New Century + Lee = ? What Other Surprises Are in Store for Lee?

I may be totally off-base here, but I am worried that there are more surprises in store for Lee High than having its name changed.

First, I have been opposed to moving New Century to Lee or anywhere outside Research Park since I first read of the so-called demographer’s recommendations. I wrote to Dr. Wardynski:

Tell the Board to strike this recommendation. Remind them that they hired you to solve problems, not to create new ones; that it is foolish to make a change that would do no good and may well do harm; and that when people and programs are working well, sometimes – often, perhaps — the best thing to do is to stay out of their way and let them get on with it.

I still believe that there are better reasons to leave New Century alone than there are to move it.

And this is not because I dislike Lee. In fact, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I regretfully transferred my daughter out of New Century and to Lee several weeks ago for reasons that have nothing to do with either school’s academics. I’m delighted to say we both have been very impressed with the culture of Lee High. It is a proud and welcoming school; I understand already why its community doesn’t want to lose its identity. They are famiLEE.

Second, there’s the arrogance. From the Huntsville City Schools site: “What we have decided is to discuss the name as part of the merger of New Century Technology High School and Lee High School.”

Who is this we? Has Superintendent Wardynski adopted the papal or royal perogative of referring to himself in the third person plural? The document goes on to say that a committee will be formed “to address the school name and how to honor the history of Lee and New Century Technology High Schools.” Already the Lee name has been removed from the new building. That was, in fact, the first notice the Lee community had regarding this “discussion.”  Act first, discuss later?

But this name change business is, I fear, just the first blow to Lee as it exists today. Look very closely at this FAQ response on the Huntsville City Schools site.

Q: Why is this combination high school a good idea?

New Century Technology High School, which draws students from across Huntsville, has been identified in national publications as one of the nation’s Top-500 high schools. It is recognized for its innovative programs in computer science and related fields. Lee High School has award-winning magnet programs in the arts, dance, and engineering. The combination of the two schools on one campus will allow the New Century and Lee Magnet programs to grow within Huntsville most state-of-the-art campus while eliminating overcrowding at the Columbia campus. This new school has capacity for added enrollments and presents the community with a unique opportunity to spur student achievement and community growth by harnessing what will be the district’s most modern school as an engine for positive change.

Now consider:

1. New Century is a school of choice. You have to apply to go there. It has no zone, no neighborhood. All who are there are there because they chose to be.

Lee is a zoned high school with magnet programs. If you live in the Lee zone, its neighborhood, you automatically go there, unless you transfer out on a Majority to Minority basis or apply to and are accepted at New Century. Or you transfer to Lee to attend the magnet programs. The magnet programs are comparable in this respect to the whole of New Century.

And that is where the difference lies. The whole of New Century is an unzoned, special interest, selective school. Within Lee, as part of Lee, there are special interest, selective programs.

2. Now, look at this sentence in the FAQ response quoted above: “The combination of the two schools on one campus will allow the New Century and Lee Magnet programs to grow within Huntsville…”.

What is here: New Century and Lee Magnet programs.

What is missing: Lee High School. The non-magnet Lee High School. Where does it fit in this picture?

Could the answer be, it doesn’t?

I hope I’m being alarmist and paranoid, but remember, Johnson and Butler are also underpopulated facilities.


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