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The administrative team at Knox Middle School — Latoya Dixon and Michael Waiksnis, co-principals, and Tonya German and Tyrone Freeman, assistant principals — is sponsoring two upcoming beautification days.
“We want the first day of school to be a ‘wow experience’ for our kids,” Waiksnis says. “If we can make it as perfect as possible on Day 1, it will be easier to maintain throughout the year.”
The work days are set for 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10, and 8 a.m.–noon Saturday, Aug. 16.
“This is a great way to pull in community resources and build relationships,” German says. “It takes more than the school and the parents. It takes the community for a school to be successful.”
The main focus will be refreshing mulch in the many landscaped beds across campus.
“We want to do it right,” Waiksnis says. Volunteers will lay down landscape fabric to better contain and maintain the mulch.
The team praises the school system for painting hallways and classrooms, and for giving the restrooms a much needed deep cleaning.
Volunteers will also be asked to do some pressure cleaning. Waiksnis is bringing his own pressure washer; so is German.
“Bring your pressure washers and come on!” German says to potential volunteers.
The team expects participation from local churches, civic organizations, even other schools. Trinity Oaks is furnishing all the mulch.
Waiksnis says that members of the West Rowan High School football team will be helping out, and he and Angelo DelliSanti, the new principal at Jesse Carson High School, have had an informal conversation about how Carson students might volunteer there during the school year, assisting with landscaping maintenance.
Jamie Durant, West’s principal, saw the email for volunteers and talked with his football coaches about sending some players.
Knox is a feeder school for neither West nor Carson.
“It’s nice to get our football players out in the community and assisting,” Durant says. “We’re just trying to help out within the county. We’re all in the same boat.”
DelliSanti agrees.
“We’re lucky to be the first new high school built in the county in over 40 years,” he says. “We don’t have a lot of the facilities issues that some of the other schools have. Volunteering is the right thing for us to do, at the end of the day.”
The Knox team is ecstatic to have the help.
During the year, Waiksnis and Dixon will assign different student clubs at Knox areas to maintain. Likewise, each member of the custodial staff will be assigned a building.
As they stroll across campus, Waiksnis and Dixon stop to look over an area near the greenhouse, stacked with reusable plastic gardening containers.
“We just need to clean this up,” he says. “It could just be organized in a little better manner.”
Waiknsis and Dixon arrived at Knox on June 30.
The first question they asked, Dixon says, was this: “Is this the best environment for teaching and learning? What can we do to make this aesthetically the best it can be for teaching and learning?”
Waiknsis adds, “It would be really hard to transform a school if you don’t have that first.”
“We want to send a message that we’re willing to do our best for the students,” Dixon says. “We can’t wait for them to come back to school.”
In the meantime, Waiknsis and Dixon are on the lookout for volunteers.
“Any time, talent and resources, we welcome,” Dixon says. “It’s clear to us that everybody wants this school to be the best it can be. We have been overwhelmed with support.”
If you’d like to volunteer at the Knox Beautification Days, or to donate materials, call the school at 704-633-2922.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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