Board members, and assuring folks that their voices would be heard. In one month’s time, 2,200 signatures had been entered, as well as hundreds of comments. This petition was not openly publicized, nor did I keep it “active” for a long period of time. When I stopped collecting names, the total was 3,000+. Do you know that the School Board has never once publicly acknowledged the existence of these citizens? I’ve even printed out hard copies for board members, and have asked time and again why they have never mentioned these names and comments – for over a year! They are quick to alert media outlets when they hear from MYR supporters, but when I question them about it, the number is miniscule when compared to the thousands who have opposed it since Day 1. Why, School Board members have even openly chastised parents for speaking up too late – referring to anti-MYR groups that have popped up - while once again never mentioning the 3,000+ citizens they heard from early on.

#3 – Hard facts have been ignored and kept from the public. This has been so blatant that it’s unbelievable. I have always contended that every citizen has a right to know all available information on any issue prior to making any kind of decision. That has not happened in this case. I have done all in my power to publicize certain information, but I am only one person. I can’t begin to list all of the facts to which I refer, but I beg you to check some of them out here. They include statistics from the National Association FOR Year-round Education showing the decline of MYR schools in N.C. and in the U.S. They list repercussions which many people have never thought about, such as the nightmare this creates for parents in different cities and states who share custody of their children. They include information on the added costs for year-round schools (especially for air conditioning and transportation) all of which can be backed up. The list goes on and on, but I am truly trying to cut this back. It’s all so important.

#4 – Parents are not only uninformed, they are misinformed. Here’s one example – Soon, here in Wake County, we will see an increase in the number of “latchkey children”. Most parents work, and those with low incomes cannot afford childcare during the frequent year-round track-out periods – childcare that is more expensive than during the summer months. The vast majority of high schoolers who typically look after younger siblings will be in school during the two-week breaks. That leaves the younger students at home – alone. I’m not one to blow something out of proportion, but this scenario sets the stage for a further concern. In Los Angeles, officials directly tied an increase in gang activity to the increase in year-round schools. Think about it – these children are easy prey. Heaven forbid that this would happen, but I see no way to prevent it. Our education leaders, however, have chosen to take that chance! That’s a ripple effect that will be felt county-wide. I recently asked a working mother what she planned to do with her children during track-out times. She was under the impression that WCPSS provided programs for these children. Call WCPSS and ask. You will no doubt get the same answer I got – a big “maybe – but only for certain students who qualify for remedial help, and that’s not a sure thing”. This is just one example. A rude awakening awaits thousands of families.

#5 – The “choice” that parents are being given is grossly unfair. Several parents have used the word “extortion”. Here are what the 2 choices boil down to: A) Stay in the school your child has come to know, one that is likely near your home, with familiar faces – but with a forced year-round schedule or B) Opt out for a traditional school “somewhere” – maybe close by, maybe far away, with new teachers and classmates. I just can’t get past that! Naturally, most parents are checking the “stay in year-round” box, even though they know that is not best for their child and family, and that it runs completely counter to all they have been fighting for and to every parental instinct in their body. Very few are willing to gamble where their child is involved and choose an “unknown” over a “known”. Who would? Therefore, the WCPSS is already touting the fact that the vast majority of the forms are coming back in favor or the year-round conversion. That is so twisted and so misleading! Here’s a poll question that would bring more realistic results: “Would you prefer that your school be converted to year-round, or stay traditional” It’s that simple.

Of course I could write volumes on why this is devastating families, but I know I can’t. Just please believe me when I say that it has already damaged plenty of lives. Yes, this is a two-way street, and I know that families are now feeling frustration on both sides. All parents want what is best for their child and for their family. Those who prefer year-round school should be able to choose that. Same for those who need a traditional schedule. What I think a lot of people don’t realize is that, for thousands of families, such a choice is not based on preference, but on necessity.

#6 – Facts speak for themselves, but the personal side of the MYR issue deserves just as much attention, if not more. This is not about more time to sip lemonade on the porch of an expensive beach house!!! Yes – some continue to accuse opponents of MYR schools of such “selfish” motives. This is about a mother who called me this week, in tears because she didn’t know what to do. Her only son is severely autistic and must have the consistent schedule that a traditional calendar offers. His school is being converted, however, and to move him to a strange setting in a traditional school, away from familiar faces, possibly far from home, would be devastating. Not much of a choice, is it? This family is contemplating, in anguish, moving back to Michigan.

