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New All-girls Charter School Moves Ahead After State Approval

By Jenny Callison, posted Jun 5, 2015
With charter approval from the N.C. Board of Education in hand, the organizers of Wilmington’s proposed Leadership Academy for Young Women (LAYW) are scouting possible locations for the new all-girl charter school.

“We’re looking at a couple of sites . . .  and we are entertaining suggestions,” spokeswoman and board member Margee Herring said Friday morning. “We are looking for a campus configuration that would give us either a 12,000-square-foot building – which would take us through our first four years – or a 55,000-square-foot building that would serve us forever.”

The school, organized as a nonprofit, will open in August 2016 with a target enrollment of 80 sixth grade girls, and will add a similar-sized class each year, until reaching full enrollment in the fall of 2022 and graduating its first high school class in the spring of 2023, according to a news release.

Herring said that school organizers would like to locate the school in the central part of New Hanover County so that it would be accessible to girls from "Carolina Beach to downtown, and all points in between.” Although charter schools in the state are not required to offer student transportation or lunch, LAYW will do so, she said.

“We have a commitment to provide both lunch and transportation. That’s particularly important because we are specifically looking to serve first-generation college attendees,” she said, adding that those students often come from poor families. LAYW will provide lunch free of charge to students who qualify, based on Title I standards.

In May, LAYW officials hired Brunswick County educator Laura Hunter as LAYW’s principal, according to the release. Hunter, currently Brunswick’s professional development coordinator, was formerly a history teacher at South Brunswick High School. She was named the district’s teacher of the year in 2013.
“We are delighted to have Laura’s passion for education and confidence in the single-gender model to open our school,” LAYW president Todd Godbey said in the release.  “She’s a recognized leader in education and a dedicated advocate to going the distance for this generation of learners.  We are so fortunate to have her lead our faculty.”

Godbey was named in March to oversee the development and opening of LAYW, after the project in February cleared its first legal hurdle: approval from the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board.

Herring said LAYW posted the principal position on a variety of job boards and received applications from all over the country. It was gratifying to find a very qualified person in this area, she said, noting that Hunter is “eager to try new educational models.”
Following Thursday’s N.C. Board of Education approval of its charter, LAYW officials will move ahead with their pre-opening planning year, which not only means finding and preparing a campus site but also recruiting the first class and refining the curriculum.

Taking what Godbey terms a “whole girl” approach to education, LAYW plans to offer a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) curriculum with “college preparatory, healthy life skills and leadership classes enhancing the learning environment both in and out of school,” according to the release. The school will be open to girls of all academic abilities, Godbey said. 

Wilmington’s LAYW plans to follow the model of The Young Women’s Leadership Schools, whose first institution, in East Harlem, formed in partnership with the New York City Board of Education in 1996, the release stated.  There is now an affiliation of 16 similar schools all over the country; Wilmington will be the 17th.
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