Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Main Points…

of an email I sent to Wake School Board members last night:


First of all, as you consider budget cuts and class sizes, I trust that you will take a hard look at a combination of less drastic measures first. For example, years ago, I suggested the idea of making all art and music classes mobile. No, this is not ideal (my art and music teacher friends hate me for this one!), but it is “doable” with little advance notice, and does not affect student achievement in core classes. As a matter of fact, it is already being done in some schools, I believe. Most importantly, it will free up classroom space that could potentially be used to ease overcrowding in select schools. At a Committee of the Whole BOE meeting in January, 2007, Chuck Dulaney offered the following insight. He said, according to the notes I jotted down, that 20+ students at each of Wake County's elementary schools would have seats if art and music teachers were mobile. Were you told that piece of information? I know many variables need to be considered, but it is certainly worth investigating.

Secondly, please remember the irrefutable data showing that year-round schools are not cost effective if tracks are not being filled! I am having a hard time understanding how certain severe budget cuts can be discussed while the savings method that is staring us in the face is ignored. The national track record for systems which have massively mandated YR school attendance is one of failure, and increased cost is the number one drawback. The research is perfectly clear on that. Please take a moment to study the graph attachments (#1,  #2) that compare capacity, enrollment, and utility costs for the converted schools. (please skip Knightdale, as that is a traditional-calendar school). I appreciate your decision to go ahead with a few conversions back to traditional, and I hope more decisions like that will be forth-coming. There are many reasons why year-rounds should be the opt-out choice, but capacity was the only reason initially given for conversions to YR in the first place. If they are not fulfilling that need, please don't wait too long to see how capacity figures will pan out, before deciding to return more schools to a traditional schedule.

Even in the Year--Round (vs Traditional) Capacity and Utilization report presented by Growth and Management at your January COW meeting, figures were confusing if not studied properly. I had to keep reminding parents that the traditional calendar capacity figure for individual schools was a projected number, so utilization figures, seating difference totals, etc. represented a projected number as well. As you know, that capacity number can change from year to year depending on several variables, such as the number of special ed. classes the school has. An understandable mistake by many people was made by comparing the 2006-2007 membership figure with the listed capacity figure to see which traditional schools were overcrowded at the time of conversion. Such an analysis is faulty, however, since the 2006-2007 capacity number (which should have been used for comparison purposes) was not even included as such in the report.

I also remind you that, according to WCPSS staff, system-wide transportation expenses just during the combined two months of July and August more than doubled during the first year of massive YR conversions, rising from close to half a million dollars ($464,000) in 2006 to close to a million ($944,000) in 2007. By the way, according to data from the US Department of Energy, diesel prices were lower in 2007 than in 2006.

Thirdly, on the subject of bell schedules, I think if citizens knew how detrimental certain scenarios would be for our students’ academic progress, they would support some way of getting enough money for buses – or for whatever it would take to stop this schedule handicap that is placed on our children. If you haven’t had a chance to at least skim the following articles, please try to do so now. There is widespread scientific consensus on the connection between academic performance and sleep patterns.





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