Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Speaking Before County Commissioners

Here's a copy of what I said to the County Commissioners at their meeting yesterday. No matter what anyone says, they can still act as the "checks and balances" group for the Wake County School Board. I've included links in the body of my speech to graphs which show capacity vs enrollment comparisons and energy cost comparisons in the converted MYR schools. VERY interesting!


I am Louise Lee, a resident of Wake County, a former teacher, and most importantly, a wife and a mother of a high school student.l Thank you for letting me speak today. I’m going to go fast, but this is one of the most important talks I will ever make to you. I beg you to please, please, listen carefully to every word I say, even though you have heard other versions of some of this before.

Gangs – According to WRAL news, just in Wake County’s schools, gang activity has increased 33% in the past year. Half of those were in middle schools – 49% to be exact!! As you know, in YR schools, there are 3-week track-out sessions every 8 weeks or so. The # of children that are home alone increases during those weeks, largely because high school siblings are still in school- on traditional schedules, and also because many parents that have to work, can’t afford childcare. Gangs are everywhere now – not just in certain areas of our county. These “latchkey” children are easy prey for gangs, and you better believe these groups know that - and they know where to look.

Here’s my point – I think it is unconscionable that Wake County forces any family into a school schedule that puts their children in grave danger-even life-threatening danger, and I am not exaggerating here. How that can ever be justified is beyond me. However, since mandatory YR school attendance already exists, our school leaders – our county leaders - owe it to theseparents to only resort to this when they see no other way to achieve academic excellence.And ladies and gentlemen, that’s why the citizens of Wake County are looking to you for help – pleading to you for help! Hundreds, arguably thousands, of our children are being placed in harm’s way needlessly! After a two-year trial period, there are schools that simply do not need to continue on a year-round schedule! This isn’t coming from me – the numbers are there to prove it!

Once again, I’m going to leave with you simple graphs [ graph #1graph #2 ] showing that yes, capacity has risen in those schools, but enrollment continues to drop. Tracks have been closed out, because they can’t be filled. Graphs #3 and #4 clearly show, in an easier-to-read format than what I’ve shared with you before, how energy money is being wasted – yet our leaders are talking of teacher cuts, of doing away with Community-In-Schools programs that provide one-on-one help to students who need it the most – students that will get it nowhere else. They threaten to slash programs that place long-term suspension students in a special classroom where they will be taught by a caring human being, and put them out on the streets – or expect all of them to sit in front of a computer screen and be motivated to get their lessons done. Does anyone see my point?

With each one of you, lies the last hope for many of our students – and I’m not trying to be melo-dramatic here – I’m dead serious. This is the only body left that can demand some straight answers from our school board members. I’m not asking that year-round schools be abolished. I only ask that you study the information that I will give you today – I mean really study it – and then find out the rationale behind keeping all of these schools year-round, especially in light of the budget crisis, and what I shared with you about latchkey children - the rationale behind converting Leesville Middle School to a year-round schedule when school board members themselves know that it is not at all necessary! These are legitimate questions that our school board has felt no obligation to answer for weeks!

In closing, I want to remind everyone listening here today, that we all need to step back and renew our perspective. This debate should not center on whether it will look like we are supporting the School Board or not, or whether someone might accuse us of being anti-diversity. It should have nothing to do with political parties, or how Wake County looks in the eyes of the nation. This is about the lives of our children – our future! Isn’t it time for some accountability, even for admitting mistakes if necessary? We keep hearing, "it’s too late, it’s too late". Who in this room can say to my face that it is too late to save even one child’s future – or life? Just by asking some questions and demanding some answers, you can make the difference. Please don't let our children down! Thank you.