Watson Chronicle


Watson College News

UNCW’s Lab School Journey Continues

Saturday, November 11, 2017

UNCW is partnering with New Hanover County Schools and D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy to create a lab school in Wilmington. The lab school is one of nine to be created at UNC system campuses as required in recently passed legislation. The initiative is aimed at providing enhanced educational programming to students in low-performing schools.

UNCW and NHCS held seven open forums this fall to give parents and community members opportunities to ask questions, share ideas and voice concerns as planning for the school got underway. They have also reached out to the Blue Ribbon Commission, the Virgo Alumni Association, the NAACP and local churches in an effort to build connections in the community.

“The educators and community members involved in the planning of this proposed school are focused on a strong community partnership,” said Van Dempsey, dean of UNCW’s Watson College of Education. “The Watson College is honored to have a leadership role in this process.”

Donyell Roseboro, associate dean of Teacher Education and Outreach, is partnering with Dempsey and New Hanover County Schools superintendent Tim Markley to lead a core design team charged with lab school planning. At each community forum, she asked participants “to ‘dream big’ as we collectively envision how we might enrich the lives of young people who attend D.C. Virgo.”

Preliminary plans call for creation of a K-8 school that serves a student population of 270 and offers wrap-around services for students and families. If the proposal is approved by the state in December, the laboratory school is expected to open at the start of the 2018-19 academic year.

Roseboro recently shared her hopes for the school. “For every dream that a young person at Virgo imagines, I hope that the learning environment we create at the school will inspire that young person to achieve those dreams,” she said. “I hope that the school becomes world renowned as a place where students achieve, where their creativity and ingenuity soars and where their civic engagement creates incredible possibilities for us all.”

UNCW Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli and Provost Marilyn Sheerer toured D.C. Virgo and participated in an open forum at the school on Nov. 8, and Sheerer spoke about UNCW’s plans during a welcome address at the NC School-University Partnership Summit in October.

“There is significant lab school movement in the state,” she said. “ECU and Western are up. UNCW is getting ready to launch, and we’re getting quite excited about it. Why? Our folks here in Watson won’t do it in any way except in a partnership. UNCW’s lab school approach is another example of how much we believe in our school partnerships and a wrap-around model of working together to meet the needs of children.”

Jessica Swencki joined the design team as Lab School Project Implementation Coordinator on Dec. 1. Please join us in welcoming her to UNCW!

Jessica B. Swencki

Lab School Project Implementation Coordinator

Jessica Swencki has served students and families in the public schools of North Carolina for 24 years. 

Her career began as a special education teacher in Pender County Schools.  She received her BA in Special Education with a concentration in behavioral/emotional disorders and learning disabilities from UNCW in 1993 where she was a North Carolina Teaching Fellow.  She returned to UNCW as a North Carolina Principal Fellow and received her Masters in School Administration in 2000. 

Swencki has served as director of exceptional children programs in Brunswick and Pender Counties and southeast regional special education consultant for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. 

Prior to her appointment at UNCW, Swencki was serving as chief officer for quality assurance and community engagement in Brunswick County Schools.  In addition to serving as the spokeswoman for the Brunswick County School System, Swencki was responsible for continuous improvement efforts that sustain district accreditation.  She coordinated system strategic planning, division and school improvement planning, and ongoing professional development and monitoring efforts which included annual school quality assurance reviews and quarterly administrative coaching sessions. She provided ongoing policy analysis and recommendations for the administration and Board. Her responsibilities included coordination and implementation of internal and external system communication efforts including website management, media relations, community engagement, and publications. Her efforts are credited for the successful passage of the recent $152 million dollar school bond.    

Swencki currently serves on the Board of Directors for the North Carolina School Public Relations Association and as a Council member for North Carolina AdvancED.  She resides in Burgaw with her husband Akira, who is also a proud alumnus of UNCW ‘95.   

“We are thrilled to have Jessica join our Teacher Education and Outreach Team,” Roseboro said. “Her expertise and experience with K-12 education as an Exceptional Children’s Director and, most recently, Chief Quality Assurance and Community Engagement Officer for Brunswick County Schools, will strengthen the school design efforts as we move forward. She is reaching out to various individuals, school and community stakeholders to ensure that our timeline is appropriate and design team efforts are coordinated.”

For more information, please visit the Lab School website.