Local News

Wake Cuts 4 Magnet School Programs

Posted August 7, 2007 5:56 a.m. EDT
Updated August 8, 2007 7:32 a.m. EDT

— The Wake County school board decided to end magnet programs at four elementary schools, despite pressure from parents to save the programs.

The Board of Education voted Tuesday night to begin phasing out the magnet programs at Root, Olds, Lincoln Heights and Wake Forest elementary schools. The programs will be completely eliminated by 2010.

The school board's vote was split, with five board members voting to end the programs and four voting to continue them.

District administrators said the schools no longer need the specialized programs, which are designed to lure suburban families to under-enrolled schools that have high poverty rates among students. Other schools have higher student poverty rates and need the money devoted to personnel and materials used in magnet programs, administrators said.

"It's just a tremendous destruction to the excellent education system that Wake County is offering to take away the Olds program," parent Norma Prosser told school board members earlier Tuesday.

"We had no prior knowledge the evaluation process was taking place," said parent Tracy Nelson, a leader of Concerned Parents of Lincoln Heights.

The Lincoln Heights group also pleaded its case Monday night to two school board members, a state representative and a pair of Holly Springs Town Council members.

Nelson has two sons at Lincoln Heights, one of whom has language delays and anxiety issues. She praised the school's special needs program.

"The program's small class size really helps him as far as understanding what the teacher is saying," she said. "It means so much to my boys because they have not just survived in elementary school, they're thriving."

School board member Lori Millberg spoke in favor of keeping the four magnet programs, saying they offer educational options to families in outlying sections of Wake County.

Millberg also decried "special treatment" being given to Brooks Elementary and Douglas Elementary. The schools have two of the lowest student poverty rates in the district, but their magnet programs aren't being threatened, she said.

Magnet programs at middle schools and high schools also wouldn't be affected.

School board member Carol Parker said the magnet decision is difficult. A vote had been scheduled for two months ago, but parents demanded to be heard on the issue, and the board delayed.

"Our real purpose of doing de-magnetization is to try to allocate our resources where they're best-needed and because we're in a finite resource world," she said.