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