Wake County Schools

Leadership academies get OK; student assignment questions continue

The Wake County Board of Education voted Tuesday on plans that would secure permanent status for the county's two new leadership academies, but the board continued to battle over student assignment for 2013 and beyond.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Education voted Tuesday on plans that would secure permanent status for the county's two new leadership academies.

The Wake Young Women's and Young Men's Leadership Academies, which opened in July, currently serve sixth-, seventh- and ninth-graders, with a focus on students with no history of college attendance in their families. During the initial sign-up period in the spring, more than 800 students applied for 300 available spots.

The renovation projects are budgeted at more than $8 million.

The Young Men's Leadership Academy, which will move next year to the Thompson Building on Spring Forest Road, needs $3.4 million in renovations, while the Young Women's Leadership Academy, at the Governor Morehead School on Ashe Avenue, needs $4.6 million.

The board reviewed construction plans at its Oct. 2 work session that would allow both projects to be completed by the start of the 2013-14 school year.

Board members were also expected to discuss a proposed career technical high school that would be housed in an old Coca-Cola bottling plant on South Wilmington Street in downtown Raleigh.

County commissioners on Monday approved a deal to lease the 101,000 square-foot facility and to convert it into a school that would open as early as August 2014.

The school board must still approve the deal.

While board members appear to support the school, they did have concerns during their work session Tuesday about whether it would have a high-school curriculum or early-college curriculum. Students would be allowed to earn college credit for Wake Technical Community College, which is partnering with the school system on the venture.

Assignment plan still has sticking points

The board also talked at length about concerns of using old district maps to move forward with a new student assignment plan, saying they are hearing from parents who are confused about what the move will mean for student assignment in the 2013-14 school year.

Board member John Tedesco and other Republican members worry that those maps are based on an old system that led to reassignment and instability in families. They think the board should use maps from this year's assignment plan and make tweaks to them.

"I am a bit confused about what is going on here and how the process is laying out," Tedesco said. "I am having a genuine question about moving forward."

But Democratic board members said this year's "choice plan" dramatically increased busing more than 20 percent and that it is not sustainable.

They reiterated that the intention is not to revert to the old student assignment plan but to borrow the previous maps for 2013-14 while new maps are being created.

“We have to have something for ’13-’14 and this is the path of least resistance for the moment,” said board member Susan Evans.

Board member Jim Martin said the proposal the board is now working on should not be viewed as confusing, because it is based on three principles: stability, an address-based system and an element of choice when there is room.

“It is an imperfect set of maps, we know that," Martin conceded. "But we have got to have something to go forward with because students need assignments to a school.”

"I believe it is clear, simple, sustainable and logical," he said. "Stay where you start. There is an address-based assignment, and where there is capacity, there can be choice."

The board plans to rework student assignment again for 2014-15. 

“We are going from one plan to another plan to another plan,” said board member Chris Malone. "Maybe we are throwing too many things out there for the people to consume.”


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