We were struck by the optimism that abounded last week at the first of a series of meetings designed to look at the needs of schools in eastern Wake County. The group of 60 or so who turned out seemed energized by the attention school system administrators are paying to Wendell- and Zebulon-area schools. Many in eastern Wake County have considered this area to be a red-headed stepchild among schools in Wake County.
If local school supporters can look at the Knightdale area work group as an example, there is ample reason to believe county leaders are willing to consider implementing new options and better alternatives to address the educational needs of children in Wendell and Zebulon. Indeed the East Wake work group is modeled after the Knightdale effort. Area Superintendent Ed McFarland has shown a propensity for doing more than maintaining the status quo in the schools he works with.
Last week’s meeting was just the first of a handful of meetings that will be held over the coming months and we trust that the group will work to generate its own ideas and set its own priorities when it comes to addressing needs at schools in this area. We are excited that this is a holistic approach. This is more than an effort to reexamine East Wake High School in the wake of the death of the small-schools experiment. It will take into account the entire public school spectrum from kindergarten through graduation.
One other notable offering from the first meeting was the surprisingly overwhelming presence the school system had at the working tables. Though work group invitations were extended to school employees, they were also extended to community leaders, parents and business and civic leaders. Still, school officials were in the majority among those in attendance at the first meeting. We trust that, as the meetings continue we will see an increasing number of parents and local leaders involved in the process. To their credit, two Wendell commissioners – Ginna Gray and James Parham – were part of the mix at that first meeting and Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny expressed his desire to participate in future meetings.
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Last week’s initial meeting laid out a statistical picture of student achievement and participants asked for some socio-economic data which will shed further light on the issues facing our schools. That tells us those in attendance are thinking about some of the root causes surrounding our students’ low achievement. Those root causes are multi-faceted, to be sure, and we hope that the recommendations that come from the committee this summer will address more than one problem.
And, as happened in Knightdale, we hope school board members will also be open to implementing changes that will put local students on a level playing field with their peers in other parts of Wake County. There is certainly reason for optimism that such a thing could soon happen.