Knox co-principals meet parents, call for collaboration

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 26, 2014

Knox Middle School’s new co-principals Dr. Michael Waiksnis and Dr. Latoya Dixon held the first two of six meet-and-greet sessions with students, parents and community members Wednesday.
The pair shared their backgrounds, core leadership beliefs and what they believe are the elements of school transformation, as well as explained how the co-principal model will work. Afterward, they took questions from attendees.
“I feel like things are moving in the right direction,” said Morgan Huffman, who has a rising eighth grader at Knox.
He added, though, that he doesn’t want to make a judgement until he sees results.
Huffman’s wife, Kimber, said, “I just want to see consistency.”
While she likes the “positive energy” of the new leadership team, she said only time would prove if they were the right fit for the school.
“This is probably the most encouraged we have been,” said Natalie Murphey, whose son, Jackson, will be a sixth grader in the fall.
Her husband, Jim, said he was excited that Waiksnis and Dixon were determined to build a “culture of academic success.”
Dixon and Waiksnis both left principal positions in the Rock Hill School District — Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody’s former district — for the position at Knox.
Dixon said the two have a “varied historical perspective” which improves their ability to “address the needs of all kids.”
Dixon and Waiksnis said they firmly believe “all children can learn at high levels” and that school transformation comes from professional collaboration among all stakeholders.
“Principals alone can’t have a vision,” Dixon said in an interview before the meeting.
She added that she and Waiksnis plan to do “a lot of listening” over their first year at the school, and that they will form a vision for the school along with all their stakeholders.
“Once that collaborative vision is developed, that makes for a greater chance for success when everyone’s engaged,” Dixon said.
The duo also shared that in order for students to perform at a high standard, there must be “a laser like focus” on results and student achievement.
Along with the rest of the Rowan-Salisbury School System, Waiksnis and Dixon see literacy as a key piece of their leadership plan.
Dixon, who is a former middle school English teacher and elementary school principal, said she believes that’s a strength she brings to the table.
The two plan to actively engage the community by sharing Knox’s stories and telling what makes the school great, they said.
Dixon and Waiksnis believe in having an innovative school supported by technology, creativity and inquiry, as well as hiring relationship-oriented educators.
The pair said they plan to make student need decisions based on solid facts and data.
“We are both very data driven and research driven,” Dixon said.
Finally, they both affirmed that they want to use their strong work ethics and dedication to lead the school.
Dixon and Waiksnis plan to transform Knox by fostering a safe and positive school culture and climate, focusing on data-driven and results oriented teaching and learning, developing and encouraging relationships, providing excellent customer service and creating a strong understanding of “change leadership.”
Dixon joked that many people have asked, “Who’s Batman and who’s Robin?”
She and Waiksnis agreed, “the buck ultimately stops” with both of them.
“We have a lot of the same ideas, but we look at things differently,” Waiksnis said.
“He helps me see the big picture, and I help him see the steps to get there,” Dixon added.
Not only do the two plan to collaborate with each other, they plan to collaborate with staff, parents and the rest of the community.
They shared that they need people to collaborate with them by volunteering with painting, landscaping, greeting students, tutoring or mentoring — even by financially giving.
“We are looking for support in the community,” Waiksnis said.
If people have time, he said, “we have a job for them.”
He added that the more adults in the school building, the better.
“Teamwork makes the dream work,” Dixon said.
“It’s so evident that this is a great community with a lot of people with loving hearts,” Dixon said. “So many people have done so many nice things for us.”
Waiksnis said they want there to be a “wow factor” when students return to school, with the amount of improvements to the school’s facilities.
“We want to make sure Knox is a middle school Salisbury is proud of,” Dixon said.
The remaining meet and greet sessions are listed below.
• Thursday, June 26, at 6:30 p.m., at Knox Middle School.
• Tuesday, July 8, at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., Knox.
• Tuesday, July 29, at 6 p.m., Catawba College Downtown, 100 W. Innes St.