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Leadership Schools Being Discussed

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CARY -- Single-sex schools could soon become an option for families in Wake County.

It's part of a broader proposal to revamp how the county's school system determines which students go to which schools.

Wake Superintendent Tony Tata says he wants to make schools more attractive now that the new student-assignment plan would rely on families choosing schools instead of automatically being assigned to schools by administrators.

Among the new options Tata introduced to the school board Tuesday: the creation of a leadership academy for male students and one for female students. If approved, they would become the first single-sex schools in the state's biggest public school system.

Tata also proposed creating a science academy and making Hilburn Drive Elementary School in North Raleigh the first Wake school in decades to offer kindergarten through eighth grade under the same roof.

"We're trying to be innovative with our programs and our offerings," Tata said at the school board's first meeting at its new headquarters in Cary.

The board gave Tata permission to continue work on the single-sex leadership academies and the Hilburn conversion. Pending final board approval, Tata said, the leadership academies could be ready for the 2012-13 school year.

The schools, which students could apply to attend, would eventually each accommodate as many as 500 students in grades six through 12.

School officials are considering partnering the academies with colleges to form early-college programs in which students can graduate from high school with two years of college credit.

No locations have been set for the two new schools. But school officials are looking at placing the boys academy at the site of the Longview School in East Raleigh with the girls academy potentially at the former Raleigh Charter High School site near Peace College in Raleigh.

School officials said there are 250 such academies across the country. School officials cited a boys academy and a girls academy in Guilford County where the graduation rates are more than 95 percent and all the students say they'll go to college.

Several board members praised the idea of using single-sex schools.

"It would be a wonderful option for young men and young women in Wake County," said school board member Keith Sutton.

Tata said he's still working on the details of a partnership with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences to set up a 300-student science academy in downtown Raleigh for implementation in 2012 or 2013.

Tata said one of the benefits of the leadership academies is that they could reduce crowding at other schools. A similar reason is being used for considering offering middle school grades at Hilburn.

Tata said offering a K-8 program at Hilburn would make the school more attractive to families, fill up the hundreds of empty seats at the school and help relieve middle school overcrowding in the area.

"You're commended to be considering such innovative approaches," said Ron Margiotta, the school board chairman.

Assignment plan delay

Tata also indicated Tuesday that the long-anticipated student assignment plan for the 2012-13 school year now likely won't be approved before the election.

Tata said he'll have a final plan to discuss with the school board at an Oct. 4 work session. So come Oct. 11, when five board seats are up for election, voters likely won't have full details of how Wake children will be assigned to schools in years to come.

Board members and residents still have questions about feeder patterns, transportation, magnet schools and grandfathering. A final vote likely wouldn't come until later in October or possibly November.

School board candidate Jennifer Mansfield issued a statement Tuesday urging the board to stop work on the current plan and develop a more transparent alternative.

The new plan would have families pick where they want to go from a list of choices, with the focus on providing options near where students live. The new plan replaces the old policy under which students were assigned to specific schools as part of an effort to balance family income levels at schools.

"There's a lot more work to be done," board member Kevin Hill said after the afternoon work session. or 919-829-4534

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Parent input needed

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Wake County Public Schools held the first of many informational meetings Wednesday about the new school assignment plan.

The school system decided on the choice-based plan after asking parents what they want for their children.

"Do I just want to follow my high schooler or do I want to try and follow the feeder pattern?" parent Kim Keyes asked.

Parents were allowed to submit questions during a student assignment presentation.

"Well, I still think it's pretty confusing to try and figure out how it's going to affect the kids that are currently in school," Keyes said.

Keyes and about 40 others met inside Middle Creek Park High's auditorium to get a better idea of the proposal that will replace a 10-year-old diversity plan. The new proposal allows parents to choose their top three schools.

"I think we're at a good point," said Susan Pullium, Wake Schools Assignment Task Force. "It's really nice to be able to come out at a meeting and share the information."

The biggest update to the plan that was revealed during Wednesday's meeting is a proposed feeder pattern that will follow a child from kindergarten to high school.

Data from an online test drive in June showed parents are more concerned about proximity and calendar type. Maintaining magnet schools also is a priority.

"I have questions about how selection will work for students beyond kindergarten," parent Hardin Engelbardt said.

In the coming months, school leaders hope to address that worry, including questions about overcrowding and changes in transportation costs.

""We're really concerned about the transportation simulation that's currently happening," Pullium said.

Additional community information meetings are scheduled for 6:30 - 8 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Thursday, September 1 at Wakefield High
  • Wednesday, September 7 at Apex High
  • Thursday, September 8 at Southeast Raleigh High
  • Tuesday, September 13 at Broughton High
  • Thursday, September 15 at East Wake High

Student Assignment Plans to Unveil Choices

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Parents to learn about Wake schools assignment proposal

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Wake County parents will get the chance Wednesday evening to learn more about a student assignment plan that would give them a say in which school their child goes to but leaves some concerns about transportation and capacity.

Superintendent Tony Tata and members of his student assignment task force will talk to the public over the next three weeks about the choice-based student assignment plan he proposed in May. It replaces a decade-old busing for diversity program.

School board members seemed satisfied with the direction of the plan after a presentation by Tata earlier in August.

