Cook set to begin new chapter under new model

Cook Principal Paula Wilkins.jpg

Cook set to begin new chapter under new model
August 11
07:15 2016



While the start of a new school year is an exciting time for all the schools in the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School District, the start of 2016-2017 has some added thrill for stake-holders at Cook Literacy Model School.

The first day of school, scheduled for Aug. 22, a week earlier than other schools in the district, will officially launch the school’s operation under a new instructional model focused on literacy.

In February, school board members informed parents that the school would be adopting the restart model, which calls for an instructional overhaul and various other changes, including scheduling.

It also calls for a new principal and replacement of the entire teaching staff.

Shortly after revealing the plan to turn around one of the county’s 11 struggling, low-income schools in the district, board members announced Dr. Paula Wilkins would serve as the school’s new principal. Earlier this week, Wilkins sat down with The Chronicle to discuss the restart model, and the start of a new chapter for Cook.

Wilkins, who is a native of the city and a graduate of Carver High School, said she decided to accept the position at Cook because she wanted make a direct impact in the community, and Cook seemed like a perfect opportunity to do so.

Before taking the helm, Wilkins served as the director of human resources for professional and talent development here in Forsyth County. She also worked as an administrator with the local district’s initiative for Professional Learning Community, a program that looks to widen the availability of early child care development, as well as the Gifted and Advanced Learning Program.

“I’ve always wanted to make an impact in this community, so I asked myself, what better way to do so than working every day directly supporting students,” said Wilkins.

“Although I was making an impact working with the district’s improvements teams, I wanted to make a difference on a smaller scale as opposed to the district.”

In 2001, Wilkins returned to her alma mater. During her tenure at Carver, the high school was regarded as a priority school, which called for reform as well. She said she is confident and fully prepared to turn things around at Cook.

“I’ve been through this process before, and I understand there is work to do.”

While the summer is usually regarded as the off-season for students and educators, for Wilkins and the 51 new teachers she has hired since March, summer 2016 has been filled with meetings, and professional development courses.

Along with working with a design team to create a new curriculum, administrators and teachers have been connecting with parents and students as well. Wilkins mentioned along with making phone calls, school leaders have been making home visits to receive feedback from parents.

“The focus has been one band, one sound,” continued Wilkins. “For this to work, we all have to speak the same language. We have to know and understand the same things so we can be consistent in our support for students and their families.”

Last month, a number of roundtable discussions were held to receive feedback as well. Administrators have also been working with local organizations in an attempt to provide services for families in the community. Wilkins said in order for things to change at Cook, the community must be a part of the change as well.

“The key to this turnaround is letting the community in. The walls of this building don’t have the capacity to do the turnaround and impact the lives of these children. But this community has the access to do it.

“We have to wrap our arms around everyone who is willing to do this work with us.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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