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July 11 Robeson letter

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Letter from Robeson to SBE

Published in: Education
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July 11 Robeson letter

  1. 1. Public Schools of Robeson County Post Office Drawer 2909 Lumberton, North Carolina 28359 (910) 671-6000 Fax (910) 671-6024 Office of the Superintendent July 11, 2019 Mr. Eric Davis, Chairman North Carolina State Board of Education 301 North Wilmington Street, Room 212 6302 Mail Service Center Raleigh, NC 27699-6302 Dear Chairman Davis, I write to you today because of the state of the Public Schools of Robeson County. Again, the school board has become an obstacle to further improvement. Sabotage of the district image and financial mismanagement, along with micromanagement by board members is at an all time high. Board members who lack the knowledge of effective school district operations and transformation are making critical decisions. The Public Schools of Robeson County is facing an extreme financial crisis. The Public Schools of Robeson County Board is making decisions that are unaffordable and undermine the many quality teachers, principals and central office employees who are trying to make a difference for students. The board of education is unable and unwilling to make sound financial decisions in order to sustain a financially viable school district. The district simply cannot sustain itself at the current level of spending and the board refuses to develop and/or adhere to any prioritized list of needs and politics continually influence decisions made by board members. Underlying issues centered on power and control continue to manifest and the ego-driven conflict at the top has now stopped any and all progress. Tuesday night’s board meeting provides just one example of how the split and fractured board continues to hurt our children in Robeson County. Consistently undermining the senior leadership team erodes public confidence in the district and makes long-range planning impossible. It is difficult to accomplish our board-approved strategic goals at this crucial time. It is evident that local governance and systems, needed to move the system forward, are not in place within the Public Schools of Robeson County. The constant interference from board members creates an unstable environment and morale is worsening at an alarming rate. Over the past few months, the State Board of Education and North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has provided increased support to my colleagues and me. May 14, 2019 Email “Public Schools of Robeson County Request for Assistance” to SBE, NCDPI, General Counsel and State Superintendent May 14, 2019 PSRC Board Meeting-Board Informally Agrees to Receive Technical Assistance and Support from State Board of Education and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Erica Setzer provided a Finance Committee update to the full PSRC Board of Education and explained to the board, among other things, that:
  2. 2. 1. since March 2018, the PSRC Board and district leadership have been aware that the school system faces a significant budget shortfall in the upcoming school year in excess of $2M; 2. declining average daily membership (ADM) since 2015 and projected ADM declines in the upcoming school year have reduced certain allotments provided to PSRC;; 3. the district’s current and projected staffing levels account for a significant percentage of PSRC’s financial obligations and place the district’s budget at risk; and 4. proceeds from insurance funds are presently being used to cover operating expenses. May 15, 2019 Email “Attached Letters from PSRC Board Members (Wednesday, May 15, 2019)” State Board Chair and General Counsel (Six Board Members) May 17, 2019 Email “Correspondence from the North Carolina State Board of Education” to PSRC Superintendent and Board Chairman Mike Smith • North Carolina State Board of Education concerns and directives included in correspondence • Official warning to the PSRC Board of Education from the State Board of Education, pursuant to North Carolina General Statute § 115C-451 • Notification of received correspondence from Dr. Wooten and six board members requesting that the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction provide the district with technical assistance June 4, 2019 State Board of Education/The Public Schools of Robeson County Board of Education Collaborative Meeting concerning the Exceptional Children Program. June 11, 2019 North Carolina Department of Public Instruction met with Public Schools of Robeson County Superintendent and Leadership Team regarding Exceptional Children Program (Dr. Maria Pitre- Martin/Sherry Thomas/Eric Snider) Board Meeting-Board Formally Agrees to Receive Technical Assistance and Support from State Board of Education and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (Placed on Agenda) June 12, 2019 State Board of Education and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction met with Cabinet to discuss financial state of the Public Schools of Robeson County June 18, 2019 The Public Schools of Robeson County Board of Education unanimously agreed to collaborate with State Board of Education and leaders from the Department of Public Instruction July 9, 2019 1. PSRC Board Meeting 2. The Public Schools of Robeson County Board of Education collaborated with State Board of Education and leaders from the Department of Public Instruction 3. Buddy McLean, CPA from S. Preston S. Douglas and Associates, LLP presented the 2017-2018 Public Schools of Robeson County Audit • “The situation is critical,” McLean said. “Losing 2,000 students is a really, really difficult situation for any organization.” • The schools have been running a deficit since May and paying bills from insurance funds received after Hurricane Matthew.
  3. 3. • “As of June 30, 2019, you have a fund balance of $1.4 million, less than one month of operating costs,” McLean said. “This is a terrible situation to be in.” • “You’re at a desperate point,” McLean said. “If you don’t make reductions today, you will be in a desperate situation.” • The loss of 2,000 students is equivalent to 100 classrooms, 10 teachers, five teacher assistants, four principals, 2.5 assistant principals and 20 support staff, McLean said. • “I’m sorry it has to be this way,” McLean said. “If you can make these changes quickly, your general fund will grow again.” After work with the State Board of Education and a presentation of the 2017-2018 audit findings and recommendations, the Board members approved a consolidation plan that was presented for the first time that evening. This plan deviated from the recommended costs-savings plan that included school closures, consolidations and grade reconfigurations. The approved plan has increased costs associated with it; was not based on data; and is not in the best interests of our children. I am asking for direct intervention and/or immediate takeover from the State Board of Education. We are requesting that the State Board of Education take a direct role in the district’s operations and management. If this occurs, the district and community can be assured that the board and I are fulfilling our statutorily defined roles and working together for the benefit of all students. The district is in dire need. Our untrusting, wounded and divided community is suffering. Respectfully submitted, Shanita W. Wooten, Ed.D. Superintendent cc: Attorney Eric Snider, Agency General Counsel (State Board of Education)

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