With next month scheduled as their last meeting, the East Wake work group gathered Thursday evening at East Wake High School to begin drafting specific recommendations for the community and the school board.
Although they did not present their specific recommendations for Wake County Public Schools – they will at the Aug. 19 meeting – community leaders and school administrators announced 25 suggestions in moving forward with K-12 strategy.
These were consolidated from hundreds of specific suggestions brainstormed at last month’s meeting.
“I truly believe that in five years our schools will look very different,” Area Superintendent Edward McFarland said to the group in his introductory comments.
The work group is divided into five focus groups: school environment, resources, teaching and learning, achievement and community. Those groups analyze their assigned categories in the now eight East Wake schools (counting a consolidated high school).
Since March, the group has met monthly to listen to presentations and discuss concerns and strategize an improvement plan, much like Knightdale area work group started last year.
Providing students and staff adequate digital technology was emphasized by all groups, and sparked some heated discussion about what is realistic to provide at school and at home, especially in a less-privileged area of Wake County.
Increased community involvement and engaging businesses, churches and other groups was also mentioned by the majority of groups. They want to see more internships, field trips and overall engagement with organizations outside the schools.
In terms of school environment, leaders suggested focusing on developing a sense of belonging and pride with a safe and orderly environment across the schools. With changes coming to East Wake High School, physical redesign will also be a factor.
The focus group that discussed resources across schools recommended increasing salaries to or above the national average and increasing employment and course options – especially electives – to reduce class size. Smaller classes will help teachers with hands-on projects and focusing on individual students.
The teaching and learning groups paired up and said they would like to see students take responsiblity for their own learning and they also want increased support teachers with more professional development.
Half a dozen work group members listed important achievement goals such as reaching a 95 percent graduation rate and ensuring that all students are college or career-ready. They also want to assess students based on overall performance, not standardized tests.
The focus group for community involvement desires a unifying, well-defined vision across PTAs, school administrators and community members. A more positive perception of eastern Wake schools is also a priority.
After announcing these areas of focus, the 40-plus attendees brainstormed both specific practices and broader recommendations they would like to present to the school board in the future.
School board member Tom Benton, who represents Eastern Wake, said the community should be patient in waiting for change to occur.
“We’re still in the planning phase,” he said. “For the most part we’ll see change next school year (2016-17).... but with the enthusiasm and interest of this group, I feel confident.”