This is not an isolated case by any means. There are thousands of others who are being forced into a “no-win” situation. Will their stories ever be heard? Probably not. Neither will those of the droves of active parents and veteran teachers who have already left or are planning to leave the Wake County Public School System. Oh, but we will know they are gone, for the void left behind will be evident. Their spaces might be filled, but their experience and expertise can never be replaced.

Believe it or not, there’s much more still to be said, but I’ll stop for the sake of your eyes! Trying to crowd so much into a limited space brings back memories of essay assignments such as, “Share your life history – no more than 2 pages.” Obviously this is a multi-faceted, complicated issue. Much of the anger being aimed at certain groups and/or individuals results from a lack of knowledge and factual background information. The School Board has been given the benefit of the doubt many times, and most of us understand the “no-win” situation that they find themselves in right now. We also know that other options have been suggested time and again, a combination of which just might have worked, with much less devastating consequences. Even now, numbers and studies are questionable, and need to be re-evaluated.

Was all of this inevitable? In my opinion, no. But, we are where we are. For now, at the very least, Wake citizens deserve to know that thousands of parents did speak up very early on – not as a part of some organization, either. They should know that the School Board and the Administration made a conscious decision to ignore key facts, even facts that they themselves uncovered! Most importantly, the word must get out that the large percentage of “yes” forms that were returned to WCPSS are a result of a “no choice” choice. It’s no wonder that parents feel betrayed and trapped. Unless the truth comes out, false accusations, misunderstandings, and rage will continue to thrive. Wake County has always had the reputation of being a big place with a friendly, “small town” atmosphere. Would newcomers today see and feel that? Not for long. I hope and pray that we can mend some wounds and set some records straight. There’s far too much to lose if we can’t – far too much.

Thank you for reading this. I have just felt so frustrated throughout this whole debate because people were seeing bits and pieces but not the whole. To get a clear perspective on an issue such as this, you must pull everything together. I appreciate your time and your concern for Wake County.

P.S. – My own daughter, a rising ninth grader, has never faced reassignment. This is a cause I believe in, and will continue to fight for, as long as I feel led to do so.

Monday, May 21, 2007


I will be speaking at the Wake Co. School Board meeting on Tuesday (tomorrow) afternoon. I am trying to collect as many names as possible of parents who consented to stay at their converted YR school, but did so only because the "unknown" of the traditional option was too much to risk. I plan to read these names before the board - that's it. People just need to know that headlines which indicate parents' support of YR schools because they checked "yes" do not tell the whole story. Names can be sent to me at:  Please, please spread the word about this. Even if names come in after Tuesday, I'll send them on, and/or read them at the next meeting. Thank you!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Please Consider This:

Those of you seeking an outlet for the recent school board decisions and the MYR debate, please see below. I hope MYR opponents will speak up loud and clear!


Dear Parents,
Is your family prepared to go year-round for the first time this year?
Are you happy or disappointed? We want to hear from you. We would
like to follow your family the weeks leading up to the start of the
school year. We are also looking to find some families that would be
willing to blog about how traditional or year-round impacts them on a
day to day basis.
If you are interested please send an email to and
put in the subject line: year-round family story.
Thank you,
Jason Clough
Multimedia Content Manager

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Yesterday, Judge Howard Manning announced that the Wake County Public School System can lawfully proceed with their "opt-out plan" for families who oppose mandatory year-round school attendance. Judge Manning ruled earlier that WCPSS could not force children to attend year-round schools against the wishes of their parents. The Wake School Board decided to still go ahead and forcibly convert 22 schools to a year-round calendar, with one change in plans. On Friday,they are sending home 30,500 letters by students at these 22 schools, asking that parents return a "consent form" to give permission for their child/children to stay at the converted school. Parents who want to remain in a traditional setting will have to leave their now-converted school, and be reassigned to a traditional school elsewhere. Where? Well - parents won't exactly know! The letter is supposed to name a traditional calendar school assignment, but school leaders say they can't guarantee that choice.

So, here is the question that the WCPSS is asking parents: "Do you want to stay at your "home" school (for which we have mandated a year-round schedule) - OR do you want your child to be removed from the school he/she currently attends and be placed in a traditional school somewhere (we can tell you which one it might be, but that could change - oh, and there's always a chance it could be very far from where you live, but we still need your decision, even with that uncertainty).

