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Board approves renewal plan for Knox Center for Accelerated Studies

SALISBURY — Students and teachers at Knox Center for Accelerated Studies got what they wanted Monday night after pushing the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education to approve the school’s renewal plan.

The plan would increase salaries for lead teachers and give bonuses for at-risk staff at the full- and part-time levels. It would allot $366,177 for salaries and bonuses. Lead teachers would have a base salary of $75,000 a year. At-risk bonuses range from $1,000 to $4,000. The bonuses incentivize new teachers and staff in hopes of decreasing the high turnover rate. 

Jamesha Thomas, a Knox teacher named her school’s teacher of the year, spoke about what the renewal opportunity has brought to the school and the need for educators to be properly compensated.

“I hope that you believe in us earning this salary as we believe that we deserve,” Thomas said. “It may seem like we are concentrating on a specific dollar amount. The experiences we give our children from well-educated and dedicated individuals is priceless.”

The board passed the renewal plan, which would continue through the end of the 2021 school year. The school would have time to implement the program, receive an evaluation for potential improvements and have time to work out issues. Knox would also give the school board a report every six months starting in July.

As the first in the district, Knox will set precedent for future renewal plans.

“We feel like this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that has been granted to us and, for that reason, we ask for your unwavering support as we become the voice for many small- and mid-size districts who are looking to us for hope, ideas and opportunities,” Knox Principal Michael Courtwright said.

Board member Travis Allen said he would like to see Knox’s plan incorporated as a standard that’s applied to other schools.

Three students spoke about how their experience at Knox has improved their behavior and grades.

Alanna Robertson said her success can be credited to the teachers believing in her. Before, she wasn’t interesting in learning and was often in trouble. Now, Robertson said, she wants be seen as a role model in the classroom.

In other business:

• China Grove Mayor Lee Withers and Councilman Rodney Phillips spoke to the school board about South Rowan consolidation alternatives, such as closing the elementary school and turning the building into apartments.

The pair told the board they would not approve a resolution against school consolidation similar to other towns, such Landis, Faith and Spencer.

• The board received an update from Anthony Vann, assistant superintendent for operations, about Cleveland and Woodleaf elementary school campuses and approved both to be declared surplus property.

• Carol Herndon, the chief financial officer, gave the timeline for the 2019-20 budget process. The goal is to have an approved budget by late August.

• April Kuhn, chief legal officer, gave a presentation about equity in the school system. Kuhn said she would like to have a school board workshop on equity before the end of the school year.

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