Cook administrators and parents unite to improve school

Cook administrators and parents unite to improve school
March 03
00:00 2016
Photo by Tevin Stinson
A group of parents make a list of changes they would like to be included in a new federal education model that will focus on literacy at Cook Elementary School next school year.

By Tevin Stinson

The Chronicle 

After years of posting test scores in the bottom five percent among elementary schools in the entire state, Cook Elementary School will see a number of radical changes ahead of the 2016-2017 school year.

Aside from changing the name of the school to Cook Literacy Model School, the school located on 11th Street just off Thurmond Street will also have a new principal, staff members and instructional design. According to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School officials, the changeover is part of a federal education model they have adopted called Restart.

During a meeting held last month to announce the changes, a number of parents voiced their issues with the proposed changes. While a number of parents took issue with the lack of communication, many more asked questions about current teachers who have built relationships with students over the years.

Keisha Wisley said there are teachers at the school who have built strong relationships with the students and the fact that they have to leave just isn’t right.

“I know something has to be done, but I don’t think replacing staff members who have created bonds with these students is the answer,” said Wisley. “It isn’t fair to them or the students.”

Superintendent Beverly Emory said that although the new model calls for an entirely new staff, teachers and faculty members who are currently at the school can re-apply for their positions. However, she did explain that because of the literacy model and its requirements, it’s unlikely everyone would be brought back.

Emory also mentioned the new model will attract more teachers who have shown they have the ability to accelerate reading and help children who have fallen behind.

“We know replacing the staff is an issue for a number of people,” she said. “That is why we are encouraging those teachers who have been committed to the students and this community to re-apply.”

Since the initial meeting was held to announce the changes at Cook, the lines of communication between administrators and parents have been much improved. A number of open discussions have been held over the past weeks to get a feel for what the parents would like the new program at the school to look like.

During a meeting on Monday, Feb. 29, dozens of parents got into groups and made lists of what they would like to see changed or improved. While a number of parents called for an improved after-school program, more educational field trips, and improved parent outreach, increased community involvement is one that made its way onto every list.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” said Vincent Neal, a parent and former student at Cook.

“Back when I went here, this was a great school and the community was a big part of that,” he continued. “For Cook to succeed and continue to grow, we have to tap into the resources outside the walls of the school. I think that will make a big difference.”

For the first time, parents will also have input about the new principal who will take over for interim principal/executive director Constance Hash, who came out of retirement late last year.

According to reports, a group composed of administrators, teachers and a parent will review the applicants for the position that is expected to be filled later this month.

Emory also mentioned a design team made up of 10 to 12 parents will also be set into place following the hiring of the new principal to ensure the voices of the parents continue to be heard.

“This is exactly what we envisioned when we decided to go with this model, parents and administrators working together,” she said. “If we all believe and work together, I’m confident we can make this work.”


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