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GSIW criticizes Hilburn K-8 conversion and single-gender leadership academies

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The Great Schools in Wake Coalition is blasting the decision to convert Hilburn Elementary to a K-8 campus and the creation of two single-sex leadership school as "foreshadowing future chaos for Wake County residents."

In a press release today, GSIW says it's "deeply concerned over recent decisions by the Wake County Board of Education to use expensive and poorly analyzed reconfigurations of several school buildings as a means of repairing problems of its own making." It also says the decisions "highlight the Board’s willingness to rush important decisions without obtaining adequate input from the community or studying the facts."

The group blames the Hilburn decision on school board member Deborah Prickett's efforts to convert Leesville Road Middle back to a traditional calendar. GSIW questions the costs of the conversion, placing kindergartners and eighth-graders in the same building and whether enough families will choose the school.

But the GSIW says  it's "perhaps even more troubling" that the board approved the single-gender leadership academies.

The GSIW questions the displacement of the special-ed students and the facilities costs for the alternative schools and the leadership academies.

“The K-8 and single-gender academy programs are yet another example of the School Board majority running roughshod over families,” said Yevonne Brannon, GSIW chairwoman, in the press release. “There was limited discussion among a small number of parents regarding Hilburn, and absolutely no public input into the idea of single-sex academies.

There is no detailed cost analysis, no known demand by families, and no evidence of the benefits of either program. In fact, significant research indicates that single-sex education does more harm than good.”

Brannon also cites the recent article in Science magazine done by critics of single-sex schools to question the academic benefits for Wake's decision.

“Sadly, the Board majority appears to be creating an illusion of progress by haphazardly enacting expensive, new, and entirely untested programs,” Brannon said. “This is a transparent effort to distract people from a record of failure. And it is exactly the kind of Board mismanagement that has put our high schools' accreditation at risk.

While the Board is trying to sell the public on school choice, the reality is that they’re creating unappealing and unproven programs that, in fact, are under enrolled in places like Washington D.C. In the end, many parents feel that the Board majority will end up forcing its poor choices on families, at a great cost to taxpayers.”

In an interview today, school board vice chairman John Tedesco pointed out that the leadership academies were proposed as a bipartisan initiative by him and Keith Sutton. He found it ironic that the board majority was being criticized for approving a bi-partisan program considering all the prior complaints that they weren't working with the minority.


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Meeting At Jeffreys Grove

I thought I would share some information that came out of a 3 hour meeting Mr. Tata, Mrs. Prickett and some of the WCPSS student assignment staff had with Jeffreys Grove parents last night.   There were other parents from the area that attended as well.  We asked for this meeting because several parents were concerned about the JGE feeder pattern change that was made on September 12th and the impact it would have on Jeffreys Grove as well as the families that attend JGE.  Mr. Tata looked exhausted, but he didn't cut the meeting short.  He wanted to make sure every parent had a chance to ask questions and voice their concerns. 

1)  The WCPSS Student Assignment plan that will be presented next week is a combination of the green and blue plan.  It allows feeder pattern stability while allowing for choices.

2)  No school in Wake except for Cedar Fork ES is currently capped because of capacity issues. 

3)  His staff shared the thought process for the feeder patterns.  If 100% of the ES schools are at capacity and 100% of those children attend their feeder school, they will keep their promise of having a seat for each one of them at their feeder schools.  The initial data from the test run shows that approximately 92% of the families will choose their feeder schools.    It will take several years to get all the ES schools to capacity as they phase out the old plan and follow the new.  These two plans are being overlapped initially. 

4)  He talked about the capacity issues he was having with different parts of the counties.  He had 'X' amount of dollars to spend and he really needed a new HS in the Apex/Panther Creek area and a new ES in the Wake Forest area.  He also sees a need in the future for 250 seats in the Leesville area for middle school.  He said that was one of the reasons for creating the Hilburn K-8 school.   The K-8 school should give the area and extra 400 seats so MS capacity should not be an issue in the Leesville area.  The M8 middle school project for Leesville is a priority in the next bond.   The one thing he did mention is Leesville MS is currently not at capacity.  He thought it was at 92%, but don't quote him on that. 

