Public Comments on Proposed $1.4 Billion Wake Cty Schools Budget (Video)

On April 21st, the Wake County School board heard public comment on the proposed $1.4 billion dollar Wake school system budget.

Thanks to WCPSS on Twitter, the portion of the video that shows the public comment starts around the 19 minute mark.

Some notes on the public comments are below.  The one item that was repeatedly talked about was ‘extra duty pay’.

It’s worth noting not a single one of them asked for a line item breakout of the current Wake budget and spending.  We continue to throw money at education; outcomes do not improve and citizens have no idea how fat the bureaucracy is growing or how deep wasteful spending goes.  But it’s ‘for the children’ so we continue to throw more money without being given a look at where it is really going.

Speaker number one was Patty Williams, who seems to have a history advocating for Wake County Schools. In fact she did an op-ed in the News and Observer. In that op-ed, she cites Horace Mann but fails to note that Mann homeschooled his kids. Key quotes from Williams include “budget is neither extravagant nor impractical”; “time for everyone to pay it forward and support the budget”.

Speaker number two was Renee Ward. She has three kids in school right now, is a PTSA board member and, according to LinkedIn, is ‘principal’ of Air Matters Mold Testing Services. The main thrust of her comments were about raising teacher pay. Ward seems to support the budget.

Speaker number three was Amy Womble. Ms. Womble is a Moral Monday participant and is currently listed as one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Senator Barefoot and Senator Berger regarding the election of the Wake County Board of Commissioner. Womble totally supports the budget and cheerled for the Democrats on the Wake County Commission (WBOC) — the newest four elected to the WBOC are Moral Monday participants as well.

I didn’t catch the name of the fourth speaker. She described herself as a ‘Wake county occupational therapist’. Her comments revolved around salary changes proposed for occupational therapists.  Occupational therapists are employed for kids with IEP’s (Individualized Education Plans). IEP’s, unsurprisingly, seem to  have exploded under Common Core.

The fifth speaker was Deborah (sp?) Phillips. She’s a bus driver and teacher. Phillips talked about living ‘paycheck to paycheck’ and having to choose between ‘senior portraits and caps and gowns’. Medical bills and issues that were costly to their family were used as illustrations of why the budget needs to have wage increases.

The sixth speaker was Diana Bader.  If it’s the same one, Bader is an at-large member of the Wake PTA and an activist tied to an education non-profit turned political, Great Schools In Wake.  Bader brought a prop and told a story about getting rid of bad Blueberries to make better ice cream.  Bader compares our kids to … blueberries you can’t throw away. She pushed teacher pay too. Key quote, “this budget is the start of adequate funding for public education”.

Seventh speaker was Lynn (sp?) Evans. Thanked the board and Superintendent Merrill for the budget because our district has been “on oxygen” since the recession. Evans said this budget doesn’t “get us where we need to be, but might allow us to take off the oxygen mask”.

Eight Speaker was Scott McInnes. He is a basketball coach and a math teacher at Milbrook High. Thanked Merrill for including ‘extra duty’ in the budget. He highlighted finding ‘high quality teachers to fill extra duty positions’ and that extra duty is the “heart and soul of our schools”.

Ninth was Michael Smith, the chair of Wake County Smart Start. Wake County Smart Start focuses on ‘early childhood intervention’.  He supports the Superintendent’s budget as it pertains to preschool services.

Tenth was Donald Tomlinson, president of the Milbrook High boosters club and his comments were mainly directed at altering extra duty pay. Specifically, not to phase in the extra duty pay over five years but to get it going now or over two years. These extra duty positions are ‘not even paid at minimum wage’.

Eleventh was Angela Scioli, a Social Studies teacher from Leesville Road high school. Her comments were very animated and she applauded the election of ‘forward, progressive thinking officials’. She brought a petition with 100 signatures to the meeting in support of the budget. Scioli, a registered Democrat, blames the Republican legislature for Wake’s budget woes.

Twelfth was Clarence Inscore of Milbrook High. Again, the theme was extra duty pay. Thinks it is sad they are losing coaches because they can’t make ends meet.

Thirteenth was Tony Lewis, athletic director at Sanderson High. Again, extra duty pay.

Fourteenth was Beverly Clark. Clark is a former Wake County school board member who resigned in 2009. Comments include ‘this budget is about priorities’, ‘no surrounding state pays their teacher less than North Carolina’. Clark pointed out that Charlotte Mecklenburg’s budget was $388 million more in local supplement than Wake’s for this year. Key quote: “this budget is an essential step, but a bare minimum..”.

Fifteenth was Casey Wentz, who is a CPA. He served under Senator Barringer in 2013. His comments centered on Occupational Therapists and the need to retain them. Key quote: “this is not a legislative issue, this is an allocation issue you can impact with your budget”.

Sixteenth was Larry Nilles, NCAE president for Wake County.  Wanted to talk about the last page of the budget packet — then zeroed in on teacher assistant pay. Nilles then predictably  laid blame on the NCGA and launched into politically tied rhetoric. Apparently, the problems like budgeting for cleaning schools in Wake county 5 days a week is the NCGA’s fault.
Key quote: “This isn’t your fault (Wake Board)… The bulk of the responsibility for these problems lies on Jones street and people who have made intentional decisions to underfund our schools.”
Translated: Our membership is shriveling. We need those dues paid to us. Blame the legislature for mismanagement in Wake.
Nilles is a demagogue.

Seventeenth was Linda Elder, a teacher assistant at Fuller elementary. Her comments centered around TA’s and their importance. Without argument TA’s in Kindergarten and in First grade are important.

Eighteenth was Hardin Englehardt, an ‘education evaluation specialist at Marbles Kids Museum with a Teach for America background. She’s also secretary of the Wake County PTA Council. On behalf of that council, she came to support the budget.  She spent time on teacher pay and competitive salaries, as well as praise for pre-k funding.


About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips:
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