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Parents fear change in Wake's magnet school policy

Posted October 15, 2009

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— Patti Merz is a big believer in Wake County's magnet schools – so much so that her 10-year-old daughter, Alex, has a 45-minute daily commute from her home in Cary to Wiley Elementary School in downtown Raleigh.

"We chose that school because of its emphasis on international languages," Merz said.

The fifth-grader is studying Spanish and German and has excelled in her studies so much that she can sing in German.

Her mother wants to see those language skills continue at a magnet middle school next year, but she fears a potential change in policy by the Wake County Board of Education.

"That choice might be taken away from us," Merz said.

Board members, in an effort to find a balance of socio-economic levels in schools, want to know if base schools have a higher percentage of lower-income students because parents are choosing to enroll their children in magnet or year-round schools.

Base schools are the schools students would be assigned to if they did not choose to go to magnet schools.

"We just want to take a look and make sure it's not to the detriment of the sending school," school board member Eleanor Goettee said.

Parents like Merz worry that if there is a change, the school board will deny families with certain base schools access to magnet or year-round schools.

That means Alex could potentially go to her base middle school in Cary, Dillard Drive, which does not have a German language program.

"It's telling a child, 'You live here. You don't have the same choices that another child does,'" Merz said. "That's not fair."

The rationale, according to school system staff members, is that keeping more families at the base school will help reduce the percentage of students on free and reduced lunch.

For example, the percentage of students on free and reduced lunch at Fox Road Elementary School is 66 percent. That figure would decrease to 46 percent if all students assigned there actually attended the school.

The Wake County Public School System has identified 17 schools where free and reduced lunch percentages go up 10 percent or more with students transferring.

Neither staff nor board members, however, have made any recommendations about limiting access to magnet schools.

"There is no delineated list of schools that we've identified where we are going to refuse parents the choice," Goettee said. "That is not the case."

Members have asked school staff for more data to present at a committee meeting on Oct. 27.

"We're asking for data to be returned to us so we can look at it – again, in another couple of weeks and just go from there," she said.

Goettee says one option might be to reduce the number of magnet seats available by lottery.

But Merz worries Alex's future won't include a magnet school.

"We want to be able to decide where our children go, and we want input," she said.


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  • Education_1st Oct 16, 2009

    This article does mot tell how Knightdale residents are already turned away from magnet schools. Just because of our zip code, we are told that our schools are too high in F&R; therefore, our Board member representative thinks we should not be granted access to the Magnet program under the traditional method (with transportation!). For at least 2 years, our residents have been forced by the system to stay at our "community schools." The same theory is now being looked at for the system. These inquirers should look at: "Is it working in Knightdale?" Thanks Lori Milberg.... that's what we've been dealing with. Forget about having the resources to handle the "brighter" kids... WCPSS just says stick them in local schools.... they don't need the choice to have their children in magnet schools because we need those students to offset the F&R numbers! Of course they won't even let Knightdale have magnet schools... they would be spreading resources equally!!!

  • wakemom Oct 16, 2009

    To sceeter:

    Low income students do have the choice to apply for magnet seats, also. It is not restricted to wealthier kids. However, generally speaking, low income students have parents who are less involved in their education, and therefore do not make the effort to apply for magnet seats. Therein lies to rub: Call it socialism or whatever you like, but poorer kids do NOT have the same opportunities, but it is less a fault of the school system, and more the fault of family situation and the lack of adults advocating for the very children who need intervention and expanded educational opportunities the most.

    BIG SIGH! so not true. #1) i am not low income. i have applied for magnet for my child so that they could go schools 5min away that are magnet and not be bussed across nw raleigh. BUT i kept getting denied for one child. it makes me mad that #1) ppl think parents dont care about getting their child in magnet schools. #2) to see kids from other areas getting in there

  • wakemom Oct 16, 2009

    HA just as i said earlier! parents will complain bc the magnet schools are in the "poor" areas and our kids are loosing base to these schools are being bussed across raleigh while other kids from raleigh get the seats at the magnet schools here like in downtown raleigh. WOOOO.. and the saga continues...

  • ncsqrl Oct 16, 2009

    to> gabi and archmaker. I agree that wish there were more magnets available to all. esp in District 2, Fuquay area. Question tho> how does the magnet process know your status (as not low-income, not F&R, etc) - didnt see an application form online so cant tell for myself, but didn't realize it required you reported your income level? curious.

  • ForeRight Oct 16, 2009

    There is a choice for parents, its called private schools. Magnets have limited seats and almost impossible to get into if your child is not in Kindergarten. The state should close these schools and parents should be allowed to apply a dollar amount toward a private school if their child does not attend public schools. If all of the children that are attending private school in Wake County were to go to public school instead, what type of stress would that put on the public schools? The reason most kids are in private school is because parents had to make hard financial decisions and sacrifices to put their kids in a stable environment. The Wake BOE has failed and this county for many years and contributed to the rise in private schools as well as Magnet Schools. Put a dollar value on the education and let parents vote with credit vouchers. IF you want a public school your voucher covers the entire cost, if you go to magnet, perhaps it covers 80%, private you apply that value to tuitio

  • aintbackingdwn Oct 16, 2009

    The magget schools are just terrific just like their other hairbrained ideas like smart start

  • OnlyOneVoice Oct 16, 2009

    Mom2two - AMEN! I couldn't agree more.

  • time4real Oct 16, 2009

    the only thing we have to fearrrrrrrrr, is the new school board not coming in and firing Chuck and Del and a few of their close criminal friends!

  • Kelondris Oct 16, 2009

    The problem with magnets is that it is hard to get into them unless you get your child in at kindergarten, because there is not a lower class moving up into it. IE. Kindergarten to First Grade. My daughter just started kindergarten, so I was able to get her into a magnet. But for any other grade, it is hard to get into unless you were already in the school.

    I agree with time4real, every school should be a magnet and have a theme. It's a great idea and kids like it.

  • time4real Oct 15, 2009

    every school should be a magnet, for education! or none at all!