Magnet school feeders vex Wake plan

Parent says tweak shows 'disconnected understanding.'

Staff WritersSeptember 13, 2011 

  • Four more public meetings will be held on the proposed student assignment plan this week:

    Tonight at Broughton High School.

    Wednesday at Sanderson High School.

    Thursday at East Wake High School.

    Monday at Millbrook High School in North Raleigh.

    All meetings will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

    Go to http://assignment.wcpss.net/next for more information.

— Upset Raleigh families fighting efforts to move them out of their longtime middle and high school assignments got a partial victory Monday when Wake County school leaders made changes to their proposal.

Administrators agreed to recommend that only some students from magnet elementary schools be assigned to attend magnet secondary schools in the student assignment plan being developed for next year.

But administrators didn't make a similar change requested by families in the Mordecai neighborhood near downtown Raleigh. Instead of staying at much closer Broughton High School, Mordecai students are recommended to go to Southeast Raleigh High School.

"The proposed change reflects a disconnected understanding of the issues faced by parent and children in urban downtown Raleigh," said Reid Serozi, a Mordecai parent whose children attend Conn Elementary School.

Serozi is among the parents who plan to make a mile-long solidarity walk from Seaboard Station in Mordecai to tonight's student assignment hearing at Broughton.

The new plan is based on giving elementary school families at least five choices to pick from instead of being automatically assigned to a school based on their addresses. The plan will list the middle schools and high schools that every elementary school will feed into.

A top priority for administrators was having magnet elementary schools feed into magnet middle schools and magnet high schools that have similar themes. But the proposed feeder school list has led to complaints from families upset over the prospect of their neighborhoods no longer going to longtime Raleigh institutions such as Brough ton or Sanderson high schools.

Some of the most vocal complaints came from parents near Joyner Elementary School. Instead of having students continue on to Daniels Middle and Broughton, administrators had recommended that all Joyner students go to East Millbrook Middle and Millbrook High because all three schools have the same magnet theme.

"The new board campaigned on neighborhood schools," said Arinn Widmayer, a Joyner parent. "It never occurred to us they'd change our historic feeder pattern."

'Taking feedback'

Similar objections came from parents who live near Douglas Elementary School. Initially, administrators said students from the magnet school would eventually feed into the magnet program at Millbrook High instead of staying at Sanderson.

"The bottom line is the people wanted to go to Sanderson," said John Kinney, Sanderson's PTSA president.

On Monday, staff members revised their proposal to recommend that only the students who attend through the magnet application process at schools such as Brooks, Douglas, Joyner, Underwood and Wiley elementary schools would be assigned to magnet secondary schools. Students who attend those elementary schools because they live near them would go to the same feeder middle and high schools they are assigned to now.

"We've got the feeder plans out there right now," Superintendent Tony Tata said Friday. "We're taking feedback. We're making changes based on that feedback."

Property values

Tata said he'll have a "major update" to the student assignment plan to present to the school board next Tuesday. He plans to present the final plan Oct. 4. It's not certain when the final board vote will be held.

The Mordecai families still hope to persuade school leaders to let them stay at Broughton. Conn Elementary parent Dana Deaton said property values in Mordecai could be reduced if families have to go to a more distant high school.

"You have to sink a lot of money into these older homes when you buy downtown, so you want to attract families who are going to stay once their kids get to school age and make it a nice neighborhood," Deaton said.

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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