Wake County Public Schools has some work to do if they want to keep their accreditation.
Wake County Schools has been placed on “accredited warned” status and has until a follow up review in November to make the changes. There were seven items that need to be addressed according to AdvancED. They are:
- Create and implement a strategic plan to guide the future work of the school system.
- Analyze and revise the “node” system of assigning students to schools to ensure objectivity, transparency and consistency.
- Establish and implement an agenda setting process to ensure that every member of the Board of Education and key system leadership are well-prepared for each Board meeting.
- Define in policy the purpose and role of adopting resolutions as a governance practice.
- Provide ongoing cohesive and consistent training to all members of the Board of Education regarding their roles, responsibilities and strategic direction of the school system.
- Institute a policy review, revision, and adoption process that support related board policy development.
- Ensure that policies and procedures guiding the work of the system are in alignment and support of the newly formed mission, vision and core beliefs.
The letter, goes on to state that, “It is the responsibility of the school system to identify and implement corrective action steps to address the Required Actions and standards/policy violations noted in the report. As such steps are implemented WakeCountyPublic School’s officials should ensure that appropriate evidence, including documentation of results, is maintained.”
In preparation for the Monitoring Visit that will take place in November, the district must submit an Institution Progress Report to AdvancED /SACS CASI at least two weeks prior to the visit.
Mr. Tata seemed pleased with the outcome despite the warning the school system received. Mr. Tata said, “I welcome this input as I continue my listening tour of Wake County. We are already attacking many of the recommendations and intend to aggressively implement all of them.”
While going through the report, AdvancED lays out the background information as well as what they did to conduct the review. This includes meetings with the Superintendent of Schools, all members of the Board of Education, and members of the system’s leadership team including 12 high school principals. In addition, they interviewed over 70 individuals representing parents, students, teachers, and the community at large. The also reviewed board policies, minutes of meetings, annual budgets for 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, student performance data, various communications related to issues associated with the review, and survey data prior to determining their findings.
The findings of the review indicate that “Once installed the four new Board members joined forces with current Board member, Ron Margiotta, to launch a premeditated act that resulted in destabilizing the school system and community. Interviews with Board members revealed that these five members planned to set in motion actions that were designed to disrupt and redirect the work of the system.” They site specific actions such as Mr. Margiotta’s immediate action items on the December 1st meeting to include election of new chair, Resolution to appoint interim special legal counsel, change in Student Assignment Policy, and resolution to ensure parental choice regarding year-round schools among others.
According to the report, these actions were without any concern for Board policies, procedure or staff input and guidance. It even quotes Chris Malone in the report as saying, these were calculated acts to “deliver a shot across the bow.” The resulting actions dramatically reshaped the environment and direction of the school system.
The report goes on to outline how the changes that were immediate caused community outrage. The majority of people interviewed during the review process indicated that the Board didn’t seek public comment prior to taking these actions and that the Board violated their policies in making these decisions.
When AdvancED looked at Student Achievement, they saw improvement over the years but the Board refused to acknowledge the improvement. They stated that the low performing students were allocated throughout the system so that the low performance could be hidden. John Tedesco went on to advocate for concentrated schools for low performing students. When pressed by AdvancED for a plan or solution on how that would occur, one could not be provided.
The report closes with comments that the board must work together with the student interests in mind and that they must learn to govern as a team that is guided by policy. It also states. “Since December 1, 2009 the actions and decisions of the Wake County Board of Education have resulted in creating a climate of uncertainty, suspicion, and mistrust throughout the community. It is critical that the Board of Education and the newly appointed Superintendent establish a cohesive governance-leadership team dedicated to serving all students attending Wake County Public Schools. Additionally, the Board of Education and Superintendent must work to gain the community’s trust and confidence in the school system and its ability to meet the needs of all students.”
While the tone of the report is not very optimistic, it does outline what the school system needs to do. And while Mr. Tata is putting his positive step forward, Mr. Margiotta has decided to take a different tone. After reading the report, Mr. Margiotta stated, “We had a constructive meeting with AdvancED officials this morning and while we may disagree with certain opinions expressed in the report, especially unfair characterizations of individual board members’ motives, many of the actions which they recommended are currently under way.”
Only the follow-up review in November will determine whether Wake County Public Schools has met the challenge put before them.