Archive for the ‘Front Page News’ Category


All Hail Queen Gianna and King Jacob


Gianna and Jacob, third and fourth from left, at the Green Hope homecoming pep rally.

The worst-kept secret floating around Green Hope High School on homecoming Friday? The identities of the homecoming king and queen.

Often there’s buzz and speculation leading up to that fateful halftime ceremony, when the roses and sashes are finally dispensed and decades of tradition are honored.

But just about everyone at Green Hope that Friday, even as the whole homecoming court was trotted out during a pep rally, knew who would walk away with the crowns.

That is, except for the happy couple themselves, Gianna Giambalvo and Jacob Gutierrez. Happy being the operative word, because both were in happy-just-to-be-nominated mode.

“I’m not nervous,” Gianna said. “I’m pretty excited about it. It’s my dream.”

Since she started at Green Hope, Gianna, now a senior, showed interest in the homecoming king and queen tradition, peppering her sister, Nicolette, also a Green Hope senior, with questions about it.

“So I said to her this year, ‘Would you like to be nominated,'” Nicolette said. “She said, ‘Oh my gosh, yes.'”

So Nicolette did what all the kids do these days: She took to Twitter. Before long she had more than 1,000 retweets and favorites. Jacob’s little sister, Anna, got similar response to her Twitter campaign. For good measure, Nicolette walked down the halls calling out, “Who are you voting for for homecoming queen? Vote for my sister!”

And voila: Gianna and Jacob won in a landslide.

“This whole school has embraced them,” said Esther Giambalvo, Gianna’s mom. “The kids are great here.”

“It’s not what I expected,” Nicolette said of the outpouring of popular support from her classmates.

“I think it’s really nice that they know of their disability and say, ‘Of course I want them to win. It’ll make them so happy.'”

The H-word again.

Gianna and Jacob, who have Down’s Syndrome, have been friends since they met in 5th grade at Turner Creek and have, Nicolette says, “sort of dated.”

“Jacob is a very nice guy,” Nicolette said. “I love him.”

They were introduced last at the pep rally and got by far the biggest roar from the packed gymnasium. They beamed and blushed after completing their brief little dance out on the floor. They were happy, and yet it was just the prelude to their coronation that night, when they’d be let in on the secret everyone else already knew.

“She’s going to be talking about this,” Nicolette said, “for years.”

Click HERE and HERE for local media coverage of the happy event.

Click HERE to learn more about Disability History & Awareness Month at WCPSS and this year’s theme of “discoverability.”

The Tenacious Mrs. Black

Longtime Apex Middle School teacher Margie Black reads with sixth-grader Brady Durkin.

Longtime Apex Middle School teacher Margie Black reads with sixth-grader Brady Durkin.

There was a boy, we’ll call him M, who arrived at Apex Middle School an angry, troubled 6th grader. His anger manifested itself in all manner of outbursts that often got him removed from the classroom.

Enter Margie Black.

“He was very bright and musically inclined, but his behaviors impeded his academic performance,” says Margie, a special education teacher who’s spent 30 of her 40-year career at Apex middle. “M, from the first day at Apex Middle, demonstrated the behaviors he displayed at the elementary school. His teachers, administrators and I met with his grandmother. This was the beginning of a relationship between M, his grandmother and me that continues to this day.”

Margie developed a plan for M, providing him the additional help and resources he would need to overcome his emotional problems and succeed.

Fast forward a few years to Margie getting an invitation to attend M’s graduation from Apex High School. “You can imagine my joy,” Margie says. “M had overcome many adversities to attain this goal. As he proudly walked across the stage I had the image of the wiry, angry 6th grader who transformed into a tall, confident young man.”

M is one of thousands who Margie has helped in ways large and small in her 40 years in special education, 30 of which have been spent at Apex Middle School.

Camille Hedrick, the principal at Apex Middle until moving over to Panther Creek to serve as principal, says Margie puts in the time and effort required to best serve each student.

“She’s very specific to the individual child,” Camille says. “And that’s not easy. She reads every single file of every single special education kid. These are complicated files, often coming from multiple states, countries, schools. She knows the background on every single special education child in our building. She really does not believe in one size fits all.”

