Wake men's academy gets new start in old school building

Posted August 12, 2013

Wake Young Men’s Leadership Academy

— Inside the old Thompson School on E. Hargett St., students filled the hallways and classrooms Monday for the first time in more than 40 years. The old building was abandoned as a school in 1971 and is now occupied by the Wake Young Men’s Leadership Academy.

The young men attended classes in a temporary facility last year while the old Thompson School underwent $3.5 million in renovations for its 236 new students.

The Wake Young Men’s Leadership Academy opened last year, along with a young women’s academy at 303 Ashe Ave. – Wake County public schools’ first single-sex schools. This year, nearly 500 students are enrolled at the two academies, which serve middle and high school students.

Classes are smaller than in other Wake County schools and have about 25 students on average. The men’s academy retained 90 percent of its students after its first year, according to Principal Ian Solomon, and every teacher returned except for one.

“(The smaller class size) enables our teachers to develop meaningful relationships with the kids,” Solomon said.

The all-male middle and high school model allows for more camaraderie among classmates, according to supporters.

“Last year was the most successful year I've had in school, and I do think that's because of less distractions,” said sophomore Seth McGann.

State test scores won't be out until next month, but Solomon says the men’s leadership academy is on par with other district schools when it comes to common exam scores in world history, geometry and English I.

Wake men's academy gets new start in old school building Wake men's academy gets new start in old school

“As always, we're about continuous improvement, so we want to be at the top,” Solomon said. “We really emphasize drilling down to each and every individual student.”

The school has a waiting list of teachers and students who want to be part of the men’s academy. Longtime educator Robin Dixon applied to teach at the academy last year and finally got in this year. Dixon says children, especially boys, benefit from the single-gender approach.

“What I notice is there's that leadership piece in young men walking up to me and introducing themselves to me and engaging me,” Dixon said. “I really believe in what they're doing here.”

Next year the school plans to partner with a local college or university to eventually allow students to graduate with college credit. The first class is expected to graduate in 2016.


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  • dadsgoose98 Aug 13, 2013

    I love seeing that young man in the video wearing a tie. There are way too many teachers in Wake county public schools that dress like they just rolled out of bed. When teachers dress professionally they command a little more respect from their students.In London, teachers are not allowed to wear sweat pants and tennis shoes like they do here.

  • Sweets01 Aug 13, 2013

    This sounds like a wonderful opportunity for young men in our community!!

  • samuelhayes Aug 13, 2013

    WYMLA was a Blessing for my son! I thrilled my daughter will have a chance to attend WYWLA when she starts middle school next year. The goal is for each new class to have 50% of students who would be first generation College Students. The school is diverse, class sizes are small, the teachers our outstanding and the students WANT to be there. It amazes me people are critical of these schools without even looking into them. I advise you to go visit the schools websites or Facebook pages first be you make any judgments against these schools.

  • dmj Aug 13, 2013

    I wish I had known about this school. would love to get my son enrolled!

  • archmaker Aug 13, 2013

    look at that school building! 80 years old and still going strong because it was built in a time when people valued education and public services.

    most schools built today are built with a 30-year life span in mind.

  • superman Aug 13, 2013

    The $3.5 was for renovtions. That doesnt cover the cost of teachers, school equipment etc. Tata started that mess and then the County Commissioners wanted the program to continue. So we can give credit of our great County Commissions for this wild and reckless spending. Our CC are on an even par with the School Board.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Aug 12, 2013

    Cool! But $3.5 mil for 236 students seems high.

  • kimberly.jeans Aug 12, 2013

    Who says single-sex education can't work? If you ask Deb Townsley, her husband, and the Stevens Strategy, Wake County's sending itself into financial peril with single gender classrooms. They're not fiscally sound. How's that working out for you DT? Losing students, losing alumnae support, losing community support. How well did Michael and his Stevens Strategy help you? Not so much, right. Don't you wish you had left things alone? It won't broke.