Concerns linger over Wake leadership academies
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RALEIGH -- Wake County's new, single-sex leadership academies have come under fire recently. Late last week, William Peace University backed out of preliminary plans to host the high schools on its college campus.
But the location isn't the only concern surrounding the new schools.
The Wake Young Women's Leadership Academy and the Wake Young Men's Leadership Academy are scheduled to open in the fall. They will be similar to Wake Early College High School, housed on Wake Technical Community College's North Campus.
Students will graduate with both a high school diploma and a two-year college associate's degree.
“When I was 16, I was taking college courses,” said Desiree Dunn, a senior at Wake Early College High School. “It feels like you're just taking high school classes, but it's just a little bit more of a challenge.”
The leadership academies will also include middle school students.
There will be an all-boy's school and an all-girls school, which is a concern for the American Civil Liberties Union and some school board members.
“I do have some concerns about how we have a single-sex academy and we have it at a co-ed college environment,” said board member Susan Evans.
Board members have also raised concerns about the cost. The superintendent's proposed budget includes an extra $1.3 million to open the leadership academies, even though school leaders are trying to make up for a nearly $40-million funding gap.
“I always knew I wanted to go to college, had to go to college,” Dunn said. “But I also knew it wasn't free. So when I heard about Wake Early College, being able to get your associates degree while getting your high school diploma, I thought to myself, wow, that's two free years of college.”
But school administrators said its worth every penny.
“When we're talking about cost, I think it's essential we look at benefit and return on investment,” said Teresa Pierrie, principal for the Wake Young Women's Leadership Academy. “An investment in which 100 percent of students graduate on time and take with them transferable college credit is a smart investment.”
Dunn will be the first in her family to graduate from high school and college.
“I'm going to college and starting a new tradition for our family,” she said.
And she's doing both at the same time.
More than 800 students applied for Wake County's new leadership academies. Only 300 were accepted. The new schools are scheduled to open in the fall.