Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Due to a serious, on-going extended family health commitment, I have been unable to dedicate the time and energy needed to organize pertinent information relating to the mandating of year-round schools in Wake County. I realize that the Wake County Board of Education will vote on their budget today(Tuesday). I am sending this email primarily to pass on fact-based material that the public needs to know.

I hope that some of you will receive this letter in time to use all or any part of it to back-up assertions that the School Board needs to take another look at expenditures, etc., before proceeding with plans to cut certain programs or to continue the massive mandating of year-round school attendance in Wake County.

· For at least 4 or 5 years, the School Board, as a whole, has been given (over and over) irrefutable data on the historic failure, repercussions, etc, of mandatory school attendance

· They chose to basically ignore a petition three years ago that gathered, in less than a two–month period, over 3,000 signatures and comments from citizens opposed to the massive mandating of year-round schools.

· There have been claims that minorities have not expressed opinions on the MYR issue, yet in a News and Observer/ WRAL poll, conducted in May, 2006, 52% of Black respondents and 52% of Latino respondents indicated that they either opposed MYR schools altogether, or thought they should be optional.

· If you will recall, it was in 2007 that the massive conversion from traditional to MYR schools took place. Here are transportation cost comparisons from before conversion and after:

From Associate Superintendent Don Haydon (Spring, 2008) : “Transportation Department staff compared the monthly cost for July & August 2006 with the same months in 2007 to estimate a difference in cost for transportation of year-round students.  For July & August 2006, the average cost for each of the 2 months was $232,000 and for 2007, $472,000.” 

Additionally, “Ms Lee, my understanding is that the costs were the actual costs for system-wide transportation for the two months.  Thus, the data would show the cost for transportation for the schools in session in July/August 2006 as compared with those in 2007; those months were selected because most of the buses would be for multi-track schools.”
Unless I’m figuring something wrong, the system-wide transportation expenses just during the combined two months of July and August more than doubled, rising from close to half a million dollars ($464,000) in 2006 to close to a million ($944,000) in 2007.
*According to data from the U.S. Dept. of Energy, the monthly average diesel price in N.C. was actually less in the summer of 2007 than in the summer of 2006.

· Utility costs per student have increased in the converted MYR schools, while the majority of those schools have experienced a drop in enrollment: Here are graphs (see pages 2 and 3) comparing utility costs per pupil prior to and after conversion of 17 elementary schools. Leesville Rd. Elementary is not included because cost figures for Leesville schools are figured as one entire campus.  Also, the graph on page 1 of this link shows the membership figures prior to and after conversions.  All of these schools fell short of projected membership figures for the 2008-2009 school year.

· Gang activity in Wake County is rising. WRAL reported in an August news story, that our school system has seen a 33% increase in gang activity since last year.  That’s in the schools! The same article pointed out that 49% of gang-related incidents last year occurred in middle schools.  Ruth Sheehan wrote an article in the News and Observer referring to a gang-related murder that involved testimony on the part of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Officials in L.A. drew a parallel between an increase in gang activity and an increase in "latch-key" children due to a year-round schedule.


To think of mandating more middle schools to a year-round schedule is unconscionable to me in light of this information. In fact, maybe board members should consider cutting back on the current number of year-round middle schools.

Think about it - these “latch-key” children are easy prey. Home alone for weeks at a time during every track-out period. Lots of these families have older students who can watch over their younger siblings when all are on the same schedule, but now siblings have been split between different calendars

Claims that it is “too late” to convert schools back to a traditional school schedule and/or to drop plans to add MYR schools hold little weight when I consider issues such as the one just mentioned. Is there ever a time when we say, ”sorry – too late” when it concerns a child’s education, and even, potentially, a child’s very life? It’s a valid assumption to think that there are plenty of latch-key elementary children around as well. Even if skepticism exists over findings like those in L.A., dare we take a chance, especially if a conversion is not necessary? The least that our school board can do is to go back and explore that very question.

Too late they say? The Virginia Beach School Board just voted to convert back to a traditional schedule four year-round schools. They cited a savings of about $792,000, and claimed that,”most of the schools struggled to fill classrooms and [struggled to] show academic gains greater than schools on traditional calendars.”

I have already sent an email to School board members, asking that they delay a final vote on the budget. Too much is at stake. I’m just sorry I wasn’t able to get this out sooner.

Thanks Everyone…   Louise

Friday, March 27, 2009

Excellent Letter on MYR Costs


Here's a press release well worth reading. It was written by Lisa Boneham, a parent of Leesville students:


WCPSS Is Planning To Cheat Taxpayers Out Of $350,000 by Operating Leesville Elementary and Leesville Middle on the Year-Round School Calendar

Raleigh, North Carolina, March 25, 2009. The Leesville school community experienced a destructive and divisive year round school conversion at Leesville Elementary School in 2007. At that time, WCPSS claimed that the conversion was necessary in order to keep up with “explosive growth”. Eventually, the School Board studied the facts surrounding that conversion. They realized that converting Leesville Elementary to the year-round calendar was indeed unnecessary and would be a mistake. Unfortunately, by that time, all they could say to the Leesville families was “sorry, it’s too late in the process so we cannot change our minds now”.

