Tuesday, November 15, 2011


By Cash Michaels

            Just three months after it officially opened its doors to students, Walnut Creek Elementary School (WCES) in Southeast Raleigh is already struggling to deal with its high poverty status, just as many veteran educators predicted.
            The school, located off Rock Quarry Road, is almost 150 students above capacity; has busted the seams of its promised 21-23-student-per-classroom size; has almost half its teaching staff inexperienced first-year instructors; and isn’t paying its teachers extra for putting in the required 45-minute longer days, sources say.
            “Apparently we had [the] “unintended outcomes” that I keep warning about,” District 3 Wake School Board member Kevin Hill, told The Carolinian, after he met with Wake Supt. Anthony Tata Monday.
            District 4 school board representative Keith Sutton, in whose district WCES resides, says he’s “very concerned” about what he’s hearing, wonders why certain things he was promised hadn’t happened, and wants answers fast to keep small problems from getting even bigger at WCES.
            The blame, many observers say, is not with WCES’ dedicated principal, Corey A. Moore, or the committed handpicked staff and teachers who tackle the unique challenges a school with an estimated 70 percent free-and-lunch and over 50 percent low-achieving student population can bring.
            The blame, they say, lies with the Republican-led Wake School Board, which reassigned hundreds of children last February, adhering to its new neighborhood schools policy, and the school system’s administration, both of whom have allowed WCES to take on more than it was designed to handle.
            Originally constructed for a student capacity of 780, the $25 million state-of-the-art facility has now enrolled an estimated 920 students.
            Indeed, as of last week, informed sources say, the school was still admitting students. That wasn’t supposed to have happened. WCPSS’ Growth and Management was supposed to have cut off enrollment closer to 800 students, but didn’t.
            Ironically, one of the schools that is benefiting from WCES’ capacity problem is East Garner Elementary School, from where some of WCES’ students were reassigned from last February by the Wake School Board.
            East Garner Elementary is in District 2, represented by board Vice Chair John Tedesco, and both Tedesco, and Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams made it clear last year that they wanted Southeast Raleigh children out of Garner schools.
            The board did just that, taking Southeast Raleigh children, predominately black, from East Garner and other schools.
            Today, sources say, East Garner has space, with WCES is ballooning.
            “We have done [WCES] students a disservice,” Calla Wright, president of Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children says.
            Wright says she has heard from parents who enrolled their children in WCES because of the promise of smaller class sizes and experienced teachers. Now they are concerned that the school system is reneging on that promise.
Even though, officials say, that having principal-handpicked experienced, and inexperienced but talented teachers onboard is by design, the fear, as demonstrated in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and other school districts with a high percentage of high poverty schools, is the likelihood of burnout within one to two years.
            With larger class sizes dominated by high needs students in an urban setting, teachers who haven’t learned to cope in that environment rarely survive beyond the second year, education veterans say.
            Couple that with 45 minutes added to the regular school day for WCES, but not bonus compensation for teachers, and WCES may begin to experience a high percentage of teacher turnover in the coming years.
            Years when Wake County schools are expecting to operate the system with less resources.
            This is something many saw coming when the Republican-led board began reassigning students last February, according to its new neighborhood schools policy.
            “The opening of WCES this fall epitomizes the direction in which Wake County Schools are moving,” cited the UNC Center for Civil Rights in a March 16, 2011 memo to the US Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which is still investigating a federal complaint against the Wake School Board by the NCNAACP and others.
            Indeed, the memo devoted an entire section to WCES.
            “The students populating Walnut Creek are being transferred from more racially diverse school into a segregated “neighborhood” school, and the educational outlook for success of Walnut Creek is bleak,” the memo continued. “Historically, wake County has opened new schools at only 80 percent capacity. However, with Walnut Creek opening at nearly 95 percent capacity, it remains to be seen hoe the district will establish effective teacher-student ratios at a crowded school with a large percentage of students with high needs.”
            The UNC memo added, “The Walnut Creek reassignments disproportionately impact minority and at-risk students, and will lock then into a racially segregated, high poverty school of low performing students, which combine to create significant challenges to providing a quality education to all students enrolled in this school.”
            School board member Kevin Hill has been warning for months that the school system can ill-afford to create more “high-needs” schools like WCES, noting that it costs over $1 million more to operate than comparable elementary schools in Wake County.
            Even though it’s well into the school year so not much can be done about WCES student capacity at this point, Hill says the new Wake School Board to be sworn-in on December 6th must address the situation soon, along with concerns that unless fixed, Supt, Tata’s new ”blue” student assignment plan may produce more expensive high needs/high poverty schools.