"It's a very thoughtful plan, trying to come up with the best possible solutions and trying to make as many people happy or satisfied as possible," school board member Keith Sutton said.

"We are headed in the right direction now," school board vice-chair John Tedesco said. "You saw the survey. Parents wanted proximity. That's everything we've been fighting for for two years."

The new plan would let parents rank their choices among a variety of schools based on their address. Tata said an online test run of the plan showed that most parents are likely to choose the school nearest their home.

Recent updates to the proposal include adding proposed feeder patterns and broadening the options for students whose closest school is a magnet school.

School board members have expressed some concern about overcrowding popular schools and the cost of the proposal.

Tedesco said earlier in August that he is especially worried about Garner High School, which has a high number of mobile classrooms to accommodate its burgeoning enrollment.

"An excess of 2,000 additional students in a school built for 1,600? That's not right," Tedesco said.

The cost of transportation is also a question mark, depending on which schools parents want to send their children to.

"It may go up. It may go down," Tata said. "We've got good data that should get us in the ballpark of knowing exactly what that number is."

The student assignment task force will meet with the public 6:30-8 p.m. on:

  • Aug. 31 at Middle Creek High, 123 Middle Creek Park Ave. in Apex
  • Sept. 1 at Wakefield High, 2200 Wakefield Pines Dr. in Raleigh
  • Sept. 7 at Apex High, 1501 Laura Duncan Road in Apex
  • Sept. 8 at Southeast Raleigh High, 2600 Rock Quarry Road in Raleigh
  • Sept. 13 at Broughton High, 723 St. Mary's St. in Raleigh
  • Sept. 15 at East Wake High, 5101 Rolesville Road in Wendell

Tata hopes to bring a final plan for student assignment to the school board in October.


"Friend-raiser" on August 23

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Community Leaders To Host Fundraiser for Keith Sutton

RALEIGH—Community leaders Kel Landis and Nina Szlosberg-Landis will host a “fundraiser and friend-raiser” reception in honor of Keith Sutton who is running to keep his Wake County School Board seat for District 4 on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in Raleigh.

Tickets are $50 per person, and additional contribution levels are Sponsor, Patron, and Host at $250; $500; and $1,000, respectively. RSVP by phone to 919.210.4420 or email to

Donations to the campaign can be made securely at


Upcoming Appearances

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Sutton is participating on  a candidates' panel at the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce's Leadership conference in Pinehurst on August 17.

On August 22, he will participate in a Raleigh Chamber briefing from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Chamber offices in Raleigh.

After his Town Hall meeting from 9 a.m. to noon, Keith will also attend the Raleigh/Apex NAACP banquet on August 27.

Sutton to Hold Town Meeting August 27

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Discipline, Achievement, School Assignment

Sutton Invites Parents, Community to Ask Questions, Get Answers

RALEIGH—Wake County School Board member Keith Sutton will host a public forum called “Connecting Policy and Achievement - A Town Hall Meeting" on Saturday, August 27 from 9 a.m. to noon at Walnut Creek Elementary School, 2600 Sunnybrook Road in Raleigh.

Sutton has enlisted the assistance of The Flood Group, a consulting firm specializing in education issues, to help with facilitating the discussion.

“I invite parents and other community members to come out, bring their questions, and obtain a better understanding of the policy changes and the transformation that our school system is undergoing.  These changes affect student assignment, discipline and behavior, math placement decisions, and how we view student achievement.  This is a great opportunity for the residents of District 4 and throughtout Wake County to hear more than just "sound bites" about important decisions we are grappling with,” said Sutton.

Forum presenters on the agenda are Dr. Dudley Flood, retired educator; Corey Moore, Principal of Walnut Creek Elementary School; Vonda Martin, Assistant Principal of Walnut Creek Elementary School; and, Marvin Pittman, retired educator. 



Official Campaign Kick-Off Successful

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Keith & McNeal

More than 60 supporters gathered at the Prime Smokehouse in Raleigh on August 4 to wish Keith well in his bid for election to the District 4 seat to which he was appointed last year. Former Wake County Public Schools Superintendent Bill McNeal gave rousing and inspirational remarks, wrapping up with the simple words, "This is our man."

Colleague says Hargens will do well with issues facing JCPS

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- Will the new JCPS superintendent satisfy the district's need to keep schools diverse? WDRB spoke with someone close to Dr. Hargens, who knows her strengths and weaknesses.

The NAACP and others in Louisville are concerned, but the only African-American on the nine-member school board in Hargen's current district talked to WDRB and says there's nothing to worry about.

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Sutton mentioned in N&O article on new Wake school posts

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From the article: 

"The school board agreed to ask the General Assembly for additional funding for the coming school year, while expressing gratitude that funds haven't been cut further.

A suggestion of Democratic board member Keith Sutton, the letter to the legislature describing the potential damage from proposed cuts hasn't been written yet, but was endorsed by Republican Chris Malone as well as Democrats Dr. Anne McLaurin, Carolyn Morrison and Kevin Hill. Malone and others gave credit to Tata for lobbying legislators to lower a proposed 10 percent state cut to a 6 percent cut."

Click here to read the original article in The News & Observer