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Wilson Preparatory Academy has received its accreditation three and a half years after opening in August 2014.
AdvancED, the nonprofit, non-governmental organization that accredits primary and secondary schools throughout the United States and internationally, made the certification earlier this year following a two-day visit to the school in November.
“It brings that validation to every educational institution that we are accredited, that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing and that is why we were seeking our accreditation so that we would be in line with other schools and what they are doing,” said Shawan B. Woodard, associate director. “It tells you what you are doing as a school as a whole.”
Wilson Preparatory Academy has 685 students from kindergarten to 11th grade. In the fall of this year, it will begin as a K-12 school with its first graduating class of seniors in the spring of 2019.
Daryl Woodard, founder, director and husband of Shawan Woodard, said the accreditation process was intense.
“Before they come, we have to upload about 80 documents,” Woodard said. “They had to look through all of this information before they even came. When they come, they want to see if what you have on paper is actually what you have in the classrooms and in the school. They interviewed parents. They interviewed teachers. They interviewed the administration. They interviewed the board of directors.”
According to Shawan Woodard, highlights that the examiners liked about the school were the National Honor Society and National Beta Club.
They also appreciated that Wilson Prep blends technology with traditional teaching methods.
“From day one, we started giving Chromebooks to take home,” Daryl Woodard said. “We don’t start in middle school. We don’t start in high school. We give the kids Chromebooks in the third grade, when they start taking the EOG. They really liked the fact that we are using technology to teach. Let them do research. Let them travel around the world right there on the computer, guided by their teacher.”
A Chromebook is a type of inexpensive laptop computer that runs Google Chrome’s operating system and stores files on cloud-based online networks instead of an internal hard drive. They are a popular resource in education and can access homework, classwork, assignments and projects.
“You can put textbooks on the Chromebooks, so you don’t see kids with heavy backpacks like we did when we were going to school,” Woodard said. “I want to applaud the classroom teachers. That’s where the magic happens, and every day they are in the trenches making sure that the children have what they need.”
The couple’s son is in the 11th grade at the school and will be in the first graduating class.
“That was another reason why we sought out that accreditation. These kids that are here now in the 11th grade are applying to colleges that they can put on their applications that they graduated from an accredited high school,” Shawan Woodard said. “We didn’t want to do anything that would hinder these children who are in the 11th grade here.”
“It’s not just for our child, but for every child that goes through Wilson Prep,” Daryl Woodard said. “This is something that is really, really a big deal as far as what we are trying to do to make sure that we keep our teachers on the cutting edge of academic achievement. We believe every child can learn. Not just the smart ones, but everybody. I don’t care what side of the tracks they come from, we want to make sure that everybody can get their academics and go on to be whatever they want to be.”
The school now has two buildings, housing kindergarten through seventh grade and eighth through 11th grade.
“We could have 1,000 kids if we wanted to. We want to grow very methodically to make sure that our climate and culture is conducive to learning, so we don’t want to grow too fast,” Daryl Woodard said. “Now we are getting ready to embark on an athletic complex in the back. We are going to have a soccer field, a lacrosse field together, a track, a baseball field. We are going to have all of the sports right here. We have 77 acres that we can do it with. But again, we don’t want to grow too fast. We want to make sure that we have the intimate contact with the kids to make sure they are getting what they need in that classroom. We want to continue to be on the cutting edge of academic achievement.”
Alicia Gregory is a parent of two children at the school who also teaches fourth grade reading and social studies.
She described the accreditation of the school as being “fabulous.”
“I am very excited to know that Wilson Prep has gone above and beyond to prepare them for the world,” Gregory said. “Especially for my daughter. We have some college visits planned for next week. Just knowing that all of the steps are in place for that to happen is very comforting.”
Daryl Woodard said the school doesn’t have to have AdvancED accreditation, but it does make a difference for students who are applying to a college or university.
“It makes a difference if you are graduating from a school that has been accredited than one that is not,” Woodard said. “We are positioned now, especially with out first graduating class, that they are positioned to have something that will hit the desk that will show that we have AP Capstone program here. We have accreditation. We are positioning them to not only get an athletic scholarship but also an academic scholarship. It is something that we are very proud of.”
Wilson Preparatory Academy, located on Tilghman Road, also received an Exceeded Academic Growth Award for 2016-17 from Mark Johnson, state superintendent of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
“Last year we exceeded growth,” Woodard said. “That was something we were very proud of too, because of the hard work that the kids did and the teachers did.”