            [GREENSBORO] District attorneys across North Carolina are now banding together to ask the NC General Assembly to move swiftly in repealing the controversial NC Racial Justice Act. The RJC allows those convicted in capital murder cases to challenge the prosecution prior to sentencing if they believe that race played a role in their convictions. The 2009 law grew out of conclusive studies that showed black death row defendants convicted of murder in the state were more likely to see the death penalty than their white counterparts, especially if the victims are white. If racial bias is determined to have been a factor in their conviction or sentencing, the court can adjudicate a death sentence to life in prison without parole. However, DAs are claiming that white and black defendants are making claims just to slowdown their cases.
            In a letter this week to the state Senate from the 44-member North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, Conference Pres. Susan Doyle, DA in Johnston County, warned, “…if you do not address this issue quickly, the criminal justice system will be saddled with litigation that will crush an already under-funded and overburdened system.”  State lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene for three days on Nov. 27, and could address the RJA repeal then.

            [HAMPTON, VA]  Leon Kerry, who has served as commissioner of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) for the past 22 years, retired for “personal reasons” Tuesday, “effective immediately,” according to the CIAA Board of Directors. The unexpected retirement comes just three months before the oldest black college conference in the nation celebrates its 100th anniversary in February, in Charlotte. “The CIAA Board of Directors would like to thank Leon for his years of service to this great conference. Our league has grown under his leadership and we are well-positioned to expand on that foundation”, said Dr. Mickey Bynum, president of the CIAA Board of Directors. Associate Commissioner Monique Smith has been named interim CIAA commissioner.

            [RALEIGH] Gov. Beverly Perdue, reacting to an internal review of decrepit conditions in the state’s prison system for inmates suffering from mental disease, said those conditions are “unacceptable,” and will be addressed. The report detailed how mentally unstable prisoners are isolated for months, sometimes naked with no mattresses to sleep on. Perdue said a new $155 million hospital and mental facility is set to open in a few months.


                                                       EARVIN "MAGIC" JOHNSON


TOUGH DAYS AHEAD - President Barack Obama, seen here visiting the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., faces a tough election a year from now. With the economy still struggling, and job growth at its lowest, the president is reaching out to his African-American base for renewed support [White House photo]



            After over two controversial terms, the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association tonite will vote to replace outgoing President Dan Coleman. In an email to the membership, Coleman wrote that he was “not allowing my name to be submitted” for a third term. However he also added that he had “been working with those persons” identified as candidates to ensure a “seamless” transition. The body will elect a new fresh slate of officers tonite, 7 p.m. at Roberts Park Community Center.

            Black Workers for Justice presents, “Occupy the Hood:  For People’s Power and Democracy General Assembly in Raleigh” on Friday, Nov. 18th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the YWCA, 554 E. Hargett Street, Raleigh. Fashioned after the Occupy Wall Street movement that has swept the world, sponsors say this is one of many powerful assemblies in the black community across America to protest high unemployment, corporate and Wall Street greed, and exploitation by the banks. For more information call 829-0957.

            Occupy Raleigh demonstrators have the right to protest and express their views, but that doesn’t mean they get to pitch tents in front of City hall, or on any city property, voted the Raleigh City Council Tuesday in turning the group’s request. An outgrowth of the popular Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, Occupy Raleigh participants engage in civil disobedience against controversial practices by the banking industry, Wall Street and corporate America. Council members turned down the request, citing too many risks, safety and liability issues involved.