Margie says she’s had many of her students go off to college. She’s had a few that wound up in trouble with the law. And everything in between.
“I think the commonality is that they remember that I cared,” Margie says. “I was somebody they felt very confident that, if they needed something, they could come to Mrs. Black. My colleague, Lucy Bailey, and I like to say, ‘We’re on your shoulders, all the time, even when you leave us.’ They come back and say, ‘I heard you, I heard you.'”
Margie brings a mix of tough love and high energy to the classroom.

On a recent Monday morning, she bounded from student to student, whose needs ran the gamut from “I forgot to take this quiz” to “I can’t log into this computer” to “I just don’t feel like doing anything today.” In a matter of minutes, she had counseled and cajoled every student in the Curriculum Assistance class, setting them on a productive path.
“We celebrate success all the time,” Margie says.

“You saw [one student] who brought his glasses. We’ve been working for 20 days now; he’s brought them three times. You could see right away that was a big deal that he brought them. And we celebrated. We do measure success in minutiae sometimes. It’s not necessarily just academic success. It’s all the things the kids need to leave and be independent. We provide them with the tools to recognize their strengths. Maybe reading is really hard for them, but they have a lot of strengths they can utilize. We try to teach them how to figure it out for themselves when Mrs. Black’s not around anymore. We teach them to be self-advocates.”

Margie, of course, has seen the world of special education evolve many times over since her career began in Delaware in 1974. IEPs, for example, weren’t a thing back then, “so often times children were placed in programs without any real oversight.”

Margie has been a part of the movement to take “special education out of the basements and the boiler rooms and the little rooms to raise awareness within the school setting. Within that came all the laws to protect children, to make sure they were being identified and served appropriately.”

“People say, ‘You must have a lot of patience,'” Margie adds.

“I don’t know. I think I have a lot of tenacity. I really don’t give up.”

Student writing/arts contest for NC schools’ 175th

WCPSS students are invited to participate in the 175th anniversary of the opening of the first public school in North Carolina.

The North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA) is hosting an essay, poster and video contest to help celebrate the 175th anniversary of the opening of the first public school in the state.

Cash prizes will be awarded, with 1st place receiving $500, 2nd place $250 and 3rd place $100. The first place winner will be honored at the 175 anniversary celebration January 20, 2015 in Reidsville.

There is a poster contest for elementary students, an essay contest for middle school students and a video contest for high school students.

Visit for details about each contest and how to enter.


WCPSS breaks ground for Abbotts Creek Elementary

Wake County leaders broke ground today for Abbotts Creek Elementary, a new school opening in August 2015. Board of Education members, County Commissioners and City of Raleigh leaders marked the start of construction for the 52-classroom school that will serve more than 780 students. Continue Reading . . .

Sanderson High School Closing Early Due to Power Outage

Sanderson High School will release students early today due to a power outage.

The school will be sending students home at 12:30 p.m. today.

Please note that a tree is blocking Dixon Drive. The only access to the school is North Hills Drive.

School buses will provide transportation home for students who ride by bus and parents will be able to pick up their children for rides out as usual.

School staff will stay with students at school until arrangements have been made for each child to get home.

Repairs should be completed today and school will resume its usual schedule tomorrow.

Nationally known choreographer to lead class at Wakelon

Fourth-grade students at Wakelon Elementary School are going to the dance in a big way on Thursday, Oct. 16. Jacques d’Amboise, acclaimed New York City Ballet principal dancer-choreographer will visit with the students and conduct a demonstration class. Continue Reading . . .

WCPSS ‘STANDS UP and SPEAKS OUT’ Against Bullying in October

There’s just nothing cool about bullying. The Wake County Public School System has fully embraced this stance and is taking meaningful action to protect students from being either victims or perpetrators.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and the WCPSS Counseling and Student Services team has crafted an extensive array of activities and information points for students, parents, teachers and counselors across the district. The goal: to empower young people to stand up and speak out against bullying.

Continue Reading . . .

Save the Date! Magnet & Early College Fair Nov. 1

Learn about the array of options you have to enhance your child’s academic experience at the Magnet and Early College Fair, Nov. 1 from 9 a.m. to noon at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School, 2600 Rock Quarry Rd.