Many current Leesville families vividly remember that negative experience, and they are not about to let it happen in their community again. Last fall, WCPSS proposed converting Leesville Middle School to the year-round calendar. The reason given for this conversion was “excessive growth in the area with no relief in sight”. Upon studying the growth projections, WCPSS realized that growth in the Leesville area was not at all excessive. In fact, based on WCPSS staff projections, it was determined that growth in the Leesville area is very flat and will be that way for many years to come.

What was initially a desire to keep families together has grown into a fact based mission proving that the Leesville schools should be operating on the less expensive and highly desired traditional calendar. During the past 3 years, this group of 1200+ Concerned and Committed Leesville parents has come together like no other grassroots organization of its’ type, and it looks like their efforts to stay informed and involved in school assignment issues should finally be paying off.

But after yesterday’s Budget Work Session, with an informal vote of 5-4, it appears that WCPSS still plans to operate Leesville Elementary and Leesville Elementary on the year round calendar, even after knowing that this will unnecessarily waste $350,000 of taxpayer funds. ($250,000 at Leesville Middle and $100,000 at Leesville Elementary) The excuse given by those voting to continue with the wasteful MYR conversions is “it is too late now to make the changes…” When the school system should be looking for ways to cut unnecessary spending, operating Leesville Middle and Leesville Elementary on the traditional calendar would instantly and painlessly cut $350,000 out of the budget. CCLP is hopeful that the School Board will take more time to study the facts and will formally vote on making these changes very soon.

“They used the ‘it’s too late because families have already made plans…’ excuse on us with our Elementary School, and this time they know they are completely wrong”, said Lisa Boneham, founder of CCLP. “It is not too late. The fact is, families and teachers have not even been given their track assignments, so no one has been able to make future plans. I especially feel for those who have to rely on childcare and track-out camps, because they are truly in limbo. They cannot confirm any of those things until track assignments are made. People cannot even make summer vacation plans yet. Besides the fact that the overwhelming majority of our families and teachers desperately want to keep Leesville Middle on the traditional calendar, we are still ‘up in the air’ waiting for track assignments. Saying that they have to go through with the year-round conversion, knowing that they will waste $250,000 at the Middle school alone ‘because they cannot upset the families who have already made plans’ is unacceptable. Plans have NOT been made. Making the decision to keep the desired traditional calendar will not upset us. Forcing a year-round conversion when it is not justified is what is upsetting.”

While converting a school to the multi-track year-round calendar does increase the capacity of a school, that additional capacity is not needed in Northwest Raleigh for many years to come. There is currently an overabundance of space at several area schools that is not being utilized, and according to Growth Management, there are no plans to utilize that excess space during the next 3-5 years. CCLP sees this as a waste as well.

“There is absolutely no reason to waste $350,000 by operating these 2 schools on the year-round calendar. Leesville Elementary and Leesville Middle can both operate on the traditional calendar, and can comfortably hold all base students who are assigned to the schools---and there will still be space available for future growth. Leesville Elementary will have 693 base students attending the school with a traditional capacity of 860, while Leesville Middle expects 1095 base students with a traditional capacity of 1222. Knowing the facts, but making the conscious choice to operate those schools for 12 months during the year (when they can educate all of their current base students in a 10 month school year) is completely irresponsible” said Angela Davis-Williams, a founding member of CCLP.

Boneham believes that everyone deserves transparency, not constant spin and hidden truths. “What they won’t admit to the general public is that Leesville Middle will now have 176 fewer base students assigned to the school for 2009-10. Our enrollment is decreasing drastically, so wasting money to create additional capacity that is not needed now and will not be needed for at least 4-5 years is insane. Now that the facts have been released, it is obvious that there is no justification for forcing another unwanted, unnecessary, and wasteful conversion on the Leesville community.”

“We have provided clear data and alternative options showing that converting LRMS to a year-round calendar is the wrong thing to do for so many reasons. The recent updated enrollment numbers are the icing on the cake. A year-round conversion at Leesville Middle would unnecessarily waste taxpayer dollars when we should all be looking for ways to cut expenses instead. WCPSS plans to fund the conversion, and will also increase annual operational expenses by over 20% while decreasing the number of students attending the school. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what a poor decision that would be” said Eric Blau, parent of 2 children in the Leesville community. “The facts have been given to the School Board many times during the past several months. For the School Board to continue ignoring the facts and blindly proceed with this unjustified change would be very irresponsible.”

