Knightdale High graduates 390

Monday, June 18, 2012

RALEIGH - The ceremony: 6 p.m. Friday, Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh.
Accolades: More than 390 seniors graduated from Knightdale High School. In total, the class of 2012 won more than $5.8 million in scholarships – that’s about $685,000 more than the class of 2011 which included 378 students.

Notables: According to Bryan Sumner, President of the class of 2012, this year’s class included 106 honor graduates. Of those, 16 were recognized as “Outstanding Seniors,” who, according to their teachers, demonstrated leadership, integrity, and academic excellence.

They are Sara Awad, Bernard Bellamy, Sierra Coulter, Jessica Crandell, Julian Gilyard, Bright Gyamfi, Khaled Jaouhari, Alexandra Minori, Khalid Powell, Zoe Schaper, Mia Sims, Ajee Smith, Bryan Sumner, Emily Venable, and Megan Woodlief.

Fun fact: Like the graduating class before them, these seniors will go down as champions thanks to their Track and Field team which won the 4A State Championship.

Special speaker: Jonathan Wall, a 2008 alumnus, graduated this spring from Morehouse College in Atlanta. While there, he helped open a charter school and won countless recognitions for leadership and charity.

In addressing the class of 2012, Wall noted his hometown community’s sense of pride.

“Think about it, we’re the only high school that represents a whole town,” he said.

Wall congratulated the seniors on their success and advised them – don’t stop now.

“Don’t let this be the last time your friends and family come together to celebrate the work you’ve done.”

Other quotables: Patricia Mathes, the student body president, welcomed parents, teachers, and other guests to the graduation. In offering wisdom to her fellow classmates, Mathes invoked former N.C. State University woman’s basketball coach Kay Yow.

“When life kicks you, let it kick you forward,” Mathes said.

Kristen Maiden, the school’s valedictorian, and Rami Awad, the school’s salutatorian, thanked teachers and principals on behalf of their classmates.

“Because of you ... 2012 will not be marked as the end of the world but as a year of greatness,” Awad said.

Memories: Sumner, the Class of 2012 president, reflected on how he and his peers have matured.

“Remember the days when boys and girls had cooties,” Sumner said.

My, how they’ve grown, he sighed.

“It seems like just yesterday that juice and cartoons were all we needed to make us happy,” he said.

“Now we’re worried about things like class, scholarships and trying our best to get the senior prank right.”

Sumner did not reveal the senior prank.

Perhaps it’s for the best. Now, the prank can go down as one of the last things this class shared together, with no one else.

Specht: 919-829-4826

School officials, advocates dispute ’choice’ data 11 PERCENT OF EASTERN WAKE PARTICIPATED IN NEW STUDENT ASSIGNMENT PLAN

Monday, June 11, 2012

Data released last week on eastern Wake County’s participation in the school district’s new student “choice” assignment plan left school officials pleased and local advocates calling for more resources.
Wake County Schools adopted a new student assignment plan this year which allows students to rank their preferred schools for the upcoming school year. Previously, a school’s socioeconomics – rather than student’s preference – played a heavier role in student assignment. School officials hope the process improves parents’ satisfaction.

The Eastern Wake News analyzed data released by Wake County Schools on May 29. Here are some highlights:

• About 11 percent of the student population in Knightdale, Wendell, and Zebulon participated in the first two rounds of the school choice process (about 990 of 9,070 students)

• Approximately 67 percent of the students from eastern Wake who participated in the choice plan picked schools outside of the region as their top choice (670 students listed a non-regional school as their top choice, while 319 students listed a local school as their top choice).

• Of those who listed a non-regional school as their top choice, approximately 35 percent (239 of 670 students) were granted their request by Wake County.

Brad McMillen, of Wake Schools’ student assignment task force, says the numbers indicate the choice system is working in eastern Wake County.

“In the end, only about 7 percent of our student population will have participated in the choice plan countywide,” McMillen said, noting that assignment is ongoing. “I think the results show that most people, in east Wake and elsewhere, are happy where they are ... and those who aren’t were able to pick a school they wanted.”

Local education advocates aren’t so sure.