WCPSS offers more than 40 magnet and early college schools, all of which will be represented at the fair and ready to distribute information and answer all questions.

Magnet school pathways include:

Leadership and Technology, which incorporates technologies into project-based learning;

Gifted and Talented, which offer electives in the arts, foreign languages and more to help develop strengths and interests;

International Baccalaureate, which has earned world-wide recognition for its rigor and high academic standards;

Early College Schools, which offer college-level courses and/or hands-on skills training.

Click HERE to learn more about magnet programs. See you on Nov. 1!



Board appoints new principals, administrators at October 7 meeting

The Board of Education approved the following staff appointments at its October 7 meeting:

  • Matthew Wight has been appointed Principal at Apex Friendship High School.
  • Edmund Gilewicz has been appointed Principal at Baucom Elementary School.
  • Mary Ellen Leach has been appointed Principal at Scotts Ridge Elementary School.
  • Jennifer Pitarra has been appointed Assistant Principal at Olive Chapel Elementary School.
  • Amy McGarry has been appointed Assistant Principal at Millbrook High School.
  • Brandon Thomas has been appointed Assistant Principal at Durant Road Elementary School.
  • Daniel Burch has been appointed Interim Assistant Principal at Garner High School.
  • Erin May has been appointed Assistant Principal at Olive Chapel Elementary School.
  • Kelly Ward has been appointed Assistant Principal at Leesville Road Middle School.
  • Linda Roberson has been appointed Interim Assistant Principal at Hodge Road Elementary School.
  • Lynnae Morris has been appointed Assistant Principal at Ligon Middle School.
  • Stephanie Smith has been appointed Assistant Principal at Fuquay-Varina High School.

Please note – This list includes new appointments. The board also may have approved contract extensions or modifications to current contracts for employees to continue serving in their current roles.

Draft 2 of 2015-16 Student Enrollment Plan Released

On Oct. 7, the Wake County Board of Education reviewed the second draft of a student enrollment plan for the 2015-2016 school year.

The first draft was presented to the board and the public in August. Since then, staff members have collected feedback from hundreds of parents via a unique online forum called Envision Wake and a series of public meetings.

The second draft reflects many of the changes requested by parents. WCPSS staff members worked diligently to respond to parent concerns related to stability, choice and neighborhood cohesion while still addressing the district’s imperative to ease overcrowding, fill new and underenrolled schools and maximize operational efficiencies. (See section about growth below.)

More detail about Draft 2 proposed changes, including a list of neighborhoods that would be kept intact and a full chart of calendar option revisions, can be found HERE.

The best way for parents to confirm where their children are proposed to be assigned is to type their address into the Base School Preview tool. The tool has been updated to reflect Draft 2 changes.

The Board did not take a vote on the enrollment plan on Oct. 7. Rather, their discussion kicked off another public-input period, with a fresh round of questions posted to the Envision Wake website and a series of four public meetings scheduled, all at 6:30 p.m.:

• Oct. 9 at Wake Forest HS
• Oct. 14 at Apex HS
• Oct. 16 at Millbrook HS
• TBD at Southeast Raleigh HS (tentative)

The board will hold at least one public hearing and work session in November to consider a third draft of the enrollment plan. They are slated to approve the plan in December.

Here are a few clarifications in response to some frequently asked questions from parents:

• This enrollment proposal does not impact transfer students or grandfathered students. It impacts students who attend their base school and students who attend their calendar option school.

• The calendar application process gives priority to families who wish to align the school calendar for siblings in elementary and middle school.

Apex Friendship High will open with 9th and 10th grades only. Students who are rising 11th or 12th graders living in the base area of Apex Friendship High will continue at their current school with their current level of transportation until they graduate.

• Students assigned to their calendar option school for their address are eligible for district transportation.

The Wake County Public School System, already the largest in the state and 16th largest in the country, is facing rapid growth. More than 25,000 students were added between 2006 and 2013. Another 18,615 are expected to be added by 2018, which would bring total enrollment to 171,915, an 11% increase over the current enrollment of about 155,000.