Reynolds receives School of Excellence award

Laura Doughton, Online Editor

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The National Magnet Schools of America hosted their annual conference in Baltimore this April. Arts magnet director Karen Morris and English teacher Pamela Kirkland attended on behalf of RJ Reynolds.

At this year’s conference, Reynolds was awarded the National Merit School of Excellence award, a step up from last years School of Distinction award. Recipients of the awards must exhibit the five pillars of magnet schools: diversity, innovative curriculum and professional development, academic excellence, high quality instructional systems and family/community partnerships.

Receiving the School of Excellence award shows how Reynolds compares to other magnet schools across the nation.

“This is a big deal since there are thousands of magnet schools in the nation and only about 25 percent of those who applied for certification actually achieved it,” Morris said. “As far as the Magnet School of Excellence, we are in the top seven percent of all magnet schools in the nation.”

Although Hanes Middle School received the School of Distinction award, Reynolds was the only school in Winston Salem Forsyth County Schools to receive the School of Excellence award, the highest level of recognition given out at NMSA.

The conference was more than an award ceremony; it provided an opportunity for schools to learn how to improve their systems.

“The conference is hosted by a school district that has a number of magnet schools,” Morris said. “On the first full day of the conference, attendees visit two magnet schools and learn about their programs and implementation.”

While at the conference, Morris, along with Pamela Kirkland and Fareed Mostoufi, from the Pulitzer Center, gave a presentation on how Reynolds’ partnership with the Pulitzer Center reflects the fifth pillar of magnet schools, community partnerships.

“[We] presented on how we partner with the Pulitzer Center to use NewsArts to engage students,” Morris said. “Our session went really well and we are going to share it with the Durham City Schools.”

School administration is hoping that the new recognition will help Reynolds appeal to students looking to attend RJR in the future.

“We hope that it celebrates the achievements that our RJR community is doing already, will encourage new families to choose Reynolds when they are making their school decisions, and is an encouragement for our teachers, partners, and families that great things are happening at RJR,” Morris said.

Although the award went unnoticed by most students, some are already looking at how the it will better the school.

“Maybe Reynolds will be forced to make progressive changes,” sophomore Sam Pearsall said. “Maybe there will be changes that make the school safer against school shootings.”

Photo courtesy of the Reynolds Arts Twitter account