Wake County approves magnet programs for five schools

The Wake County school board expanded the number of school choices for next year by voting Tuesday to place magnet programs at five schools and to open the Vernon Malone College and Career Academy to freshmen.

Amid debate about whether the move improves or reduces systemwide school equity, the board restored magnet status to Broughton High School and Daniels Middle School in Raleigh and designated Hodge Road Elementary in Knightdale and Raleigh’s Jeffreys Grove and Stough elementary schools as new magnet schools that will allow more students to study Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. The five schools will form a K-12 immersion/global studies theme at a cost to the district of an additional $180,959 a year.

The proposal drew criticism from some parents who said the changes favored inside-the-Beltline Raleigh families. But board members said they needed to help reverse the declines that Broughton and Daniels, which both serve some of Raleigh’s oldest neighborhoods, have experienced since losing magnet status in 2008.

“It brings stability to two very key schools in the school district,” school board Chairwoman Christine Kushner said.

Hodge Road, Jeffreys Grove and Stough already offer immersion programs in which some students take language arts, math, science and social studies in the foreign language offered at each school. Magnet status would open access to families across the county.

Administrators said designating Daniels and Broughton as magnets would allow Stough and Jeffreys Grove students to continue their studies in upper grades. Broughton and Daniels would, space permitting, also accept magnet students for the global studies program, but would primarily serve neighborhood families.

Since 2008, administrators said, Broughton and Daniels have experienced declining test scores and graduation rates, rising percentages of low-income students and competition from private schools and charter schools.

Opinions on Broughton

“Downtown Raleigh needs a healthy public high school to support future growth and investment,” Broughton parent Franklin Roberts told the board.

School board member Jim Martin said there should have been a comprehensive review of the magnet program before voting on Broughton and Daniels

“I can’t look at Daniels and Broughton and see them as terribly close to our highest needs schools,” said Martin, who abstained.

Offering ninth grade will increase enrollment at the Vernon Malone College and Career Academy, which opened in August in South Raleigh with 131 students – 28 percent of the planned capacity for this school year. The school opened with grades 10 through 12 as a compromise between board members who wanted all four high-school grade levels and those who wanted only juniors and seniors.

The career academy gives each student a chance to graduate with a high school diploma, college credit and a certificate in his or her area of study. The offerings include air conditioning and heating repair, cosmetology, automobile collision repair, electronic systems, plumbing, welding, nursing assistant training, biopharmaceuticals, geographic information systems, and simulation and game development.