Center for Knowledge North is ‘diving for pearls’

Students at CFKN gathered to see the school highlighted in the Palmetto’s Finest awards ceremony.

Editors Note: Center for Knowledge North is located in Blythewood on the campus of Muller Road Middle School; Center for Knowledge is located on the campus of EL Wright Middle School. The two campuses operate as one school.

BLYTHEWOOD – As students and staff gathered in the multipurpose room at Center for Knowledge North to await the announcement for the Palmetto’s Finest Awards on Tuesday, Jessica Agee, principal for Center for Knowledge (CFK) and Center for Knowledge North (CFKN), told them that she was anxious.

“Just like you get a little nervous sometimes, guess what – I feel a little nervous. You know that feeling when you have, like, a pit in your stomach and you’re like, ‘I don’t think I can eat. I don’t think I can do it.’ Do you ever feel that way?” she asked them. “Well grown-ups feel that way too.”

 Agee confessed that the only thing she’d been able to eat that day was a fortune cookie she was given.

Richland Two Superintendent Dr. Kim Moore with CFK/CFKN Principal Jessica Agee and CFKN Lead Teacher Paige Malone.

“It’s a good one,” she said before revealing its fitting contents to the students. “It says, ‘Only if you dive for pearls shall you find one.’”

“Isn’t that a good one?” she asked over their murmurs of excitement.

“So Rhett says that means to always try your best, and he’s right. If you go looking for something, what are you going to find?”

“It!” one of the students chimed.

“What you’re looking for,” she agreed. “If we try our hardest, we put ourselves out there, we say, ‘You know what? We’re going write a 25 page paper.’ That’s what we did to apply for this award…”

Agee went on to explain to the students that the two campuses, which operate as one school, were selected as a finalist for the prestigious Palmetto’s Finest Award, one of the most coveted and respected awards among educators.

“Did you know,” she told the students, “that there are 1,161 public schools in our state? We’re just 1 of them. And out of all of those schools that could have applied, they narrowed it down to 19 that got visits. And we got 2 visits – remember that? And now we’re down to one of six that are finalists for this award.”

According to a press release from Richland Two earlier this year, CFK and CFK North’s selection came after extensive evaluations by a committee of fellow educators and previous Palmetto’s Finest winners.

Because everybody in this building collectively works so hard, it is easy to forget how amazing they are.

– Jessica Agee, Principal

The application process includes elements on student achievement, instructional programs, professional learning communities and school culture. The Centers completed two onsite examination visits from a review committee before the winning schools were announced on Tuesday.

“We are honored to be recognized as a finalist for this prestigious award,” Agee said in February, prior to the school’s second onsite visit. “We look forward to the opportunity to continue highlighting the incredible work that our teachers, staff and students do each day.” 

With all of the prep work and two site visits under their belts, all that remained was Tuesday’s announcement of the winners through a livestream via SC ETV.

As the students eagerly awaited the beginning of the stream, Agee touted the reasons that they applied for the coveted award.

“The reason we did this was not about Mrs. Agee or Mrs. Malone… it was about all of these teachers. Because here is the secret,” she said. “They are the very best of the very best. And when you are surrounded by the best, you forget how good you are.

“Because everybody in this building collectively works so hard, it is easy to forget how amazing they are,” she continued. “So my hope today is that they know that. And whether we win or not, I hope you’ll remind them of that.”

Then Agee told the students that they were the second reason for applying.

“Because you all work so hard and you come here every day and you do your best. And even when we make mistakes, even when we fall short of our goals, we come back each day and we try again and we work together. That is what growing is. And that is why we applied,” she said.

As the stream was set to begin, Agee reminded the students that just being selected as a finalist was special.

 “No matter what happens today, we’re winners,” she said. “If they tell us that we’re the winner, then we are happy with that. But if we walk away even as just 1 of 6 finalists, we still won.

“I don’t want anyone to feel disappointed or upset… because we left nothing on the table. We did our best. We represented ourselves well, and we’re going to continue to do that. Whether we win today or not, none of that changes.

“My word for the year was celebrate,” she said. “No matter what happens at the end of this, we’re going to celebrate. I love you all.”

Because it is a magnet school of choice and operates two campuses, CFK/CFKN qualified in the Special Schools category rather than the Elementary Schools category. Ultimately, Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence claimed the award for Palmetto’s Finest in the Special Schools category.

While Center for Knowledge didn’t receive the Palmetto’s Finest Award on Tuesday, there were a lot of smiles and laughs and an outpouring of love in that room… and a crowd of people just diving for pearls.

CFKN students celebrate being selected as a finalist for Palmetto’s Finest Award.

SCASA’s description of CFK/CFKN during the livestream

Center for Knowledge & Center for Knowledge North is a magnet school of choice and consists of two campuses in the heart of the Midlands. Across both campuses, over 520 total students are enrolled in grades K through 5.

In collaboration with their larger school community, E. D. Hirsch Core Knowledge Sequence and South Carolina College and Career Ready Standards are combined to create a rigorous dual-curriculum academic experience, transforming students into independent thinkers who can compete internationally.

Students engage in learning experiences meant to be accelerating and challenging for all, regardless of their achievement levels.

Center for Knowledge and Center for Knowledge North received Excellent School Report Card ratings in 2023 and historically rank among the top-25 schools in the state. They have received the Palmetto Gold and Palmetto Silver awards for over a decade and maintain their status as a Magnet Schools of America Nationally Certified Demonstration Site.

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]