Eastern Wake: Opinion

Editorial: Act, then plan?

Wake County school board members seem to have the process backward when it comes to transitioning East Wake back into a single school.

School board members agreed last week to move away from the small schools model it has operated under for the last 10 years or so and recombine the schools into a single school.

That will happen next school year.

Then, school officials say, they want to take the next 18 months to plan how the school will function going forward.

That’s potentially a year-and-a-half gap for students who could benefit from the small school structure that’s currently in place or from the programming that would become part of a newly-organized East Wake High School.

It seems wise to us, if a change is to be made, that planning take place first, followed by the swift move into a new educational model. That how most business owners would function. That’s how most families function. Plan first, execute second.

What this move suggests to us is a school system that doesn’t know what to do with one of its schools. School leaders have said the small-school model is not generating the kinds of results they had hoped, but students and parents seem to think it has created a good environment for learning. To be sure, by some measures, some of the small schools are struggling. Test scores are not where principals and county officials would like them to be.

By stripping the small school model away and then deciding which direction to take, the move also seems like more of an economic decision than an academic one. After all, combining the schools into a single school reduces cost by eliminating some of the redundancies that currently exist.

The problems – though certainly not simple to resolve – are not hard to identify. The base population at East Wake High School is made up of students who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds than many of their peers across Wake County. The parents of East Wake High School students tend to be less educated and place less of an importance on their children’s education than parents in other parts of the county.

It seems reasonable to think there are other regions in the country where that kind of makeup is repeated. It would be interesting to take a look at what school leaders in those regions have done well to bring their lagging students back into the fold. Replicating those efforts could have the same restorative effects here that they’ve had elsewhere

Above all, there is no need to rush into anything here, save the opportunity to save a few bucks. In this case, we believe saving a few dollars is a poor reason to toss the educational lives of more than 1,500 students upside down while the adults figure out what to do next.

School board member Tom Benton, whose district includes eastern Wake County, has been the leading voice of caution on this matter and for that we’re grateful. Sadly, it looks as though the cart will be put before the horse.