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Knox magnet program showing promise, board learns

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education on Monday received an update on programs at the Knox Center for Accelerated Studies, formerly Knox Middle School.

At the beginning of the 2016-17 year, the school started a magnet program, opening its doors to students from across Rowan County and offering classes for high school credit.

The co-principals who started the move, Latoya Dixon and Mike Waiksnis, left shortly after the program’s implementation. Michael Courtwright, former principal at Hanford Dole Elementary, took over the reins at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, along with Deputy Principal Christopher McNeil.

With the change in leadership, the school is also renewing its areas of focus and launching new programs. Courtwright told the board at its December business meeting that staff members at Knox are focusing on having a clear direction for the school, a healthy culture, high expectations, student-centered instruction, resource management, stakeholder and student engagement, and implementation capacity.

“We feel if we hit on these eight subareas, we’re going to be very successful,” Courtwright said.

Since changing its focus areas, Courtwright said, the staff at Knox has already seen improvements. Last year, the school had a high number of out-of-school suspensions.

“This year, we have one,” he said.

Staffing will soon be at 100 percent capacity as soon as paperwork goes through human resources, Courtwright said.

In addition, the school is making plans to start a STEM lab and has seen success with an after school and weekend STEM Club.

Teachers have also started a National Beta Club chapter; so far roughly 50 students have joined.

Courtwright said Knox is also working to start a coding class. Should it succeed, it could be one of the first of its kind in the state.

Knox recently formed a partnership with Novant Health Rowan Medical Center to start a medical cadet program and is working to implement blended and personalized learning in what Courtwright called “a radical shift” in teaching strategy.

After some discussion, the board voted to cover funds for the new Beta Club to attend a state conference in Greensboro. Board members underlined that they are covering costs because it is a “start-up” club.” The motion was passed unanimously.

In other business, the board:

  • Unanimously elected Josh Wagner to another term as board chairman.
  • Unanimously elected Susan Cox as vice chairwoman.

This was the board’s only meeting for the month of December.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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