5)  He said based on current projections, we will have approximately 50,000 new students over the next decade.  He said this new plan is 'elastic' enough to handle that growth without the mass reassignments of the past.  If we stayed with the old plan he said approximately 70,000 students would have to be reassigned over the next decade to accomodate the growth. 

The JGE families were a lot more comfortable with the plan in general after this discussion.  In regards to the feeder pattern issues that the JGE families are concerned with, they will be looking into that issues this morning and see what might be able to be done!   He didn't give any promises to anyone, but everyone left that meeting confident they will look into the issues that were identified last night! 

The Families in The Area Seem To Be Happy..

with the K-8 solution of Hilburn.  I guess GSIW wants to be able to speak for others so they are a little put off they weren't asked their opinion.  The Hilburn mess was created by the previous administration and assignment mess BTW!

Tata would disagree with you

Mr. Tata made it very clear at the Hilburn meetings that the goal of the conversion to k-8 is to "find" the 350 middle school seats lost when LRMS went traditional. If k-5 benefits that will be a bonus, but the mission is to create a second middle school in the area.  Too bad we are going to be spending $2 million to retro-fit that school to serve the MS population.  So yes they are solving a problem created by the current board.

You Always Like to Avoid My Question....

why is Hilburn under enrolled currently?  Is it because of the new board or the old board?  According to Mr. Tata they don't have capacity issues at Leesville MS currently.   They will in the future (3 years I believe was the quote).  There was a plan to build M8 in this current bond, but because of different demands in other areas they are doing the most with a limited amount of funds.  They are changing Hilburn to create capacity in part because they are not building M8 as they originally had planned and you have a very underutilized school.   I also agree with Woodstock (a first I believe) that they are creating a WIN WIN for Hilburn.  Hilburn is a wonderful school with great staff, students and parents.  Why shouldn't the kids in district 7 have a STEM middle school?  Other areas of the county have enhanced offerings at their middle schools. 

seems to me

I think you are misinterpreting my comments.  I am pleased that they are doing something to help Hilburn.  But let's not claim that it's being done for reasons that aren't true.

I haven't pulled up the original plan but I don't believe construction of M8 was ever in the current bond plan.  There was some talk about doing it with leftover money, maybe that is what Tata is talking about. 

Prickett has had at least two school years to address the problems you blame on the former board and from the Hilburn parents I have talked to she did nothing.  You will recall that G&P reassigned nodes to Hilburn when SCES opened and most of the families fought it.  Many were able to stay at LRES and many have since opted out of Hilburn for SCES.  Mrs. Prickett certainly can't claim credit for the STEM program since it was Hilburn parents who made that happen.

From the June 23, 2011 Board Minutes

School administrators discussed the need for new schools with the school board during its Tuesday work session.  WCPSS Chief Facilities & Operations Officer Don Haydon discussed the need for additional classroom space in 2012-14 to accommodate growing enrollment, and shared two options for using available savings in the CIP 2006 capital improvement program to meet those needs.

Both options include the construction of the new H-7 high school in southwest Cary.  Both options propose additional temporary classroom space for Middle Creek, Athens Drive and Holly Springs High Schools, along with the establishment of two early-start elementary schools at modular campuses in Raleigh and in Wake Forest. 

Under one option, available funds would be used to build a new middle school in northwest Raleigh, and under the other option, a new elementary school would be built in Wendell.

Haydon said the school system has $91.3 million available in its school construction program. The elementary/high solution with E29 would total $113.6 million. The middle/high solution with M8 would total $123.1 million.  Haydon said the school system could reduce land purchases, reduce funding for designs for schools in the next school construction bond, and reduce the move of mobile units to provide funds.

It's been at the top of list for awhile now.  Old plans had it opening in 2011-2012 and of course that didn't happen.   It was on the list when the bond passed as TBD.   