For one, the choice assignment plan is still new, so it’s unclear how it will affect eastern Wake over time, advocates pointed out.

Also, according to Toshiba Rice, who runs a Triangle-wide academic support organization, the results can’t be taken at face value because many parents in eastern Wake did not know how to participate in the school selection process.

“I talk to parents everyday. Many of them told me that they didn’t know how to get their kid into the right school because the online process is complicated,” said Rice, who held a rally in May to boost support for local schools.

School officials held student assignment information sessions earlier this year at East Wake High and Knightdale High, but few parents attended. Rice says officials need to do more to educate parents about the choice process.

Attracted to magnets

A third of students who participated in the choice plan listed a magnet school outside the region as their top choice.

Shannon Hardy, a leader of Knightdale 100, which advocates for better Knightdale schools, said the exodus from Knightdale to magnets has always existed because local schools don’t have the same level of classes.

“From what I hear from parents, it’s not about the teachers or anything else. The teachers are great,” Hardy said. “It’s the curriculum. Parents want more challenging courses that are only offered at outside magnet schools.”

There are no magnet schools in Knightdale, Hardy noted.

Middle and high schools were impacted most. More than 110 students listed a magnet high school as their top choice. About 200 students chose a non-regional magnet middle school as their top choice.

Calendar conflict

East Wake Middle was chosen the least – a fact that’s not necessarily indicative of its growth. Principal Nancy Allen says enrollment is up for next year. The school is two years away from reaching capacity for a year-round school.

Hardy says the year-round calendar is part of the problem.

Two of the four feeder elementary schools for East Wake Middle are on traditional schools. The other two are on year-round schedules similar to East Wake. But Hardy says there are more parents who want their children attending a middle school with a traditional schedule.

“Parents here desperately want to support local schools, but they’d rather send their kid to Wendell (Middle) than East Wake (Middle) because it’s on a traditional schedule,” Hardy said.

Help needed

Schools in eastern Wake need more attention regardless of the assignment plan in place, Hardy and Rice say. Namely: more AP courses in high schools and foreign language education for more elementary schools, Hardy sid.

But the need for improvement will grow more desperate if the students who are opting out of local schools turn out to be high achievers.

“Our schools need help as it is,” Rice said. “If kids with high test scores start to leave, others will follow.

“What we need is a makeover. Parents need to be more involved, but more than anything, the district needs to give us more attention.”

Specht: 919-829-4826

BOOSTER for Knightdale High School!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mark your calendars for the 2nd Annual Planter's Walk Golf Tournament on April 20th, 2012.  This year we have partnered with Custom Home Exteriors and James Hardie to help us raise money for the Knightdale High School Athletic Boosters.  The school has earmarked the proceeds from this year's tournament to help purchase some grounds equipment, as well as provide some college scholarships. Even if you don’t have any direct affiliation with KHS, everyone understands the benefit helping a would-be college student get a little help with tuition. The cost of attending college has outpaced inflation in recent years, and it would be a shame to deny a student the opportunity to pursue their educational and career goals because of a lack of financial means.

From now until March 31st, we are running some early registration specials. Register your 4-player team in March and pay only $70 per player – that’s $5 off the regular individual registration cost, or $20 total for the team. If you register two teams at the same time (8 players total), take advantage of an even bigger offer – get 8 golfers for the price of 7. That’s right, pay for 7 players at the regular price of $75 ($525), and get the 8th for free. That’s a savings of $75!

We are also adding a hole-in-one contest this year. Be sure to register to play so that you can take a chance of winning a prize valued at a minimum of $10,000!!

Even if you're not a golfer, there are opportunities for you to help this event raise money for KHS.  In our very first year we raised over $3,200 dollars for them, and we would like to blow past that mark this year.  The most important thing you can do is help us spread the word.  Even if you don't golf, pass this info along to people who you know that might - people at work, friends, etc.  The tournament is open to everyone – not just Planter’s Walk residents. Also let us know if the company you work for might be interested in a sponsorship. Although we understand it can sometimes be uncomfortable asking for money, keep in mind that it is for a good cause AND the sponsor gets something for their money – advertising and exposure. We have sponsorship opportunities at all levels and can put together a package to meet your needs no matter how large or small.  You can also help us by hanging flyers at your business or asking area business that you frequent to hang one.  See contact info below for more info on registering, volunteering, or sponsorship opportunities.

