06/25/14 — New school on schedule for August opening day

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New school on schedule for August opening day

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 25, 2014 1:46 PM

Wayne Preparatory Academy, the county's new charter school, is on target to open in August, says board chairman Dr. Ken Benton.

Since a lottery was held in May to accept students in the new K-4 school, the hiring process has begun for teachers, with two administrators recently signing on.

Before it even opens its doors, the school is at capacity, Benton said. Nearly 500 applicants were vying for the 422 spots, he said.

Kindergarten received the most response, with 138 for the 83 openings. Grades 1-4 will have 80 students per grade.

"We have our enrollment. We have met our quota that we can enroll," he said.

Construction is imminent on the plot of land at the corner of Patetown Road and Tommy's Road, Benton added, with a groundbreaking planned for July 8.

"We're looking to have the cottages, as we're calling them, probably no later than the end of July," he said. "The cottages are already built. We're hoping by the middle or the end of July they're going to be in place."

He estimated there will be close to 28 cottages on the property altogether, sectioned off into classrooms. With one teacher per classroom of 20 students, the charter school's budget also allows for four teacher assistants.

Benton announced the administrative hires -- Dr. Todd Forgette, managing director, and Melodie Blackmon, academic director.

"Most (schools) start out with a principal and assistant principal," Benton said. "We very much wanted to put forth the message we're academics and a rigorous program."

The collaborative model of leadership and learning is part of the school's mission, said Forgette, whose background has been working as a consultant, with charter schools and in the "turnaround schools" model.

With 13 years of experience in educational leadership, he specialized in school reform in the mid-Atlantic region, most recently in Rocky Mount.

Ms. Blackmon is a product of Wayne County Public Schools and is entering her 24th year in education. She taught at the K-6 level and also did a reading program for students in grades 5-8, before earning two master's degrees in administration. She worked in several middle and high schools locally before taking a position in Sampson County.

Both were drawn to the new charter school by the appeal of starting from the beginning.

"It's a new experience and I'm looking forward to not just the same thing that you see. It's something that's out of the box. It's just new and exciting," Ms. Blackmon said. "I was one of those that made the comment about getting in on the ground level and building a program."

The two candidates proved to be the right ones for Wayne Preparatory Academy, Benton said.

"They all had to take an assessment to show that they were fit in terms of having characteristics of what this school was," he said. "They both scored particularly high on these assessments.

"We felt like these folks were the cream of the crop."

Board member Sharon Thompson agreed.

"They complement each other. They both have strengths," she said. "They're going to be able to work together to accomplish the goals that we want for this school, which is very different and very unique in this county."

Forgette said that he and Ms. Blackmon will be working as a team, with "servant leadership" at its base.

"I have always said, you lead by example," Ms. Blackmon said. "And I think Todd and I both, it's a collaboration. It's working together. It's not going to succeed if we don't work together."

In the coming weeks before the school officially opens, the board is completing the hiring process of teachers as well as curriculum preparation and ongoing training for all staff. One of the models being used is Steven Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."

"We have got training all through this year, all through the second to third year," Benton said. "We have had an awesome journey and the journey's not over yet. But I think everything's coming together -- setting up a board, setting up policies and procedures, going to be vetted by the state department, getting through that political and educational process in a good way, all those things were exciting to see happening."