Wake County Schools

Failed deal with Peace won't threaten Wake leadership academies

Posted April 13, 2012 12:18 p.m. EDT

Wake County Public School System

— Wake County schools Superintendent Tony Tata reiterated Friday that he is considering alternate locations for two single-gender early college leadership academies after a proposed partnership with William Peace University in Raleigh fell through Thursday afternoon.

More than a dozen William Peace alumnae attended a school board meeting Tuesday to discourage a Wake schools partnership with the university.

In a statement Thursday, the university said it made the decision to dissolve the partnership with Wake schools because of the "division and controversy on the Wake County Public School system board.

Tata did not address the university's statement Friday but said that Wake schools will continue to work toward an agreement. 

"We were unable to reach an agreement with Peace on the location of the early program, but the rest of the program as a whole in in good shape, and we're moving forward with it," Tata said at a press conference. "We would have liked to have reached an agreement. President (Debra) Townsley and I are committed to trying to reach an agreement in the future."

Because of the partnership falling through, contingency plans will be put in place for the 2012-13 school year, Tata said.

The Wake Young Men's Leadership Academy will be held at a modular space on Spring Forest Road and the Wake Young Women's Leadership Academy will be held at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind campus near downtown Raleigh. 

Tata sent a letter to parents with children enrolled in the Wake Leadership Academy on Wednesday to reaffirm his commitment to the academies while the school board considers other options. 

"The leadership academies were in high demand," Tata said. "Just for the concept, over three to one demand ratio for the number of seats available. We responded to parents."

Assignment Concerns

Before addressing the intentions of how to handle the failed deal with William Peace University, Tata gave an update on the second choice-selection round of student assignment, saying that Wake schools hopes to tell parents who participated where their children will go to school by April 26.

The second choice-selection round, which was for parents unhappy with the assignment they received as well as the parents who didn't participate in the first round, ended Thursday. Tata said more than 5,000 families participated in the second round of the choice-selection process.

Some parents said Tuesday that the new student assignment plan is an unfair lottery that doesn't live up to its promise of proximity, stability and parental choice. Some parents said the school system didn't make it clear before the first choice-selection round that a family's second, third and fourth choices are more random. Tata said the complex task of student assignment is still in the first stages.

"Our assessment right now is that the plan has worked for a vast majority of the county. It has also shined a bright spotlight on where we have some proximity capacity issues," Tata said. "We intend to address those issues as best we can."

Under the new assignment model, parents rank a list of schools based on their home address. Once a student is assigned to a school, he or she is guaranteed a seat in that school's feeder pattern as long as he or she is enrolled in the school system.

Parents of students who are new or returning to the school system, rising kindergartners and parents who want their children to switch schools must go through the selection process.