The four small schools at East Wake High School got a show of support Tuesday when the Wake County Board of Education voted for them to continue operating as a four separate high schools.
“I would like for the board to give a thumbs up or whatever,” said school board member Lori Millberg, at the end of an hour-long presentation about the schools.
Board chairman Kevin Hill asked for a show of thumbs and got it. And the four principals of the school attending Tuesday’s meeting beamed.
The school board had considered abandoning the small-school concept at East Wake, which saw the school divvied up into four schools: Integrated Technology, Health Sciences, Engineering Systems and Arts, Education and Global Studies.
“We’re just happy for this occasion,” said Craig Baker, principal and campus manager, after the meeting. “What we’re doing is very, very difficult and it will take time to implement, but we’re confident it’s going to be successful."
“There are some good, things going on at East Wake High School,” said Burns. “I have some history there that was many years ago. It’s a good school and this team has worked hard.”
The vote means the schools have a reprieve until at least December 2010 after three audits are performed. At that time, the staff will recommend to continue the schools or introduce a plan to phase them out.
The board stopped short of endorsing the program at its June meeting because of concerns about money, performance and operations at the schools.
On Tuesday, the board got answers to many of the questions it had asked then. It heard from Assistant Superintendent Donna Hargens that preliminary 2008-2009 end of the course test scores at each of the four schools showed academic improvement.
Hargens also said the school system would not have to spend any local money to sustain four separate high schools there after the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant expires in June 2010.
The Gates Foundation awarded the system $1 million in May 2005 for the small school concept to be implemented.
The division of one high school into four started in 2005 with the opening of the East Wake School of Health Science. In 2006, a second school was created and the conversion was completed in 2007 when the final two schools were established.
School officials banked on the new concept to boost test scores at East Wake which typically trails the rest of the county.
Hargens said grant money was used for training and development, not equipment or for salaries.
The board also heard from the Jamee Lynch, the principal of the East Wake School of Integrated Technology. Lynch told the board the high school is addressing the need for better communication between the schools. She said AP classes will be spread around each of the four schools. Millberg asked about these at the May meeting.
In May, Millberg also said the scheduling of student classes was a problem. On Tuesday, Chuck Delaney, assistant superintendent of growth and planning, said his office could take over scheduling and handle it much the way the schools do magnet scheduling.
Millberg asked if it would make sense for East Wake High School to become a magnet if the department gets involved. She said eastern Wake County had magnet elementary and magnet middle schools, but no magnet high schools.
“I do think that it’s something that could attract some students from the rest of the county and include some demographic equalities. In effect we’ve set up the path for kids to opt out of high school in eastern Wake County,” Millberg said.