Lake Myra Elementary School principal Jim Argent is about to start working with the big kids.
Argent, the principal at Lake Myra since it opened, was named Tuesday night as the new principal at Knightdale High School Carla Jernigan-Baker who left to become the principal of the Wake County Women’s Leadership Academy.
The Wake County Board of Education also approved the appointment of Teresa James, the current principal of Club Boulevard Elementary in Durham, as the new principal at Knightdale Elementary School.
Vicki Perry is currently serving as interim principal of Knightdale Elementary but will step down when James begins on July 1.
Although James is switching counties, Argent is only moving about a five-minute drive from his current school. And even though he’s making the leap from elementary school administration to high school, he said it doesn’t change the fundamentals of his job.
“I’ve always wanted to impact as many people as possible,” Argent said. “I’m a big believer in leadership skills and how applicable they are to everyone. The ability to impact a lot of students is a really big calling for me.”
Facing new challenges
Argent is moving from the highest-performing public, non-charter school in eastern Wake County to one of the lowest performing schools in the area.
Test scores from last year’s end-of-grade tests show that Lake Myra Elementary has 48.4 percent of students performing at or above grade level. Knightdale High only had 26.9 percent of its student performing at or above grade level.
Right now, Argent said his focus is acclimating himself to the new school, not to suggest changes. But he is aware Knightdale High is in the middle of figuring out the best way to address some longtime problems, an effort facilitated by the Knightdale Area Education Work Group.
“I embrace challenges, I think that’s the fun part of being a leader and being an educator,” he said. “What I’m looking forward to is really quite honestly is getting to know what’s going on. I want to immerse myself and see how my skill set can work with who is already there, what is not working or needs to be improved and how can we adjust those things.”
Argent isn’t new to working with high schools; he began his career in 1996 as a high school teacher in Morganton. After some time at Centennial Middle School in Raleigh in the early 2000s, Argent returned to elementary schools, becoming principal at Lake Myra in 2009.
James, although currently located in Durham, is no stranger to Wake County Public Schools either. James began her professional career at Cary Elementary School in 2005 as a teacher for two years and moved on to be an assistant principal at Fuquay-Varina High School for almost four years.
She has spent the last three years at Club Boulevard Elementary.
James will begin her work at Knightdale Elementary with a salary of $79,727. Argent will earn $101,367 per year.
Argent and James’ appointments do not fill all of Knightdale schools’ empty principal seats. East Wake Middle School is still without a principal for next year.
At the same meeting as Argent and James’ appointments’, the board named former Broughton High School principal Roy Teel to the interim principal spot at East Wake Middle.
WCPSS will also have to find a replacement for Argent at Lake Myra, a process that may involve hiring an interim first.