I also totally disagree with your statements regarding Mrs. Prickett.  When she took over District 7 she knew she had a problem at Hilburn.  She brought up the idea about a 6th grade center, etc to start getting Growth and Planning to start thinking about what they could do to fill the school.  She wasn't advocating that it become a 6th grade center, but she was trying to figure out how to fix several issues she had in her district.  She stated right up front at the BAC meeting that she could not ask voters to fund new schools in the future if she had  schools that were under-utilized.  I  believe that is a very valid statement on her part.   She knew from history that mass reassignments would not help.  She also knew we were stuck with the 3 year assignment plan at least until a new plan was generated.  She was chastised by many when she did that, but she really forced G&P and others to think outside the box.  I also talk to parents at Hilburn and they don't share the same opinion of Mrs. Prickett as the parents you talk to apparently do.   I never stated above that Mrs. Prickett should get the credit for the STEM program being at Hilburn that is your words...not mine.   I'm at a Global STEM school and I'm sure the Hilburn parents and PTA did the same as we did once we knew the program was available for schools that fit certain criteria and followed the application process.  I believe Tony Tata should have credit for the STEM idea.    Parents have been advocating for schools like JGE, Hilburn and York for years.  We all followed the same process and Mrs. Prickett was all for it. 

Tata was very clear at the

Tata was very clear at the Hilburn meetings that the primary goal of introducing a K-8 model there is to create more middle school seats. The lack of said middle school seats is directly due to the fact that Prickett converted the Leesville Middle school back to traditional to satisfy her supporters. So don't try to paint her as some selfless visionary. She had an agenda when she got elected, and she went ahead and filled it -- to the detriment of many.

Tata said Nothing About Leesville Being Converted Back to

traditional as the reason for the needed seats in the Leesville area last night.  Are you assuming this is what he meant or did he actually say that at the Hilburn meeting.  I wasn't there so I do not know?    They are delaying the building of M8 until the next bond because of higher demand issues in other areas of the counties.   He had to come up with a solution based on limited funding for building capacity all over the county.   Leesville Middle School is not at capacity currently according to the staff last night.     I doesn't sound like they would be for another 3+ years.  The original M8 building was projected to be built and opened in 2012 back when the land was acquired in 2006.  It didn't happen.   You can say what Mrs. Prickett did was at the detriment to many, but it was also to help many parents I know.  I don't speak for the entire population of Leesville and neither do you.  There are people on both sides of the issue and I don't believe either is necessarily wrong, but I don't hear any parents complaining about what occurred except those that seem to have an axe to grind with Mrs Prickett.

when Leesville Middle was

when Leesville Middle was converted back to traditional, the Leesville area lost several hundred middle school seats; LRMS currently has 1150+ students with multiple trailers; many students do not have lockers; I would call that overcapacity; and if you had been at the Hilburn meeting you would have heard plenty of parents complaining about "what occurred" and how the year-round to traditional conversion created the mess we now face

Oh come on, we agree on

Oh come on, we agree on almost everything. You just don't like my "junk yard dog" tactics. :)

EB Is All that Matters.....

because they want a year round schedule for their kids in their neighborhood.  It's all about EB's needs don't you know!

why so nasty?

I couldn't care less what calender Hilburn operates on.  But you are kidding yourself if you think this scheme is going to work without some big carrots.  And if we are going to spend at least 2 million, likely more, lets at least give this the best chance at succeeding.

In order for the Hilburn 6-8 to be successful you are going to need hundreds of families to choose it since it will be one of the two choices that most families from SCES, LRES and BC will have.  If not enough people select it they will have to assign kids to it.  Isn't that something the majority is trying to avoid? 

There are not enough kids currently at Hilburn to hit 350 students anytime in the next 5 years.  It would be fiscally irresponsible to operate that school that under capacity for 5 or more years, if we even have that luxury.  (Remember all the complaints about SCES operating under capacity for the first 2 years?)  Plus Tata promised it would have the same programs as other middle schools, meaning WCPSS would have to pump in additional funds to make that happen.

