Some parents say a proposed plan to move hundreds of students to Southeast Raleigh High School could hurt efforts to strengthen the school, which typically posts some of the lowest test scores among Wake County high schools.
A draft version of Wake’s student assignment plan for the 2015-16 school year seeks to ease overcrowding at Enloe High School by moving a portion of the school’s base attendance area to Southeast Raleigh, where 1,600 students are enrolled.
The change would affect about 350 high school students who live outside the Beltline near the Southeast Raleigh neighborhood. Of those students, 250 attend Enloe.
Dozens of parents, many with children enrolled in Southeast Raleigh’s magnet program, attended a meeting with school system leaders Thursday. Interactions were at times tense as parents made it clear they’re deeply proud of the school but worry about available resources.
Some said they were especially concerned that the students who would move to the school may not perform well academically or have other needs that strain the school’s resources.
Keith Sutton, the area’s school board representative, said the families cannot know what the students would be like.
“What we do not need is to make any assumptions about the kids that we’re talking about in these areas,” Sutton said. “I’ll be frank, just because they’re black students does not mean they’re low-performing students.”
His comments drew a smattering of applause as well as comments from parents who said they had never implied the issue was one of class or race.
Parents said that on top of having to push for improvements to the school, they’re constantly fighting a battle of perceptions. Enrollment is down, as are applications to the magnet program.
“We have to advocate to ensure that the school has all of the resources it needs to fully and competently educate all of the children who come through the door,” said Dawn Blagrove, PTSA advocacy coordinator at Southeast Raleigh.
The affected Enloe students would have the option to apply for a transfer and remain at Enloe.
Wake officials expect to present a final draft of the assignment plan in early November with a final vote by the school board slated for December.
The draft plan doesn’t stress balancing student achievement by looking at the distribution of low-income families, whose students tend to have lower scores. Administrators say they want to rely more on targeting programs and resources to the needs of individual schools rather than using assignment to promote diversity – a policy Wake has long been known for.
Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance, said the system is looking at each high-needs school to find a unique mix of programs, staff and other resources.
“We are leveling things,” Moore said.