It looks like there's still a solid majority on the Wake County school board to implement the new single-gender leadership academies for next school year.
As noted in today's article, school board member Keith Sutton said he still strongly backs the new schools even though several groups, including the Great Schools in Wake Coalition, raised concerns in a Thursday memo. So even with the new members being sworn in Tuesday, Sutton and the four Republicans who voted yes in October should be enough to keep it moving.
Sutton is such a strong backer that he and Superintendent Tony Tata were in Chicago on Friday to visit the Urban Prep Academy, a male single-gender school that has seen phenomenal success.
Urban Prep is an African American school but Sutton still expects the two Wake schools to be diverse.
Sutton said he believes the single-sex schools will help close the achievement gap in Wake. He said he's been pitching the idea to Tata since he started as superintendent on Jan. 31.
"I believe these academies will help close the achievement gap," Sutton said. "It will young African American males."
In the memo, the groups question the academic benefits of the single-gender schools.
"Instead of adopting this unproven—and legally risky—educational trend, WCPSS should focus on factors that have been proven to improve student achievement, like smaller class sizes, highly-qualified teachers, parental involvement, and an emphasis on core academics; these are the opportunities that we should all seek to create for Wake County students," says the memo.
The memo is also highly critical of the JROTC component, which would be required for students in ninth-grade. The groups call the requirement "a radical proposal that effectively makes public schools more like private military academies."
"So why would JROTC be a core requirement at the new single sex academies?" the memo says. "It would seem to exclude from enrolling children with disabilities and children whose parents do not want a military-style academy, Instead, the new academies could consider alternative leadership curricula that emphasizes consensus in decision-making, critical thinking, conflict-resolution, and life skills appropriate for all citizens of a democracy."
School board vice chairman John Tedesco stressed that as an application school only students who want to attend would be affected by the JROTC requirement.
Sutton said critics of the schools seem to have the mistaken belief that it will become like an alternative school.
"It will not be a dumping ground for students," Sutton said. "I wouldn't have supported it if I thought that would happen."
For space reasons, the story was sharply shrunk in size. The sections removed included the quotes from Sutton and some more from Tedesco.