If the community’s overwhelming desire to keep their families together wasn’t enough to convince the School Board to stop Mandatory Year Round, the undeniable facts appear to be exactly what is needed in order to bring positive change to the Leesville campus. One thing is for sure…CCLP and their mission of ”One Campus One Traditional Calendar For Leesville” will continue to insist on transparency and honesty, and they are here to stay.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Well, here's the latest in the "challenge the school law" saga. I share this with you because the final outcome of all of this could be a precedent-setting decision for every school system in NC. As my last post explains, the Department of Public Instruction recently sent a letter informing Guilford County that they were not adhering to the law by setting make-up days as late as June 15th. That is indeed the case. Well... the Guilford County school board members voted to ignore that "ruling".

In steps the newly appointed head of the State Board of Education, William Harrison - the man who Governor Perdue tapped to take charge of education in NC, thus making June Atkinson's elected position as Superintendent of Public Instruction an office "in name" only. Mr. Harrison referred to DPI's sending of their letter as "an error", and stated that local boards could indeed revise the ending date of school if they deemed it "necessary". Whoa - big can of worms opened there!

Anyway, here's a link to Mr. Harrison's letter to the Guilford County School Board.

Here's a link to a letter I wrote that was published in last week's Rhino Times in Greensboro (before Harrison's decision)


Here are copies of letters to the editor of the Greensboro News and Record

The school board models wrong kind of behavior

Your article, “Vote defies state on snow days” (March 11), fails to point out the unintended message sent to schoolchildren throughout the county: Guilford County Schools can pick and choose which law to follow.

Schoolchildren aren’t necessarily going to understand Jill Wilson’s argument that the state law is too vague. I do not believe the law is vague. I was part of the grass-roots “Save Our Summers” movement to contain the impact of the school calendar on family life. It is a shame there has to be a law to give families and children time to live free of the rat race of school. It is a crime to not follow that law. If Guilford County Schools does not have consequences, children will be taught that following a law is not really important. Education is about actions as much as it is about words.

Libby Thompson

Posted at the News & Record on March 16, 2009 3:00 AM Permalink

School board's defiance presents a poor example

Congratulations to the Guilford County school board. What a wonderful example you are making to your students, staff and the community at large. We don’t like the state rules; therefore, we will ignore them. The date of June 10 for the last day of school was set in state law by the Legislature. Saying the law does not apply to us is like telling the highway patrolman, “Sure I was doing 80 in a 65, but so were others; therefore, it’s OK.”
Shame, shame, shame.
Richard Schroer
Oak Ridge

Posted at the News & Record on March 13, 2009 3:00 AM Permalink

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Law is a Law!

  The Guilford County School Board has gone off the deep end! In a nutshell, I warned them weeks ago that their plans to make up snow days on June 11th, 12, and 15th were against the law that sets June 10th as the last day of school for traditional calendars. Nothing they didn't already know, of course. Well, when they received a letter from the NC Department of Public Instruction informing them of their non-compliance with the law, they voted (Tuesday night) to defy DPI - thus defying the law. What an example for a school board to set for our children!! Unbelievable! Below you will find a link to the article in the Greensboro Record, and a copy of an op-ed piece that I submitted to the Winston-Salem Journal (their system also listed make-up days after June 10).



A “Heads Up” for Public School Parents

If you have a student in a Winston-Salem/Forsyth or Guilford County school district, please sit up and take notice. Your spring break might not be as long as you think.

Over the past few months, I have observed with interest the dates that various school systems have set for weather-related make-up days. Many weeks ago, when I found out that Guilford County had announced June 11th as their second snow-day, I promptly contacted an administrator to remind him that such an action is against the law. Now, I understand that Winston-Salem/Forsyth has done the same thing.

Some of you will recall the 2004 “School Calendar Law” that sets August 25th and June 10th as parameters within which local school boards can establish their own school calendars. This law includes waiver provisions for qualifying school systems that typically have a large number of weather-related make-up days. A waiver can also be granted if it meets certain criteria, is deemed “reasonable” and “necessary”, and is “not an attempt to circumvent the opening and closing dates set forth [in the law]”1. All other traditional schools are required, by law, to use days prior to June 10th for making up those days.

I find it inexcusable that certain school districts are still leading parents to believe that June 11th, June 12th, etc. will be used to make up days missed because of recent snows. They have been well aware of the tenets of the calendar law since 2004. I realize that the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system has already cut into spring break, and to lose even more days that week would be a hardship on parents, students, and teachers alike. As a parent and former teacher myself, I empathize with those families; however, because of the way the local school board set up the calendar to begin with, they now have few options left.

No matter how the school calendar is laid out, make-up days will be established. For some families, a break in the spring might be most important; for others, it is a hardship to have days added on to the end of the school year. Who’s to say which is more important? Some year-round schools have their make-up days on Saturdays. Many parents are flinging a fit about that, and those schools are exempt altogether from the 2004 law!

