Peace University backs out of deal to house Wake single-sex schools

khui@newsobserver.com April 12, 2012 

Students at Wake County’s two new single-sex schools will attend classes somewhere other than William Peace University this fall.

On Thursday, Peace University officials issued a terse statement announcing they no longer wanted to continue negotiations with the school system to house the leadership academies at their historic downtown Raleigh campus.

The deal collapsed after Wake school board members, heeding the concerns of influential Peace alumnae, began raising questions about the proposed lease deal.

“William Peace University has requested that the Wake County Public School System remove the university from consideration for the leadership academies due to the division and controversy on the Wake County Public School System board,” according to the statement.

But Wake County Schools Superintendent Tony Tata is reassuring parents of the 300 students who were accepted into the leadership academies this fall that there are backup plans in place.

“Regardless of which early college partner we secure, the Wake County School Board and the Wake County Public School System are committed to the Leadership Academies,” Tata wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to families at the leadership schools.

Tata told parents another option would be to house the male academy at a modular school site next to East Millbrook Middle School in North Raleigh, and to locate the female academy at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind near downtown Raleigh.

The leadership academies were one of several changes undertaken at Peace, the all-female school that in the past year has announced it will take male students and change its name from Peace College.

The proposed leadership academies, which could have brought 400 high school students on campus, became another flashpoint in the fight between the administration and alumnae. Peace alumnae and students questioned the ability of accommodating the high school students on the small campus.

Miriam Dorsey, a Peace College graduate who worked with other alumnae to question moves by the new university administration, said she was surprised that the turnabout on the academies came so suddenly.

“The whole thing has been very curious,” she said. “It was amazing that (Peace) waited until the vote was about to come upon them. We had tried to talk to people at Peace and on the school board about the inadvisability about having the high schools there.”

At least five school board members agreed with Dorsey’s group, she said, adding that the panel’s five Democrats were more likely to speak out on the issue.

Dorsey and other speakers urged the school board to walk away from the deal at a meeting Tuesday. The school board held a lengthy closed session and planned to revisit the deal April 24.

“The best place for the leadership academy students may not have been at Peace during the transition it’s going through,” school board member Christine Kushner, a Democrat, said Thursday.

The district is forming a separate school for male students and another for female students. Attending grades six through 12 with a leadership-oriented theme, students would be able to graduate high school with two years of college credit.

Wake received more than 1,000 applications to the academies, the only single-sex schools in the system. .

Kushner said because the academies are opening the first year with only students in sixth, seventh and ninth grades, they have time to find another college partner. High school students wouldn’t begin taking college courses until their junior year.

“We will keep going forward with the leadership academies,” she said. “Many parents want single gender and the leadership theme.”

Hui: 919-829-4534

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