Newly appointed Knightdale High School principal Jim Argent made his new students one promise last week during a town hall event designed for him to learn more about the school: As long as the students acted with dignity and respect, he would do the same.
“There will be absolutely no calling you out in front of your boys,” Argent said, telling students they can expect to have conversations about bad behavior, not neccesarily just disciplinary actions taken against them.
Argent met with a handful of students to hear what they thought the school could improve on and what they expected of him before the school year starts in August.
He met with parents the same day, in the evening.
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He asked students and parents to respond to some of his questions – like what they think needs to be changed and what they think is already working for the school – on Twitter, as a way for him to refer to the information later and to help students feel more comfortable by communicating the way they normally do.
Argent told students the new vision of the school is to make it in the top 100 of the U.S. News and World Report high school rankings. He made it clear to students that it would be important for them to offer respectful feedback.
“I want to hear from you because this is your school,” he said.
Students had an opportunity to ask questions. Delaney Vandergrift, a rising senior, was involved in several meetings held with KHS students and parents before Argent was hired to lead the school.
She asked Argent what he wanted to do about disciplinary policies at the school. She said it may sound extreme, but many students see the school as a “prison.”
“I have no desire to treat you like 5-year-olds,” Argent told her. “However if someone makes poor choices, there has to be consequences.”
Argent explained he preferred “natural consequences” of actions rather than punishing students.
Vandergrift cited one specific example after the question and answer session with Argent of what she said she thinks is an unneccesary disciplinary policy: the school’s “Sweep and Keep” policy, that requires late students to spend time in detention instead of going to class late.
“It’s really backwards,” Vandergrift said. “I’m trying to rush to get to school and not be late but if I get there, I can’t to go to class. So what’s the point? I just won’t come.”
Vandergrift didn’t cite any specific examples when speaking with Argent, but when Argent asked students to tweet something they thought needed change, several students mentioned Sweep and Keep.
In a separate meeting Tuesday night, while not addressing specific policies or events, parents had many of the same concerns and questions as students at their evening meeting.
Being open with students
Argent also said he was open to students’ suggestions and he would be open with students, explaining why some of their suggestions can’t happen.
He took the time at the meeting with students to address one issue he was alerted to before he started. Many students complained about the school dress code.
Argent explained that the dress code isn’t up to him or other KHS administrators, it is a county policy.
“If we don’t use your suggestions, we give you the dignity and respect to tell you why,” he said after addressing the dress code.
Although Argent is not new to schools in eastern Wake – he is coming from the principal position at Lake Myra Elementary in Wendell – some students wanted to know exactly what brought him to Knightdale High.
“I thought the students at Knightdale High School deserve to have a leader that believed in them,” he said.
According to Vandergrift, that is exactly what students at the school need.
“In previous years I think that the school has settled for mediocrity and I think that’s awful,” she said. “(Argent) seems like such a kind individual and someone that is looking forward to greatness which is something we’ve needed the last three years.”