Broughton's magnet status to get revote

Broughton High School might lose its magnet program today, but if so the move won't go down as a one-sided fight.

Families who favor sacrificing Broughton's magnet program in hopes of not being moved out of the school have so far dominated the debate.

They've persuaded the Wake County school board, which seven weeks ago unanimously approved keeping the program at Broughton, to revote today.

But Broughton parents, staffers and students who want to keep the magnet program intact have organized in the past week and are making their counterpitch to school leaders.

"As Broughton students, we have a responsibility to help keep something good in place," said Hooper Schultz, 17, a junior who has been mobilizing his classmates. "Broughton won't be the same without the program."

Their efforts might come too late to make a difference in the minds of school board members.

Not only could Broughton lose its International Baccalaureate magnet program today, but a high school in Raleigh, Eastern Wake or western Wake could replace it as a magnet school.

"Broughton was a strong school long before the International Baccalaureate program," said Caroline Huffman, a parent whose neighborhood could be moved out of Broughton if the program remains. "I don't think the character of Broughton will change that much."

As part of a draft countywide school reassignment proposal released last month, 593 students would be moved out of Broughton over the next three years to free more seats for magnet applicants.

Even though Barry Mann's neighborhood isn't being moved, the former Broughton parent says it's more important to keep the areas now at the school.

"I don't like having to make this choice," Mann said. "But if I have to choose between keeping the IB program and keeping the community base together, I'd choose the latter."

As of last week, those parents had gotten most school board members to indicate they'd support removing the magnet program.

District reconsiders

Board members are trying to justify reversing their Oct. 21 vote to keep the program at Broughton.

School board member Beverley Clark said she was so "worn out" after the initial Oct. 7 vote to demagnetize Daniels Middle School that she didn't speak up about Broughton two weeks later.

Clark and other board members say Broughton, on Peace Street near Cameron Village, would be academically healthy without the magnet program.

But some people say that removing the program could devastate the school. They note that many neighborhood students didn't go to Broughton before the school got the magnet program in 1999.

"We were beginning to lose the things that made us a healthy school," said Wynn Cherry, Broughton's IB coordinator.

Caroline Monson, a Broughton parent, said it would be "fiscally irresponsible" to remove the program from the school after hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent training teachers, buying supplies and paying fees to be authorized by the International Baccalaureate Organization.

One of the reasons given for removing Broughton's magnet program is that another school could use it more. Alternatives such as Athens Drive, Cary, Knightdale and Millbrook high schools have been suggested.

"Broughton has had a negative impact on eastern Wake," said school board member Lori Millberg. "Putting it at Knightdale would help."

Cherry said that thinking shows that people don't realize how good Broughton's IB program is and how much work it has taken. She said Broughton is lauded as a "beacon" by the International Baccalaureate Organization.

Broughton parent Lisa Hodnett said it makes more sense to leave the program at Broughton and to have Broughton's staff help another high school start its own program.

"Why make us mediocre to bring some other school up a little?" Hodnett said. "We should be trying to bring others up to Broughton's level."

Those parents are proposing keeping the magnet program and not reassigning any students out. They say it will be manageable because the elimination of the IB program at Daniels Middle School and the removal of western Wake from Broughton's draw area should reduce the number of magnet applicants.

Monson said people are assuming too much if they think removing the magnet program will mean they can stay at the school.

Regardless of the board's action today, Cherry said, the anxiety over whether the school will keep its magnet program will have lasting repercussions.

"Teacher morale has been hurt," Cherry said. "They feel betrayed. They've lost faith in the school board."