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We were all played. The superintendent rolled out an initial proposal that outraged AHES parents, knowing all along she would backpedal to the revised proposal. She would get what she wanted (a closed school) and the AHES parents would still feel like they saved their program. All that has happened is that AHES parents have lost their rallying point (the school), their precious year-round program will lose its identity as it is absorbed into WPE and PES, and two years from now the BOE can eliminate one or both levels of the year-round program with minimal resistance. And the reason more WPE and PES parents did not sign up to speak is because many of them felt they did not have enough information to make a clear and concise statement to the BOE. That said, I saw just as many, if not more, WPE and PES parents at Monday's meeting as I did AHES parents.
The move of students to WPE simply brought the population of PES down to the proper number for that campus. Since then, the school has welcomed new students. Add to that the 100+ students coming over from Academy Heights and it means classes have to move back into the trailers, which were always meant to be a temporary solution to overcrowding.
A mostly weak and biased editorial...
1. WPE and PES parents, for the most part, are not as upset about the influx of new students as they are by the expensive ($125,000) and unnecessary creation of two year-round programs. These programs cater to a vocal minority and provide a work-around for out-of-district parents who are more interested in sending their 100+ children to Pinehurst schools than they are in working to correct perceived problems with schools in the towns in which they live.
2. Academy Heights families were afforded significantly more time to learn facts and provide comments about Dr. Purser's original proposal than WPE and PES parents were to do the same regarding her revised proposal. We realize the closing of the school will bring additional students to our schools, but we were afforded almost no opportunity to offer feedback or make constructive suggestions about the best way to implement that change. Several Academy Heights parents even commented to me that they had the advantage of time and were able to use that time to ramp up political pressure on BOE members.
3. Shame on the BOE, or any other governing board of any publicly funded program, for allowing budget cuts to become a last-minute, controversial issue. Either the BOE was delaying dealing with the issue of budget cuts, or its members and central school staff were making plans and delaying public discussion on them until it was too late for the general public to offer feedback. The state of our economy should come as no surprise to anyone. Where were the public hearings this past year on proposed budget cuts should they be necessary? Where are the contingency plans that are pre-approved and waiting in the wings to be implemented should the need to implement them arise?
4. I agree people should be more interested in attending all BOE meetings, but what is the point in remaining behind to hear a budget vote when the Board has already made up its mind how it is going to vote, as was the case with the Academy Heights issue? Exactly how open to the input of the parents at that meeting were board members when they arrive with scripted speeches or meandering monologues prepared in advance to defend a decision they had already made?
I agree, the BOE has had to make some difficult decisions, and there are many more difficult decisions to be made. But when they choose to make those decisions in a vacuum, they lose my sympathy.
And the vast majority of people I know, despite our disappointment at the Board's decision, are looking forward to the addition of actively involved parents in the PES school programs and our PTA.
I was there, as well, and to my recollection only one of the people who spoke came anywhere close to this "theme" you mention. The rest of the people who spoke about the closing of Academy Heights discussed the unnecessary and costly duplication of the year-round program at the other two elementary schools. We all realize the AH students will join our student bodies one way or the other. I have no ill feelings toward any of the students or their parents, and will join others in welcoming them to our school family when the time comes. I suggest in the future you listen to what people are actually saying instead of trying to read into their comments what you want to hear.
Any school that requires trailer units in order to serve its student population is overcrowded. Both WPES and PES will need to use trailers, especially with the implementation of separate year-round classes. Specials like art and music, in addition to guidance and special-needs support programs, will be forced back into makeshift spaces.
It isn't the end of the world, everyone will survive, and students will continue to succeed. But it is not an optimal use of our existing facilities or taxpayer dollars.
If the Board of Education was intent on closing Academy Heights, then why lose $125,000 in potential savings to do it? By creating two new programs at two existing schools to serve less than 150 in-district students, while simultaneously allowing more than 100 out-of-district students to attend the already over-crowded West Pine Elementary and Pinehurst Elementary schools, the board has caved to political pressure and not served the best interests of all Moore County Schools students. This loss in savings amounts to $500 per student for the 250 Academy Heights students being moved to West Pine Elementary and Pinehurst Elementary. I have three children in Moore County schools. Where is their $500 each for new programs?
All budget reductions are a shame. I am more confused why the meeting held Thursday evening was targeted primarily at parents of students at Academy Heights, since Dr. Purser's new recommendation could significantly impact students and families of West Pine Elementary and Pinehurst Elementary. While not necessarily opposed to the idea, as a PES parent, I have questions.
The elementary, middle and high schools already have staggered start times. How will it impact the start times of Pinecrest High School and its feeder middle schools if start times are staggered for West Pine Elementary and Pinehurst Elementary to allow for year-round families who have students at both?
Does the new recommendation really provide a significant savings, considering both WPES and PES would be open year-round (increased staffing costs, utilities costs, operational costs)? Is the net savings worth the inconvenience to so many families?
How will this recommendation impact the administrations at PES and WPES? Will there be dual administrations, or will the present principals be responsible for both the traditional and year-round programs as is the case at the Southern Pines dual tract schools?
Is this simply a stepping stone to eliminating the year-round program in Pinehurst? If so, is it necessary to significantly restructure two elementary schools to avoid making a politically difficult decision?
Why weren't PES and WPES families invited to Thursday's meeting at WPES? Will WPES and PES be given the same consideration and opportunity to voice their concerns and questions as were given to Academy Heights families?
Whatever the reason for Fayetteville's unfortunate nickname, and whatever the context Mrs. Larose used it, there is no need for calling names. Mrs. Larose is a good and well-intentioned person who has supported her cause without resulting to insults. Remember what your mother should have taught you -- If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
And how easily you seem to forget how a democracy works. The school board might have been "hired" by the people, but once the members are in office it is their responsibility to make the best possible decisions under any given circumstances. I've seen several people over the years, who once railed against the corruption of the board, become board members themselves only to end up justifying the actions they once railed against. Elected officials might work for the people, but that doesn't meant they have to respond immediately to the day-to-day concerns of the people. If you don't like how they do their jobs, vote them out of office when they run again.
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