Sound fair to you? If not, you need to get busy right this second, writing and calling Wake school board members (who say they are hearing from folks who back their plan), County Commissioners, and media personnel. There's a quick link to these folks on the right (only media link is to N&O editor, but you can find others). Time is running out, so please act quickly. In my opinion, they should leave the schools as they are for now (no conversions), fill current year-round schools with volunteers, re-check attendance estimates for the 2007-08 school year (these have been questioned by many) and look for other ways to find extra space - ways that are not ideal, but that are far less risky than what they now have in mind. These could include keeping mobile units in place where students are already successfully performing, using music and art rooms as classrooms (opening up 40 seats) and putting those programs on carts (that's been done forever, and it works!) - and other options as well.

What a shame that in all of this bickering, finger-pointing, and name-calling the FACTS (which have never changed) about the negative side of MYR schools seem to have gotten lost by the wayside!!! I think I'll re=post those..

Here are a couple of links - one to the N&O story yesterday, the other to the WCPSS site for specifics.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Public Hearing for Input on Dropout Rates

RALEIGH _ The House Initiative on Dropout Reform will meet on May 8 with administrators, teachers, parents, students and community leaders for a public hearing on how to improve the state's graduation rate.

This meeting at Southeast Raleigh High School in Raleigh will be the second public hearing organized by the leaders of this initiative, Representatives Susan Fisher and Earline Parmon. They hope to hear from all sectors of the community about the issues facing students at risk of dropping out of high school.

Members of the public are encouraged to attend, and each presenter will be given up to four minutes to speak. If you plan to present, please have the presentation printed for our records.

We hope you will be able to attend.

What: Meeting of House Initiative on Dropout Reform

Where: Southeast Raleigh High School Auditorium, 2600 Rock Quarry Road Raleigh, NC.

When: May 8, 6-8:30 p.m.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Yes, or No? Respond Now to This Poll About Mandatory Year-round Schools


School Board Makes Decision On Judge's Ruling

In an "emergency" meeting this morning, the Wake County School Board voted to appeal Judge Manning's decision about the unlawfulness of forced year-round school attendance. But there's more to the story than that. Here's a link to the latest News and Observer take on it:

They Did Have A Clue...

One year ago today.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Reading Through the Ruling...

Below is an excerpt of the court's ruling. In this section Judge Manning is addressing the Wake County Board of Education's "assignment appeals process":

From page 20 of the ruling:

In plain English, the law does not require a person to go through a process in which the outcome is already predetermined under the guise that the person will receive a fair and impartial hearing, an absolute right under due process standards. In this case, requiring each student and their parents who are affected by a mandatory assignment to a four (4) track year round school without their consent to appeal the "assignment to a particular mandatory year round school" decision is futile. This is because the underlying decision to convert is non-negotiable.

Because the BOE will not, and emphatically refuses, to undo its decision relating to the mandatory year round schools, the only crumb left to the affected students and their parents in the "assignment" process is not whether or not the student's base school is traditional or year round, but rather whether or not the BOE, through its cumbersome and lengthy "assignment" process will permit [emphasis in original] the student and the student's family to get "off the hook and allow transfer to another school for the 2007-08 which has a traditional calendar.


HOT OFF THE PRESS! Judge Howard Manning has ruled in favor of WakeCARES parents who took legal action against the Wake County School Board's plans to force 22 schools into a year-round schedule. This decision is HUGE, with all types of potential repercussions. I've included a link to WRAL's report, and as I hear first-hand information on the decision, I will pass it on. I guarantee that the General Assembly is abuzz right now.

Update: More stories here.

Download the ruling in its entirety here. (This is a large 3MB file, and a PDF reader is required to view it. Adobe Acrobat Reader is free and can be obtained here.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


The Wake County public school system is looking for people to participate in 15-minute interviews about the district's curriculum. This is part of a Phi Delta Kappa curriculum management audit of the WCPSS.

All interviews will be scheduled between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9. They will be held at either Carroll Middle School, 4520 Six Forks Road, or Wake's Crossroads facility, 110 Corning Drive in Cary.

You can sign up at or call the WCPSS Customer Service Center, 850-1600, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. DEADLINE TO REGISTER IS FRIDAY, MAY 4.