sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Friday, October 29, 2004

Not much happened at the Guilford County Board of Education's last meeting before the election. But the board did discuss one major policy issue and hashed out another one.

After honoring teachers and principals (Dot Harper of Kiser was named principal of the year), the board addressed the compressed schedule. State law now says that school cannot start before Aug. 25 or end after June 6. But there still must be 180 instructional days, so days for teacher workdays and weather-related make-up days are limited.

"There are not a lot of days built into these calendars for snow make-up," said superintendent Terry Grier. "People do not like to make up school on Saturdays."

Board member Nancy Routh was more concerned with teacher workdays.

"I still contend that the state has made a very big mistake and I think we'll regret it," Routh said.

School staff presented four schedule options, one of which started after Labor Day and ran until June 8.

But the other three had school started right on Aug. 25 and ending in early June. The board tentatively passed with an 8-1 vote a schedule that in which school ended June 6. It will be posted on the system Web site for a 30-day comment period.

Assignment policy was the other issue the board discussed.

Basically, the system is trying to figure out a policy to allow kids to stay at their regular school even after a change in domicile or creation of new attendance zones.

The board is concerned with interrupting a student's total school experience at certain grade levels.

As it reads, the "student who is moving from one school district and is a rising 5th, 8th, 10th, 11th or 12th grader may choose either to complete his/ her elementary, middle, or high school education in the school he or she is currently attending or to attend school in the new attendance area." Basically the same thing with redistricting. In both cases, students have to provide their own transportation.

Board member Susan Mendenhall was concerned that requiring only ninth graders to attend a newly-constructed school would be a waste of resources.

"We could have a new school that would be underutilized. I don't think that's an efficient use of our dollars," Mendenhall said.

But fellow board member Anita Sharpe countered with the possibility that "Neighborhoods will jump at the opportunity to go to a new school."

But Grier pointed out that this policy would address not just new schools, but future redistricting.

Board member Alan Duncan said he was hesitant to vote for the policy as written regarding change in domicile. He felt like 10th graders should be required to change schools as well. He cited instances of "residency fraud," where families will rent an apartment for a couple of months to establish residency then move outside the school district.

"The way it's written, it would be easy to shop for a school district," Duncan said. "I would delete the 10th grade, which would require a bigger commitment."

Grier then pitched in with a story about a kid whose driver's license gave an address that was a vacant lot off Cone Boulevard.

The policy regarding the new attendance zones passed by an 8-2 vote, but the part about change in domicile passed only by a 6-4 vote, with Duncan, Mendenhall, Marti Sykes and Johnny Hodge voting against it.


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