Wendy Hughes Carlyle

Wendy Hughes Carlyle was named principal of the W.B. Wicker School at a public hearing Thursday evening.

Carlyle served on the Lee County Board of Education from 2012 to 2015, when she stepped down to accept district’s accountability coordinator job. In addition to having classroom experience, she worked for a time in the administration of Wake County Schools, particularly on magnet schools like W.B. Wicker.

The school, which was originally known as the Lee County Training School and was renamed for educator W.B. Wicker in the 1950s, first opened on South Vance Street in 1929 and was one of the historic Julius Rosenwald schools which were built across the south for black Americans in the early 20th century. According to Wikipedia, it served in that function until 1969 and continued hosting now-integrated classes until the 1980s. The school was renovated in the mid 2000s for use by Central Carolina Community College as a business campus.

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The campus’s selection in November 2015 as the site for Lee County’s eighth elementary school had been controversial to some local Republicans, who have said that the amount of crime in the area – including a rape which occurred on the campus more than 30 years ago – makes the site unfit for a school. Jim Womack, chairman of the local GOP, called the neighborhood a “known threat” in a CBS 17 piece from March, but the Sanford Herald reported (link no longer available) around the same time that there was only a small amount of criminal activity in the area and quoted several residents as saying the school would be a positive for the neighborhood. Additionally, proponents of the school argued that its placement could also serve as an economic development tool for the area.

The new elementary school – Lee County’s first since 1998 – will offer a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) curriculum to nearly 1,000 students, making it essentially a “school and a half,” aimed at alleviating overcrowding elsewhere in the county. About 700 of those students will be assigned to the school on the basis of redistricting, while another 200-plus will attend after applying and being selected in a random lottery.

Now set to open in August, the announcement of Carlyle as principal came during a public hearing about new attendance zones for the school, which were first announced earlier this month. You can view the proposed plans here.