To get more info, please visit our website at

Achievement is up in Knightdale schools, but so are transfers

Friday, February 10, 2012


Knightdale schools – long identified as underachieving and perpetually faced with high poverty – have shown measurable improvement over the last few years.End-Of-Course test results, graduation rates, and SAT participation rates rose in the last three years according to data presented last week by education expert Tim Simmons of Raleigh-based WakeEd Partnership.
“Clearly, your schools are improving in important areas ... that’s the result of community engagement,” Simmons on Jan. 26 told the crowd of nearly a hundred people at Knightdale Town Hall.
In the last three years, the percentage of students that pass end-of-course exams jumped from 66 percent in 2008-2009 to 75 percent in 2010-2011.
The Wake County average is about 84 percent.
The number of students graduating in four years has also increased in the last three school years. In school year 2008-2009, 74 percent of Knightdale students graduated after four years. In 2010-2011 (the most recent year available), that number increased to 76 percent.
The Wake County average in 2011 was 81 percent.
Knightdale’s SAT participation rate has also jumped in the last three years. Nearly 65 percent of Knightdale students took the exam in 2010-2011 – a 13 percent increase from 2008-2009.
The Wake County average in 2010-2011 was 84 percent participation.
The average SAT score of Knightdale students has hovered around 930 in the past three years.
Math and reading proficiency levels improved at each of Knightdale’s five elementary schools between 2007 and 2010 as well. However, Lockhart and Lake Myra were the only schools to show improvement in the 2010-2011 school year.

More looking elsewhere
Though schools here are improving, more Knightdale-based students are commuting elsewhere for an education, according to Wake County Schools data. The percentage of Knightdale students attending their base school has decreased from 73 to 69 percent.
The vast majority of those are students accepted to magnet schools.
Students may be looking elsewhere for more intensive courses, says Shannon Hardy, of local educational advocate, Knightdale 100.
Knightdale has the lowest percentage of students taking exams in Advanced Placement courses.

High poverty
What makes Knightdale stand out from its Wake County counterparts is the percentage of students on free-and-reduced-lunches.
Knightdale’s elementary schools have far more impoverished students than the Wake County average. For example, 80 percent of students at Hodge Road Elementary are on free-and-reduced-lunch plans.
At Knightdale Elementary, the number is 62 percent. At Forestville Road, it’s 58 percent. At Lockhart, it’s 56 percent. An at Lake Myra, it’s 44 percent.
The Wake County average is about 34 percent.
Simmons, however, says poverty isn’t an obstacle to achievement.
“It’s not the free-and-reduced-lunch kids who are holding down scores in Knightdale,” he said. “Kids need high expectations and opportunities.”

What’s next
Knightdale High and East Wake Middle became STEM schools this year. That means they get increased resources and curriculums that focus on science, technology, engineering and math. Knightdale schools also recently served as a test town for training with the SAS Institute.
Those programs were lobbied for by Knightdale 100, which hosted Simmons’ speech.
Next, the group hopes to make Hodge Road Elementary a bilingual school. More than 50 percent of Hodge Road students speak Spanish as their first language. Yet, the school is one of few that does not offer Spanish classes to its students.
Not only would english-speaking students benefit from learning a second language, spanish-speaking students would learn how to properly use their first language.
“Reading comprehension scores would soar,” Debra Pearce, Hodge Road principal, says. “My Spanish-speaking kids have trouble learning proper English partly because they aren’t properly learning their base language.”
School board reps. Keith Sutton and Jim Martin, who attended the meeting, said they, too, would lobby.
In the meantime, Simmons emphasized the importance of parental involvement for quality schools.
He concluded: “You have the schools you want already – they’re public. They’re yours. Now what are you going to do with them?”

