Eastern Wake News

Knightdale Area Education Work Group brings in NC New Schools

Knightdale High School principal Jim Argent participates in an activity that identified attributes of a succesful high school at the most recent Knightdale Area Work Group meeting.
Knightdale High School principal Jim Argent participates in an activity that identified attributes of a succesful high school at the most recent Knightdale Area Work Group meeting. mhankerson@newsobserver.com

The Knightdale Area Work Group has brought in an outside nonprofit educational consulting group to help develop a more specific vision of what successful Knightdale schools and students should look like at its meeting last week.

NC New Schools, which has worked across the state, facilitated the group as they brainstormed how to measure success, what an ideal graduate of Knightdale schools looks like and programs that can achieve what the group identified.

The same group was involved with creating the small school concept at East Wake High Schoolstarting in 2005.

NC New Schools’ services were free and KAEWG coordinator and Eastern Area Superintendent Ed McFarland said he isn’t sure if the group will continue to run the meetings.

“It’s up to us, (we can have them) at each meeting,” McFarland said. “We haven’t thought that far in advance. We have to continue with what we envisioned, not what someone else envisions.”

NC New Schools focuses on getting schools to reach high levels of achievement, can consult on leadership development, instructional coaching, STEM education, career-readiness and education-industry partnerships, its website says.

The organization has worked with 120 schools across the state and reports improved graduation rates, higher ACT scores and decreasing dropout rates among schools that use New Schools’ services.

New Schools will organize the group’s notes from the night, which used to be a task for WCPSS staff members. New Schools will also provide the group with recommendations about topics, like how best to move forward in the community to support the group’s work.

Starting at the end

The group discussed ways to measure the success of Knightdale schools, students and programming with a specific focus on high school students. McFarland said the group is starting at the end and working backward to find ways to create a K-12 model that is cohesive.

Small groups identified things like higher test scores, more students taking tests and improved graduation rates as “measurable indicators of success.” NC New Schools also asked group members to brainstorm what they would like to see in a student who graduates from Knightdale schools.

Work group members mentioned students who are independent thinkers, self-starting and socially aware with technological skills as some of the ideal attributes of a Knightdale graduates.

Knightdale High School principal Jim Argent is working on identifying and supporting those same skills and goals within the school, empowering students through the social media hashtag “KHSWILL.” It also carries over to faculty and staff, but it reminds the school it can be better, achieve its goals and create successful graduates.

“I think (the work group’s discussion was) very aligned and supportive with what we've been doing,” Argent said. He was not part of the Knightdale Area Education Work Group when it started last year because he was the principal of Lake Myra Elementary School in Wendell at the time.

For fellow new principal Rebecca Beaulieu, who took over at East Wake Middle School, her role in the Knightdale work group is to support whatever programs need to be put in place to create successful graduates.

“Dr. McFarland has laid out his plan and he has a vision and the people I’ve come in contact with have the same vision,” she said. “We just want to go from good to great.”