With students back in school, other work, like that of the Knightdale Area Work Group, is expected to resume, as long as the group can work around budget restraints brought on by an interim school system budget and the looming possibility of losing $150,000 to help with the group’s effort.
Wake County Board of Education vice chair and work group member Tom Benton said he and other leaders are optimistic that the money will stay in the budget, but right now, Wake County schools are operating with an interim budget while Superintendent James Merrill tries to work out budget considerations with the county, which has already passed its budget.
“There continues to be a lot of discussion and meetings during the summer with outside groups to look at possibilities for the schools in the Knightdale area,” Benton said.
Wake County Area Superintendent Ed McFarland said the budget talks have not slowed them down. Several schools in Knightdale and beyond have introduced new programs that answer some of the concerns laid out in the group.
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The “Bright Tomorrows” program, for example, is part of a partnership between Wake County schools and Duke University. It helps train teachers to look for different ways to identify academically or intellectually gifted students and how to best support those students.
Currently, it’s being implemented in 16 schools across the county, including Hodge Road and Forestville Road elementary schools in Knightdale and Wendell Elementary in Wendell.
He’s also continued meeting with individual school leaders to work on more personalized plans.
Trying to expand
The group did have the goal of taking its work beyond Knightdale, but expanding the effort may be something that will have to wait until it’s clear what kind of money the group is working with.
The work group, made up of educators and community leaders in the eastern part of the county, received $150,000 in the school system’s proposed budget. It would help pay for workshops and other costs associated with professional development and large-scale meetings.
While McFarland said the work will continue with or without the money, he does know it would be much easier and make for faster progress to have it.
There were talks of morphing the group, which focused on Knightdale schools because of a less-than-stellar independent audit last August, into a group for all of eastern Wake’s schools.
“That is a goal because that’s sort of how we started,” McFarland said. Many of the larger problems discussed in the group were things that could be fixed in all schools, not just Knightdale schools, members said during initial meetings.
McFarland said he’s not sure how a group for all of eastern Wake would look. The logistics – how many people from each town or who from each town should be included – haven’t been discussed.
“I don’t know how (that group) will look,” McFarland said. “It hasn’t advanced.”
He is sure that the group will continue working on issues within Knightdale’s schools and said the group is open for schools in Wendell and Zebulon to jump in and share concerns and ideas.
“My plan is to continue,” McFarland said. “I think what we’re doing is too important.”