Specht: 919-829-4826

Meet Tim Simmons

Thursday, January 5, 2012

 Tim Simmons, Vice President of Communications - Wake Education Partnership

As Vice President of Communications, Tim Simmons is responsible for outreach, advocacy, research and communications at the Partnership.
Simmons was a long-time education reporter for The News & Observer in Raleigh. He provided extensive coverage of the school accountability movement in the 1990s and the many reform efforts triggered by the state’s new emphasis on test scores.
His coverage of the racial achievement gap in 1999 won the highest national award for education writing that year and helped shape state programs to address the issue. He has also written about the resegregation of the state’s schools, the costs and benefits of diversity and the difficulty of maintaining good parent-teacher relationships. He graduated with a degree in journalism from Michigan State University in 1981.

Thursday, January 26th 7-8:30pm K100 Forum (Knightdale Town Hall): 
"State of Knightdale Schools" with Wake Education Partnership's Tim Simmons.  

This is Tim's 3rd annual address to Knightdale!


KNIGHTDALE - A SAS-developed data analysis system meant to help boost student performance has improved teacher effectiveness in Knightdale through special training sessions, educators say.This year, Knightdale schools – Knightdale High, East Wake Middle, Hodge Road Elementary, Knightdale Elementary, Lockhart Elementary, Forestville Road Elementary, and Lake Myra Elementary – were chosen to pilot a new SAS Institute training program meant to help principals and teachers understand the teacher-efficiency data.
The Education Value-Added Assessment System, or EVAAS, uses a student’s past test scores to determine the probability of having success in a subject. It also measures an instructor’s ability to effectively teach specific subjects or student learning-levels.
EVAAS is used throughout Wake County schools. But SAS needed to measure how effective their program developers were in training teachers to use EVAAS data. Knightdale 100, an educational advocacy group, lobbied SAS and Wake Schools for the pilot and won.
So during the fall semester, EVAAS trainers held instructional sessions for Knightdale educators – hoping to maximize the system’s potential.
“The educators gave us direct feedback as to whether they were understanding what they were being taught,” said Sandy Horn, who developed EVAAS with SAS.
SAS reps said feedback was “overwhelmingly positive.”
“In some cases, teachers told us that they had used the student projections a great deal. But they hadn’t used the part that shows student progress,” said Stefani Barbero, SAS manager of educator support services for EVAAS. “They broadened their knowledge.”
EVAAS shows teachers how effective they are at teaching certain subgroups of students. The subgroups are broken down by low, moderate, and high-achieving students.
So if tests show that a teacher is not as effective teaching, say, high-achieving students, the teacher can change his teaching methods with those students.
Knightdale High this fall learned about subgroups for the first time.
“In the past we only focused on the overall proficiency rating. The EVAAS training allowed our department to look deeper and determine how successful we are at each of achievement levels,” said Melody Solomon, Social Studies Department Chair at Knightdale High. “We reviewed the data in our PLT (Professional Learning Team) meetings and discussed how to differentiate based on the past performance at each achievement level.”
“Our teachers really appreciated the opportunity to learn more about EVAAS and how to use the data to inform instructional practices,” said Carla Jernigan, Knightdale High principal. “The training materials were well designed and easy to follow and the help windows within each report provide even more information to assist with understanding the reports.”
Added Nancy Allen, East Wake Middle principal: “The training was extremely valuable to us ... I learned a lot, which says something because I was pretty well-schooled on (EVAAS) already.” Knightdale 100 lures SAS
Specht: 919-829-4826

K100 Teams Up with SAS

April: Knightdale 100 learns that SAS is developing curriculum to train principals and teachers to use EVAAS both for student placement and professional development. Group lobbies for SAS pilot the curriculum in Knightdale.

MaySAS considers Knightdale because of its feeder patterns from elementary to high school. Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen, SAS, and Knightdale 100 meet to develop a proposal for Superintendent Tata and Wake County Schools.

Late May: Knightdale 100 hosts forum on EVAAS. Tata attends the forum, and later invites SAS and Knightdale to meet with him about a pilot program.

JuneSAS, Mayor Killen, K100 meet with Superintendent Tata. Tata appoints Terri Cobb to lead organizational efforts.

September: Pilot begins with EVAAS training in principals meetings.