It looks like fears that Wake County's two new single-sex leadership academies would become predominantly African-American schools have turned out to be unfounded.
Figures released last week by the district show that white students are projected to have a plurality at both leadership academies. Critics of the academies had raised concerns that Wake's schools are modeled on two largely black single-sex schools in Guilford County.
Wake's data shows that the Wake Young Men's Leadership Academy's enrollment is projected to be 42 percent white, 27 percent black, 13 percent Asian and 11 percent Hispanic. The school will also have 43 percent of its students receiving federally subsidized lunches.
The demographics are similar for the Wake Young Women's Leadership Academy, where it's projected to be 40 percent white, 35 percent black, 15 percent Hispanic and 6 percent Asian. The school is also projected to have 33 percent of its students receiving subsidized lunches.
After the idea was first proposed in September, critics focused on the two Guilford County schools that Wake had visited.
A September press release from the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African American Children notes that "the new academies are modeled after two Guilford County schools that are also segregated by race."
A December memorandum from the CCCAAC and several other groups details the demographics of the two Guilford County schools, which are located on the campuses of historically black colleges and universities.
"This racial and socio-economic isolation — and the well-documented impacts such isolation has on access to resources, educational outcomes, and the stigma of exclusion — has been ignored," the memo says of the Guilford schools. "Once again, WCPSS seems determined to pursue another new education policy without adequate research, analysis, disclosure, or community input. In fact, with regard to these proposed programs, the only thing the community can be certain of is the board’s refusal to prioritize or adequately consider racial or socioeconomic diversity."
Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata has repeatedly said that the two leadership academies would be representative of the district's demographics.
Back when they were first approved, the critics had also questioned the level of interest in the community for the programs.
But Wake's data shows that the women's academy placed 150 out of 563 applicants. For the men's academy, 150 out of 283 applicants were placed.
Tata pointed to the high number of applications during his Friday press conference. He said he knew there was going to be high demand based on what he heard during his listening tour right after he started last year.
"When you looked at the demand rate, it was actually higher than some of our most storied magnet schools," Tata said Friday. "It was over three to one demand for these seats, and there was not a historical legacy like we see with some of our magnet schools So on a concept and a program, parents actually demanded it because that's what they've been asking for."
One of the goals of the academies, which will allow students to graduate high school with two years of college credit, was to have 50 percent of the students be first-time college graduates in their families.
Wake is closer to the goal at the women's school where between 44 and 48 percent of the students fit the bill. At the men's school it ranges as high as 49 percent for the rising sixth-graders to as low as 27 percent for the rising freshmen.