Education

Wake County families fight to keep sports option at early colleges

Wakefield High School’s Daniel Oloyede (top) and Enloe High School’s Adam Clark wrestle in the heavyweight class during the match in Raleigh on Dec. 10, 2014. Clark is a student at Wake Early College of Health and Sciences who plays sports at Enloe.
Wakefield High School’s Daniel Oloyede (top) and Enloe High School’s Adam Clark wrestle in the heavyweight class during the match in Raleigh on Dec. 10, 2014. Clark is a student at Wake Early College of Health and Sciences who plays sports at Enloe. newsobserver.com

A Wake County school system proposal to end interscholastic athletic opportunities for students at eight small schools is drawing opposition from some families who say the change would be discriminatory.

Wake County school administrators are proposing changing a policy that allows students at five high schools and three middle schools that don’t have interscholastic sports to play at other nearby schools. The proposal wouldn’t affect current students at the eight schools, but families there say it would still be an unfair change.

“Give them the same opportunity that we all had during high school,” said Tom Clark, whose son Adam attends the Wake Early College of Health and Sciences, one of the eight schools. “Give them that chance. How can we be the best school system in the country if we don’t even offer sports to all of our kids?”

Tom Clark was among several parents and students who made their plea at last week’s school board meeting.

School board members say they won’t rush into any decision. But they are hearing complaints from parents at schools such as Broughton High and Daniels Middle about receiving athletes from other schools.

“We are listening to all concerned,” said school board member Jim Martin, chairman of the policy committee that backed the proposed change. “There’s good logic on both sides of the arguments that are coming to us.”

There’s good logic on both sides of the arguments that are coming to us.

Jim Martin, chairman of the Wake County school board’s policy committee

Wake has five early college high schools that partner with colleges or universities to provide students the chance to graduate with as much as two years of college credit. The early colleges don’t have athletics programs but are filled only by students who applied.

Wake has three small middle schools that don’t offer interscholastic sports. Some students apply, but others are assigned.

For at least the last several years, students at the eight schools have been allowed to try out for sports at nearby designated schools. Administrators didn’t have the number of athletes who use this option, but as many as 27 students from Hilburn Academy in Raleigh play at Leesville Road Middle School, and 21 students from the two leadership academies in Raleigh play at Broughton High.

Benefits, complaints

Adam Clark, a junior at the Wake Early College of Health and Sciences, said he’s learned the value of leadership and teamwork while being on the wrestling team at Enloe High School in Raleigh. His father credits athletics with helping boost Adam’s confidence and leading to him losing 50 pounds.

Sports has really had an impact on my life.

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“Sports has really had an impact on my life,” Adam Clark said in an interview. “I’ve made connections. I have friends at Enloe who are like my brothers.”

Under the proposal, current students at the eight schools would be “grandfathered” and could continue playing sports, but future students would not have the option. Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore said the change would restore the old expectation that students could only play interscholastic sports if they attended a school that had the program.

Meanwhile, administrators are recommending that students at Wake’s alternative schools continue to be allowed to play sports at their base schools. Students may be at alternative schools for reasons such as behavioral or academic issues.

Administrators haven’t given a specific reason for the proposed change other than to say it makes sense to consider it now because a new early college, the North Wake College and Career Academy, is opening in August in Wake Forest.

But school board members have said parents at some of the receiving schools have complained about taking in the athletes.

“I’ve heard from Daniels and Broughton parents asking why they’re the designated schools so they just have this critical mass of 20 kids, as an example, participating in athletics at their school and why wasn’t another school designated,” school board Vice Chairwoman Christine Kushner said at the Dec. 13 policy committee meeting.

Parents of early college students are unhappy with the argument.

“It is unseemly to believe that a handful of disgruntled parents should be able to dictate public policy,” said Soyini Abdul-Mateen, who has children at the Wake STEM Early College and the Wake Young Men’s Leadership Academy in Raleigh.

Scott Hoyt, who has children at both leadership academies, said he’s publicly heard some Broughton parents grumble about the early college students playing on the school’s teams.

Nothing was given. These spots were earned – earned in equal and fair competition.

Jack Hoyt, a junior at the Wake Young Men’s Leadership Academy

“Our students have tried out for these spots and made the team based on effort, ability and attitude,” said Jack Hoyt, Scott Hoyt’s son and a junior at the Wake Young Men’s Leadership Academy. “Nothing was given. These spots were earned – earned in equal and fair competition.”

Further review?

Some Wake parents have also questioned the fairness of not offering interscholastic sports for students who were assigned to the three middle schools.

The school board’s policy committee had referred the athletics policy change to the full board. But school board Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler said the proposal may be sent back to the policy committee for further review.

With Wake likely to open more schools without sports teams, school board member Bill Fletcher said the issue is something the district will need to address.

Johnson-Hostler said she’d like to look into one parent’s suggestion to see how the Guilford and Charlotte-Mecklenburg school systems handle sports for their early colleges. Both school districts have their early college students play at their home schools.

“We will bring this back and have further discussion,” Johnson-Hostler said in an interview. “There was a great recommendation to look at other districts.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said Adam Clark attends the Wake STEM Early College. He attends the Wake Early College of Health and Sciences.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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