Southwest Wake News

July 31, 2014

Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce to host education panel

Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam and Wake County school board member Susan Evans will speak at an event about education at 8 a.m. Wednesday at the Holly Springs Cultural Center.

Holly Springs has seen firsthand the changes affecting public schools.

In March, the Wake County school board capped enrollment at every elementary school in town, along with the only high school.

Four months later, state lawmakers passed a law that opens the door for sweeping changes to North Carolina’s education curriculum.

So this week, the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce plans to host an event for the business community to explain what the changes mean.

Local and state officials – including state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam and Wake County school board member Susan Evans – will participate in a panel discussion at 8 a.m. Wednesday at the Holly Springs Cultural Center.

The speakers will talk about capped schools, new school construction, Common Core standards and achievements at local schools.

“We’re trying to make sure the business community in Holly Springs is aware of developments, because it affects them,” said Tom Wyrick, owner of Whizard Academy in Cary and Holly Springs, who helped organize the event.

Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears has drawn attention to the caps the school board placed on Holly Springs High and Holly Springs, Holly Ridge and Holly Grove elementary schools.

Some real-estate agents say the caps are hurting the local market because parents don’t want to send their children to schools in Fuquay-Varina, where most elementary and high school students would be assigned if they moved to the area after March.

In the long run, the tempered growth could affect local businesses by limiting their customer base in Holly Springs.

Wake schools Area Superintendent Lloyd Gardner and Assistant Superintendent Joe Desormeaux are scheduled to speak at the event about plans to open a new elementary school in Holly Springs for the 2016-17 school year.

Stam and Evans, however, said they expect to field more questions about what’s being taught in local classrooms.

“I believe that parents are really concerned about making sure their children and the employees they hire are college and career ready,” Stam wrote in an email.

“Concerns over the school capacity issue rank very highly,” Evans said. “But I get a lot of feedback from parents who say kids these days have an excessive amount of standardized testing.”

Evans said she plans to talk about the school system’s push to develop a strategic plan over the next five months.

The district is reaching out to residents for input on what it should prioritize over the next few years. For example, should education leaders focus on expanding magnet programs, or should they focus on equipping teachers with more resources?

School system administrators are hosting a forum on the strategic plan from 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Jane S. McKimmon Center at N.C. State University.

“This will be our first strategic plan with our new superintendent, Jim Merrill, in office,” Evans said. “It’s one of the most exciting things we’re working on.”

The Holly Springs event signifies a shift in direction by the town Chamber of Commerce.

LeeAnn Plumer, who was hired as the chamber’s executive director last fall, wants to strengthen communication between lawmakers and local businesses, Wyrick said.

The event is for Chamber of Commerce members only. A recording of the meeting will be uploaded to the town’s website at hollyspringsnc.us.

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