Let’s face it - this has been an unusual year for us, weather-wise. Even so, creative and forward thinking from the beginning on the part of school board members could have prevented the situation that now exists. Other school systems are dealing with make-up days as well, and are carefully adhering to the law. Yes, the law limits options, but since it also (among other things) prevents traditional schools from opening in late July or early August, many think that it is well worth the trade-off. But… that’s a discussion for another day!

For now, suffice it to say that if I were a parent in the Guilford or Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school systems, I would be livid that, even after being reminded, leaders have still not let the public know that the June make-up days will not be allowed. On March 10th, the Guilford County school board voted to ignore a letter from the Department of Public Instruction informing them that their plan was not in compliance with the law. This is nothing less than a blatant attempt to “test” the law, and to incite parents to blame the law for last-minute schedule changes.

At least some of us in other systems were forewarned more than a year in advance of the possibility of losing some of our spring break or weekend time. For this to drop as a “bombshell” now is unconscionable. Parents and teachers, I hope you will question your school board members about this. I would love to know how they respond.


A Fellow Public School Parent,

Louise Lee


1.Session Law 2004-180

Section 1, 115c – 84.2, (d)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Truth of the Matter

Wake County is using two days of Spring Break to make up days missed because of snow. Keung Hui wrote an article in today's News and Observer pointing out that some people are blaming the 2004 "School Calendar Law" for the loss of those two days. Below, you will find a copy of a response I posted on Mr. Hui's blog.


I could sit here all day defending the merits of the 2004 school calendar law, but I doubt I would change any minds at this point. I'll share the following points/observations for those who care, then I'm off...

1) Do I think a spring break is important? Absolutely – I used to teach, so I know that teachers need a break, as well as students, and even parents. Do I think it is worth doing away with a law so that a spring break can be more secure? Absolutely not! We need to look beyond our own doorstep and consider the thousands (arguably, tens of thousands) of families across NC for whom a traditional summer schedule is a necessity, not just a preference. That’s why the law was supported by citizens across every gender, racial, socio-economic, political, etc. line you can think of. Not many laws can boast that. Why a necessity? For summer youth jobs to put food on tables and pay for clothes, college, etc.; for scholarships to camps, etc., that offer life-changing opportunities, and the list goes on … (see http://www.saveoursummers.com/quickref.asp)

Besides, based on research and experience, I believe that most NC parents would forego an entire spring break if it meant not starting school in late July or early August. That's what the 2004 law changed, remember?????!!!!!!!

 2) No matter what the school calendar is, make-up days will be established. For some, a break in the spring might be most important; for others, it is a hardship to have days added on to the end of the school year. Who’s to say which is more important?? Year-round schools have their make-up days on Saturdays. Some parents are flinging a fit about that, and those schools are exempt altogether from the 2004 law! Also, the law, to be fair and reasonable, includes waiver provisions for school systems that habitually miss a lot of school due to inclement weather.

 3) As of right now, Wake County still has a 6-day spring break from school. Have we gotten spoiled into expecting 7-10 days?

4) As I mentioned in Keung's article, I empathize with families who made plans beginning April 6th. I'm not trying to sound callous here, but I must mention that we have known about these make-up days for well over a year, maybe even 2 years. We knew that if we made "set-in-stone" plans, we were gambling on Wake County not having much snow - probably a good gamble considering our past history - but surely we realize that no one “owes” us those days now.

5) Perhaps MOST IMPORTANT to some are the results of a statewide poll which show that an overwhelming majority of North Carolina voters support the state’s August 25th school start date.

A random-sample survey conducted in the fall by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh showed 71 percent of likely NC voters support the existing law passed in 2004 establishing a statewide school start date no earlier than August 25th. Furthermore, when given a choice between starting school in late July/early August or in late August, 80 percent of respondents prefer a late August start date.

In the Triangle area specifically, 78% supported the 2004 school calendar law, and 80% favored a late August start date as opposed to late July/early August

I strongly encourage you to study the entire poll results, especially the crosstabs that break results down into almost every sub-category you can think of. Here's where you go:


Believe me, over the past 5 years, I have heard the law blamed for just about anything you can think of – it works to the advantage of those who see the law as a threat to their power and control, to tout it as a tourism scheme, and to stir up parental opposition to it. And what better opportunity than now? The 2004 school calendar law is so misunderstood, and has been so distorted, that it provides an easy and convenient “scape-goat”.

I find it ironic, in a humorous sort of way, that some of the parents (present company and those mentioned in Keung's write-up excluded) who are lamenting lost vacation time in April are the very ones who accused Save Our Summers - NC supporters of catering to the summer vacation crowd. Human nature is so interesting.

There you have it...have a great day everyone. I certainly intend to... Louise