Eastern Wake News

EWHS, work group looking to change by fall 2015

East Wake High School students board their buses after school let out on Wednesday. Students could see a consolidated school as soon as next school year.
East Wake High School students board their buses after school let out on Wednesday. Students could see a consolidated school as soon as next school year. kbettis@newsobserver.com

Wake County school board members discussed changes to East Wake High School that could occur as soon as fall 2015 during their work session Tuesday.

Eastern area Asst. Superintendent Ed McFarland said it’s uncertain the plan would be formally presented to the school board for a final vote.

After a presentation by school system analysts Darryl Hill and Matthew Lenard during a school board student achievement committee meeting on Jan. 12, the board is moving toward consolidating the four small schools under one administration while keeping some of the flavor of the small-school curriculum.

Since the split into small schools 10 years ago, EWHS had found that the initial goals for the split had not been accomplished, including student performance and demographic equity across schools.

During Tuesday’s work session, McFarland presented a three-phase plan that, if approved, would unfold for teachers and students over the next four and a half years beginning next fall.

The first phase would take place from February to June 2015. It will include the hiring of a new principal, planning for a comprehensive high school next year under one administration and the creation of an East Wake education work group which will help research other high schools alternatives that could be implemented at East Wake. Physical redesign of the school would likely take place over the summer.

McFarland said none of the four current principals would be considered for the new principal position.

McFarland said the work group may create their own model or follow a national model.

Over the next year and a half – July 2015 through August 2016 – staff would plan for the redesigned model. The class of 2016 will be able to finish out their curriculum, the last ones under the small school system.

Finally, the last phase will consist of a heavily supported new school over three years, dependent on the county’s financial resources or help from academic coaches, for example, before being self-sustaining in 2019.

Concerns

Board member Jim Martin hammered on the importance of resources.

“Realistically, we know that resourcing is probably as or more important than reform,” he said. “You can’t do one without another.”

McFarland also suggested a re-application process for staff in 2016, which drew a negative reaction from board members. Although McFarland said the goal wasn’t to get rid of staff, board member Susan Evans was concerned about implications that staff was to blame for EWHS not reaching the original goals from the split.

School Board vice chair Tom Benton, who represents District 1 which includes East Wake High School, had shown concern during the student achievement committee meeting about so much change for the students over the coming years, though he agreed there needed to be change. He said reverting to a single traditional high school isn’t the best plan either.

“The traditional, comprehensive high school model is not working for our society any longer,” he said during the work session. “We’ve got to find new approaches. We can’t ask teachers to work harder, they’re doing everything they know to do.”

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