Local News

Parents Rally to Keep Wake Magnet Schools

Posted June 3, 2007 11:11 p.m. EDT
Updated June 4, 2007 8:54 p.m. EDT

— More than two dozen parents and children rallied outside of Olds Elementary School Monday morning to voice their displeasure over a plan to eliminate the magnet status of four local elementary schools.

Chanting "Mend it, don't end it," the group said the school board rushed the decision 10 days ago when they recommended removing the magnet status of Root, Wake Forest, Lincoln Heights and Olds elementary schools.

Parents like Rod Hughes-Oliver said they believe the magnet schools are important, because they only offer certain specialized programs not available at other schools.

“The main point here is that we had no opportunity to state our case to the school board or anyone else. Everything happened very quickly and kind of behind closed doors,” Hughes-Oliver said. “It takes away a very large choice as far as we’re concerned.”

School board member Susan Parry said the decision was a part of a long evaluation process, and it came down to two things. The first reason was the board's goal to keep schools "healthy."

Magnet schools were designed to bring in students from other areas to prevent high concentrations of poverty. The board believes the schools would be diverse without the magnet status.

"This isn't a question of eliminating choice. It's just our effort to make sure that we're doing precisely what we intend to do with this program," Parry said.

The second reason involves funds.

“The program costs money. It costs extra money in each school where we conduct a magnet program,” Parry said. “And so, as you can imagine, with 147 schools and 130,000 kids to educate and a very, very tight budget, it’s important that all of our resources are focused so that they’re doing exactly what they’re intended to do.”

School board members didn't have an exact dollar amount on how much the school system could save by taking away the magnet status of these schools. But they did say it would be the equivalent of cutting 12-1/2 staff positions.

The school board could take a final vote on the magnet schools at a Tuesday meeting, but parents said they hope to delay any decision.

"It's a huge sense of uncertainty right now. That makes it uncomfortable. We'd like to have some answers. Why did this happen? Why now? Why this school? How much money is involved? We don't really know anything," parent Arati Bechtel said.

Magnet programs at middle and high schools could be affected, too.

On Tuesday, Wake school board members will discuss the need for magnet programs at four middle schools and two high schools. They are East Garner, Daniels, Zebulon and East Millbrook middle schools and Broughton and Garner high schools.