Rocky Mount, N.C. – Brand new initiatives are under way at Rocky Mount Preparatory School. The K-12 public charter school located near NC Wesleyan is one of the oldest and largest charter schools in the state. With a renewed mission to “educate, equip and empower” its scholars to excel, throughout the 2019-20 school year the leadership of Rocky Mount Prep, in conjunction with the school’s Board of Trustees, started and has pursued the work of restructuring the school with the goals of establishing a K-12 organizational support structure to support improved academic outcomes, community well-being, high quality service, and clear and consistent communication, while decreasing the school’s budget by a minimum of $300,000.
“Last summer, we promised our community, a brand-new Rocky Mount Prep. We worked throughout the year, to study, listen and learn from other successful charter schools, in order to design a school that will prepare our scholars for amazing opportunities to come,” said Rocky Mount Prep Head of School, Dr. Chaunte Garrett.
To begin the restructuring process, leadership consulted with various levels of charter school partners to identify high performing charter schools, then visited the identified charter schools to discuss keys to academic success, organizational structure and budgets.
“We consulted with various offices and companies to find schools our size and schools that
have been successful in their operations, especially in their academics. We visited these
schools and determined which were the best practices we needed to replicate.” said Rocky Mount Prep Head of School, Dr. Chaunte Garrett.
Jean Kitchin, Vice-Chair of the Rocky Mount Prep Board of Trustees said “I am really pleased that the leadership at Rocky Mount Prep researched other charter schools in North Carolina to learn from those that have the best student outcomes. The new initiatives come directly from what they learned with the entire focus being to provide the best education in the best and safest environment for our students.”
As a result of these efforts, The Rocky Mount Prep school community will now be able, among other initiatives, to take part in college and career-focused learning opportunities, newly restructured STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) initiatives, and high-quality instruction with increased course offerings.
For example, Rocky Mount Prep is implementing a 1:1 initiative for the 2020-2021 school year. Pursuant to the initiative, each scholar will have access to a device, every day. In addition, Rocky Mount Prep is working to ensure that all scholars have a device at home, which will eliminate access barriers and extend learning opportunities for scholars.
Furthermore, there is a new College and Career Academy coming to Rocky Mount Prep. Beginning as early as elementary school, scholars will have the opportunity to engage in college and career opportunities, with the intention of every scholar graduating having earned course credits towards a college degree or career certification by 2022.
“Rocky Mount Prep scholars are some of the best and the brightest,” said Head of School, Dr. Chaunte Garrett. “This is evidenced by the fact that our small graduating class accumulated over $1.1 million dollars in scholarships this school year. We are providing our scholars the foundation to be successful contributors to our local economy and businesses, both right here in Eastern North Carolina and globally. The College and Career Academy is truly setting us up to be even more meaningful contributors to the development of a solid workforce.”
During the past several months, leadership has been engaged in outlining a plan to restructure academic opportunities for scholars beginning with the 2020-21 school year.
“We wanted our community to really understand what we are preparing students for: college and career,” Garrett said. “With the following priorities in mind: improved academic outcomes, community well-being, high quality service, clear and consistent communication and a balanced budget, we examined our academic offerings, our staff structure and service model.”
“We actually started down this road, as a result of lowering class sizes for the 2019-2020 school year. We knew that lower class sizes would have a $300,000 impact on our budget. That is a big impact. Knowing this circumstance would bring many changes, we were mindful that we needed to be very strategic about meeting the needs of our scholars and improving our service to our families, while at the same time balancing our budget,” Garrett stated. Many intentional strategies were developed throughout the year, and COVID-19 prompted the school into exploring even more options.
These options will include Rocky Mount Prep scholars gaining access to new elective course offerings during the 2020-2021 school year. For example, in support of the STEM program, additional science electives are being offered. Also, scholars will have access to more foreign language classes and social science electives to support health and social-emotional well-being. The additional offerings will support scholar development of 21stcentury literacy and critical thinking skills.
In order to better support school programs and academic opportunities for scholars, there will be an overall restructuring in current staffing. While some positions will be impacted, new opportunities for employment will exist at Rocky Mount Prep, for which all team members can apply.
In the organizational restructuring, the school redesigned the work of school administrators
and developed new job descriptions. These new roles include (1) Directors of Instruction, who will coordinate the instructional needs of the school from day to day and will support teachers’ needs and (2) Deans of Culture who will support the social-emotional and discipline needs of the schools.
“Having someone focused on discipline was something that was requested by our team. We know the need to create a focused strategy on the social-emotional well-being of our scholars is critical, especially after COVID. Having instructional leaders that are solely focused on instructional needs is something that was desired, and we observed in the model schools we visited, said Head of School, Dr. Garrett.
With these structural changes, the positions of principal and assistant principal will not be in existence going forward. However, all current team members have been invited to apply for
the new positions and other opportunities at Rocky Mount Prep.
The number of teaching assistants was also reduced. “We have been very thoughtful about how to use our Title I funds to support increasing achievement at Rocky Mount Prep,” Garrett said. “In our study of what is working in other schools, we realized they had less teaching assistants and also strategically had someone serving in the role of an interventionist. We will hire an interventionist to support our MTSS model and develop and implement interventions for scholars who need it.”
“Our restructuring was a huge puzzle to put together and we worked really hard
to preserve the integrity of the classroom instruction; while enhancing the
administrative and operational functions and overall environment and culture,” said Rocky Mount Prep Head of School, Dr. Chaunte Garrett. “What we are going to be able to do under this new structure, will yield better outcomes and more opportunities for our scholars. That is what we are here to do. Our new structure will accelerate our progress.”
“This is a good plan that focuses on children,” said Charles Davis, former Nash Rocky Mount Principal and Rocky Mount Prep board member.
“Organizations that don’t change are bound to lose ground and become stagnant,” said Shelton Daniel, also a board member and Pastor of Greater Joy Missionary Baptist Church. “Change, even change for the better is always accompanied by some discomfort. But just like seasons, change is inevitable and brings about new growth.”