Knox asks for a hand up

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 2, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Chipped paint and discolored walls. Worn, dingy tiles and carpets. Rickety lockers. Sparse landscapes, lacking flowers.
That’s what Cornerstone Church Pastor Bill Godair and about a dozen church members saw Monday during a tour of Knox Middle School.
They came after teacher Joy Jenkins made a plea to the congregation Sunday, asking for help to revitalize the school.
“Funds and resources are limited in every direction,” she said. “There’s not enough money, not enough workers and not enough time to make the changes needed to transform Knox into a clean, safe learning environment.”
Jenkins’ request was answered by more than 200 church members who volunteered their time and skills. About $3,000 was also collected for the cause.
Church member Orlando Zapata said he was moved by Jenkins’ plea.
“I thought she was very honest and sincere,” he said. “She showed that she wants the best for her students, she wants to inspire them to be all they can be.”
Zapata said he knows the church can make a difference at the school.
“We’ll use whatever resources we have to make it better for students,” he said. “I’ll do anything for school, clean windows, help clean walls.”
But the road to rebuilding Knox could be bumpy.
Godair expressed frustration Monday after the tour.
He asked about a report of rat feces and roaches at the school and he felt school officials’ answers were evasive.
Godair claims district officials are not fully disclosing the extent of the problems at the school.
“There are more problems that were not pointed out today,” he said. “We would love for everybody to be up front and straight with us.”
But Godair said that won’t stop his congregation from lending a hand.
“We’ll do as much as they’ll let us,” he said. “We want to do whatever we can do to help.”
Church member Rick Wilson, a self-employed general contractor, said it’s obvious the school hasn’t been kept up as evidenced by lack of painting and cleaning.
“I was surprised to see the lack of maintenance that has been done on the school over the years,” he said. “It looks like this one fell through the cracks.”
Zapata said he, too, was surprised by the school’s condition. He had been there before, but never noticed the disrepair.
“Being able to walk the school I see it in a different light,” he said.
Principal Dr. James Davis said he has a long list of areas at the school that need attention.
“Pressure washing, mopping and scrubbing are definitely on our list of things,” he said. “We need new carpet, new tiles and new whiteboards.”
Davis said he also hopes to turn faded red, teal and beige walls throughout the school to “Knox blue.”
“We need painters, we need that extra muscle,” he said.
And Davis wants to see the exterior go from dull to vibrant.
“We just need someone with a green thumb to do some weeding and planting,” he said.
When Davis and Jenkins, both award-winning educators, started at the school July 1 they made it their mission to do an Extreme Makeover to the grounds.
“We believe in an invitational environment,” Davis said. “If it looks good, if it feels good, kids will actually do better.”
School board member Bryce Beard said the district is working hard to get Knox up to par.
“There is a lot to do here,” he said after the tour Monday. “We are fully aware of the challenges and James Davis is owning those challenges.
“We are going full court press to get the school as good as we can get it.”
As the Cornerstone congregation stands ready to help, Jenkins hopes their example will spur others to join efforts to propel the school to better days.
“If we can transform this into a new school why not?” she said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.