Given that 2 of the 3 schools feeding into LRMS next year are year-round schools, and the fact that there is no good year-round option nearby (Tata didn't answer the question about Durant even continuing to be an option) it's pretty clear that operating Hilburn yr, at least for 6-8, might attract many families.  Is STEM enough to do it on it's own?  It hasn't been the magic bullet Hilburn was hoping for this year.  Why not make the school more attractive to families rather than have to force families to attend?

Silver Bullet?

Did you really expect that Hilburn would be at capacity the day STEM arrived?  I think that is a stretch.  Didn't they received 80+ students voluntarily when they received the STEM program?  I'm sure they will continue to grow.   Our school has grown in numbers due to our STEM program and we added a new teacher recently.  As far as 6-8....Mr. Tata said last night they don't expect to have many 8th graders the first or even possibly second year of the program.  It takes time to build up the population.  Also...no families will be forced to attend Hilburn.  If their first choice is Leesville and their second is Hilburn they may get Hilburn as their option if Leesville is at capacity.  That is better than the other possibilities for many in that area based on proximity.   I know many Leesville families that do want to go to Hilburn at this time.   It might take time to build up the population, but at least they have a plan for how to do it.   They had no plan to utilize Sycamore Creek until some day way in the future when Brier Creek was at capacity.  That was a poor plan IMO, when you had families within miles of that school that were begging to go there!  


I didn't think STEM was going to magically fill up the school.  But the ten-day number for Hilburn is 348.  I think they had 480 last year.  The only place I heard that 80 figure is here, so I don't know if it's true.   If it is wouldn't that mean additional families left the school over and above those who got reassigned out?

I want Hilburn to be a success and I agree that there are families who would love the idea of a smaller middle school.   Assuming all sixty 5th graders stays for 6th grade they are going to need other families to make this work. 


 "Also...no families will be forced to attend Hilburn. If their first choice is Leesville and their second is Hilburn they may get Hilburn as their option if Leesville is at capacity."

You don't think families who want their kids at LRMS will feel like they have been forced to go to Hilburn? 


Everybody who doesn't get their first choice school will feel that way about the school they get.  But, at least they'd have some say in the matter -- the alternative is not to give them any say whatsoever.

how is this an improvement?

under the current plan I can decide between a traditional calender and a yr middle school or try my luck at a magnet.  Under the new plan as it exists currently I have a choice of two traditional calender MS's and a shorter list of magnets.  Tata didn't answer my question when I asked him if we would have a yr option.  His response was "you will have a choice of your two closest middle schools.." but neither is YR.

Wrong! You are

Wrong! You are intentionally misrepresenting the situation. The conversion of Hilburn to a highly desirable STEM K-8 school solves multiple problems created by the previous board, the main one being perennial underenrollment and lack of stability at Hilburn.  The conversion -- widely applauded by parents and school leadership, by the way -- adds to the appeal of Hilburn. Now, more students will attend Hilburn by choice. The conversion adds extremely attractive educational options for elementary and middle school students; increases middle school capacity in the area; and frees up funds by delaying the building of a small middle school so other higher priority challenges in other parts of the county can be addressed, namely growth in western Wake and establishment of leadership academies that target the needs of some at-risk student populations. The Hilburn solution is a win for everyone concerned.

GSIW -- led by NC State

GSIW -- led by NC State employee and far left-wing radical, Yevonne Brannon -- is just an outrageously confrontational and polarizing group that criticizes nearly every thing the new board accomplishes... not on merit, but merely because the members are such hardcore partisans that a GOP-led board majority is unacceptable to them. They preach compromise, but their actions say otherwise. GSIW is just a arm of the Democrat Party that looks to Rev. Barber for leadership on issues concerning education in Wake County.

GSIW criticizes?

Man there's some news.

Hey Paula, you want to see true negativity and pessimism? Then look no further than this band of haters. Ever heard them say one thing positive?

Me either.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.