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Co-principals to take over reins at Knox Middle School

SALISBURY — Knox Middle School will have not one, but two, new principals next year.
Dr. Michael Waiksnis and Dr. Latoya Dixon were chosen out of 45 applicants to serve as co-principals of the school. The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education approved the hire Monday during a called meeting.
“Individuals are having difficulty leading that school and getting results,” said Kay Wright Norman, vice chairwoman of the school board.
Knox isn’t new to transition — Principal Terrence Snider left Knox at the end of March, and he was the fourth principal to leave since 2008.
What the school isn’t familiar with is transformation, a factor Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody was passionate about bringing into the school with its new leadership.
The job description put out by the Board of Education in early April sought a “transformational leader or team.”
“It’s a process of knowing what we need to change,” Norman said.
Norman said Knox needed “radical” change.
“A school operates on a team principle anyway,” she said, adding that this arrangement just takes that “a step forward.”
Both Dixon and Waiksnis are coming from the Rock Hill School district in South Carolina, and used to work for Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody before she moved to Rowan County.
“We have a long history of working together,” Dixon said, adding that in addition to working in the same district, the pair has coauthored educational articles.
Waiksnis is currently the principal of Sullivan Middle School, a position he has held since June 2008. He was an assistant principal at Castle Heights Middle School, also in Rock Hill, from January 2007 until June 2008.
Prior to that, Waiksnis was employed at South Plantation High School in Plantation, Fla. He was a teacher from January 2000 until March 2005, and then an assistant principal until January 2007.
Waiksnis was named 2014 middle school principal of the year by the South Carolina Association of School Administrators.
Dixon has been the principal of Mount Gallant Elementary School since January 2008.
Before that, she was an assistant principal and administrative intern from August 2006 until December 2007 at Old Pointe Elementary School.
Dixon began her career in education Rawlinson Road Middle School as an English teacher in 1999. She stayed there until she became an administrative intern at Old Pointe Elementary School in August 2006. The following year, she became an assistant principal.
Dixon and Waiksnis have a proven track record, Norman said.
The percent of students that made adequate progress in English language arts, math, science and social studies drastically jumped between 2007, the year before both started as principal, and 2013.
At Mount Gallant, where Dixon was principal, only 47.5 percent of students were at a proficient level in their English classes, but last year, that number was up to 86.4 percent. Percentages jumped from 37.8 percent to 86.4 percent in math, and from 53 percent to 84.9 percent in science. Students with proficient social studies scores jumped from 58.4 percent to 90 percent.
Waiksnis saw similar growth at Sullivan. English scores jumped from only 32 percent of students being proficient to 74.6 percent. Math scores moved from 38 percent to 72.7 percent, and science scores went to 74.4 percent from 41 percent. The proficiency among social studies scores skyrocketed from 28 to 72.7 percent.
Waiksnis has his bachelor’s of arts degree in social science with an educator certification and his master’s degree in education with a major in educational leadership from Florida Atlantic University. He received his doctorate of education from Gardner-Webb University last month.
Dixon received her bachelor’s of arts degree from in secondary education and English from Clemson University. She attended the University of South Carolina to get her master’s of education, her educational specialist and her doctorate of philosophy – all with a concentration in educational leadership.
Waiksnis said he’s excited to come to Knox because “there seems to be a lot of excitement and passion” at the school.
A press conference will be held Tuesday at 9 a.m. in Knox’s media center to further discuss the district’s plan to transform Knox Middle School and to work with local partners to make the transition happen.

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