By Cash Michaels

            THOUGHTS - Now that the great Wake School Board elections of 2011 are over, some reflections.
            I am so proud of the five school districts that took part in this year’s elections, not because they turned out to be all Democratic victories, because a close look at the ballots tells us that even independents and some Republicans voted for what they felt was best for the future of the Wake County Public School System.
            So why was the current Republican-led Wake board so demonstrably rejected, especially when it deliberately had at least two of the five open districts redrawn to favor Republican candidates?
            Because, history will prove, Chairman Ron Margiotta, Vice Chair John Tedesco, and the rest of the now decimated GOP majority were so arrogant, so dismissive, and so bent to running the nation’s 18th largest public school system as a lab experiment for raw political power, that they never realized how unsavory, indeed how toxic they’d become.
            They were full of themselves. They had something to prove. They were all full of such venom and partisan anger.
            But most disturbingly, and I say this without fear of any contradiction, since I have proven it over and over and over again on the front page of this newspaper, the Republican majority of the Wake School Board were documented liars.
            The way they accused previous Democratic-led Wake school boards of setting out to specifically hurt black children, or never helping black students to narrow the racial achievement gap or achieve academic proficiency… were out and out lies designed to fuel a false anger in the black community, disarm supporters of the old student socioeconomic diversity policy, and strengthen the conservative argument that neighborhood schools is the universal answer for all that ails African-American students.
            I am proud to say that while Margiotta & Company’s bilge fooled a lot of people, even here in the African-American community, this newspaper, which has proudly served this community and state for over 70 years, never fell for a moment of it.
            There were prominent community “leaders,” used to putting tape over their own mouths and trying to make deals under the table to short-circuit any confrontational efforts the NCNAACP undertook to expose the board’s divisive game plan, that we had to ignore, and even breakaway from, to ensure that our community stayed focus and on point as to what the truth was, and what wasn’t.
            Some folks complained that the only issue we felt was important in the community was the Wake School Board. That wasn’t true, of course, but there is no question that we were committed to keeping our eyes on this school board, because it was clear that they would do anything to get their way to get Southeast Raleigh children out of suburban schools.
            And a year ago, we indeed caught them in the act, and exposed them.
            We knew that we were being effective in our reporting when Chairman Margiotta and Vice Chair Tedesco refused to answer our questions. Refused, in effect telling our readers and our community that they didn’t count.
            So it took two years, but this fall’s elections proved what our reporting had been saying the whole time - that politics had, indeed, taken over the Wake County Public School Board, and we were in very real danger of losing one of the best public school systems in the nation.
            Perfect? Never. The system had many failings, found it difficult to handle its tremendous growth. Had taken its eye off the academic prize for a time.
            But it was repairing the damage before the conservatives took over in 2009, and derailed the effort.
            As a community, with the new board that’s sworn-in on December 6th, let’s finish the repair work, and then move forward.
            And as for our reporting, we are happy to have served, and will continue to do so, as you see in this week’s edition.
            PATERNO - The sad and shocking sexual abuse scandal that has hit the football program at Penn State University is beyond words. Allegations of an assistant football coach molesting young boys who were part of a non-profit group have brought outrage, and the fact that it was allowed to go on for years with not one responsible adult or college official putting a stop to it, is even more outrageous.
            Perhaps the most stunning allegation made is that legendary Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in Division I NCAA history, was reportedly told about what was happening by an eyewitness, and all he did was report to a higher official, and wash his hands of it.
            And because Paterno did not followup, or report the alleged rape of a young boy in the showers by one of his coaches, it went on for at least another nine years.
            Go online and read the grand jury findings about these alleged crimes, crimes that have brought about at least 40 indictments against the former assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky. The report is graphic and shocking. How could such a man do such a thing for so long, and nobody, not even Paterno, physically try to stop him?
            Right now this has turned into a circus, with Penn State students rioting, Sandusky telling NBC that he did nothing wrong when he played in the shower with young boys, and Paterno’s name being dishonored from Congress to being taken off the Big Ten Championship trophy.
            The universal anger around the country is palpable, as well it should. And yet, at some point, we need to get out bearings back.
            What can we do, and what should we do, to better protect our children from sexual abuse. If the Penn State story is true, a trusted leader and role model sexually abuse young boys he was supposed to be helping become better human beings. If anything, he actually engaged in destroying their lives.
            Whom, as parents, do we trust?
            And as for Paterno, 84, was his old age and generational belief that some subjects are taboo play a role in his just dropping the hot potato in somebody else’s lap, and forgetting all about it? Did it ever occur to the man that young children were at risk, and he had a duty to do to go to the police, even in secret?
            We pray for the victims, who have since grown up into troubled young adults, and their families. We pray for the folks and students at Penn State, who have just gone through one of the most tragic and devastating events in their over-a-century history.
            But we also pray for all of us, that GOD allows us to learn from this, and commit ourselves to ever vigilant… to protect all children.
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at www.Power750.com. And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my new blog, ‘The Cash Roc” (http://thecashroc.blogspot.com/2011/01/cash-roc-begins.html). I promise it will be interesting.
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.

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