Hilburn Academy: Who We Are
Hilburn Academy is part of the Wake County Public School System in Raleigh, North Carolina. Wake's only combined NC STEM Collaboration Network and Global Studies Network school, Hilburn is also the district's only PreK-8 program. The application of the Engineering Design Process, the use of project-based learning and a technology-rich environment define Hilburn as the school system's unique "21st Century Learning Campus." Students start taking Spanish classes starting in Kindergarten and have the opportunity to take high school-level credit courses in the middle grades program. The Arts are also important to the program as well, and students in Grades 6 through 8 may participate in the band program. As a technology-forward school, all middle grades students receive a personal laptop computer for use in daily classes beginning in the 6th grade. Hilburn Academy is a high-performing school, having exceeded the federal NCLB targets in multiple recent years; the school has also Exceeded Growth expectations on standardized tests for the past several years in a row as a STEM school. A 21st-Century skill-based curriculum, combined with a very active PTA and the wonderful opportunities only possible with a comprehensive preK-8 program make Hilburn Academy a superior choice for families in North Raleigh.
Beginnings. Hilburn Academy's roots began in 1995, when the school was built on a 26-acre hilltop in suburban northwest Raleigh. Designed with large, open spaces that utilize natural lighting, the school was designed as a multi-track year round school but has never been used as such. Upon opening in Fall 1995, it served as the proxy site for nearby Jeffrey's Grove Elementary, while that school was being rebuilt. (Mr. Kevin Hill, a recent Chairman of our district's school board, was the principal at Jeffrey's Grove at that time and therefore oversaw the opening of Hilburn's building.) The following year, nearby Leesville Road Elementary began using the campus due to extreme overcrowding at that school - and continued to do so for several years.
Hilburn Becomes It's Own. The WCPSS Board of Education assigned Hilburn its own school population in 2000, and it was that fall when the Hilburn school community was born. Mrs. Barbara Cooper served as the school's first principal until Mrs. Kristen Faircloth became principal in 2003. In the years that followed, tremendous growth in the area caused the school's population to swell to 920 students in 2007, well beyond the designed capacity of around 750 students at the time. The school's performance on state assessments remained consistently high.
Change Comes. In July 2008, the newly-built Sycamore Creek Year-Round Elementary School opened nearby to alleviate crowding in the area's schools. Many of Hilburn's students and staff transferred to be part of the exciting new school. The Sycamore Creek campus was not complete in time for its scheduled July opening that year, so Hilburn returned to its roots as a proxy campus by hosting Sycamore's population until August of that year. Mr. Gregory Ford was appointed as Hilburn's third principal in January 2008, and students from distant Raleigh neighborhoods were reassigned to Hilburn in the fall to fill the many empty seats created by Sycamore's opening. Now serving two communities that were miles apart, the Hilburn school community worked hard to maintain a thriving school culture and climate that celebrated achievement, diversity and creativity. Test scores dropped during this time of transition, and teachers adapted instruction to meet the needs of a population with diverse learning needs. With no additional neighborhoods reassigned to the school in the next few years and the onset of an economic recession, the population of the school continued to shrink while the needs of the student population increased. The population decline continued with the opening of the new Walnut Creek Elementary School in southeast Raleigh in 2011. Many of Hilburn's then-current students from that area were reassigned to the new school, and again no new neighborhoods were reassigned to Hilburn. As a result, the school's population at the start of the 2011-2012 school year was just 348, just over a third of its size four years earlier.
A New Vision. It was the election of a new school board in 2010 and their appointment of a new superintendent that heralded the dawn of a new era for Hilburn. The school's active parents effectively organized a campaign to bring attention to the school's dwindling population and resources. Mrs. Deborah Prickett, newly elected to the Board and a former Hilburn parent herself, helped guide the community discussion about creative options that would build upon Hilburn's strengths with possibly a new vision for serving the northwest Raleigh community. Superintendent Tony Tata and his staff visited the school on several occasions in early 2011 to hear feedback from parents and staff to discuss possible options. Several innovative programs were suggested and approved by the Board, and Hilburn eventually came to win membership to the NC STEM Collaborative Network. As a result, additional staff, iPads for every grade level, and a focus on the Engineering Design Process came online in Fall 2011.
Still, conversations continued about how Hilburn might additionally serve the area. Anticipating the need for nearly 300 additional middle school seats in northwest Raleigh by 2014, the Board approved the expansion of Hilburn to a preK-8 program as a prototype for future conversions of other Wake schools. The cost of the conversion, nearly $3.1 million, was much less than the nearly $35 million needed to build a new middle school in difficult economic times. With this plan Hilburn's future would be secured, and the additional middle school seats would be provided for the community at a fraction of the cost of building a new school. The entire community would benefit from a state-of-the-art STEM program and families desiring the continuity of a K-8 program in a small-school environment would benefit. The largest discussion, it seemed, was the calendar designation of the school: remain traditional or become year-round. A lively community discussion ensued, and the district considered input received through a community survey that fall. In the end, the School Board approved the plan to convert Hilburn to a K-8 program starting in 2012-13 on the traditional calendar, changed the school's name to Hilburn Academy to reflect this new configuration, and awarded Hilburn entry into the Global Schools Network along with its current STEM focus.
Media reports from this era provide additional details. Please see the following:
- On the K-8 conversion proposal - article and video
- November 2011 Hilburn update to the BoE - Cheryl Fenner, assistant principal at the time, speaks at 32 minute timestamp
Transformation. Using the feedback from a community survey and the direction of Hilburn's PTA, the school leadership team and district administrators, the plans for Hilburn's immediate future were set. Hilburn Academy will continue as Wake's lead STEM school and continue to offer innovative leadership in this area, such as our Flipping initiative. (Please see our tab under Innovation!) Our collaboration with NC State University's School of Engineering, considerable professional development offered to our teachers, SmartBoards in every classroom and iPad carts for every grade level, project-based learning strategies, offerings of Band instruction for students in grades 6-8 and Spanish specials and elective options for all K-8 students truly makes Hilburn a destination-school for forward-thinking students, staff and families. Construction of a new Science & Engineering Building began in August 2012 with plans to contain state-of-the-art science classrooms, an engineering/robotics lab and other innovative and collaborative spaces. Grade 6 joined Hilburn in Fall 2012, followed by 7th grade in 2013 and 8th grade in 2014. The completion of Hilburn Academy's transition to a PreK-8 school was evident in the commencement of 81 Eighth Graders in June 2015.
The response to Hilburn Academy's status and plans for the future was tremendously positive in the community. Over 1500 prospective parents and students visited Hilburn from December 2011 to early March 2012. By May 1, 2012, nearly every seat in each grade level had been filled for the 2012-2013 school year. Following a very well-attended Open House the previous week, students arrived for the first day of school on August 27, 2012.
With great program success in 2012-2013, seats at Hilburn Academy for the 2013-2014 school year were full by March 2013. To handle campus capacity and program integrity concerns, the School Board considered capped enrollment at the school. Families moving into Hilburn's base attendance areas after April 9, 2013 are now assigned to nearby Brier Creek, Sycamore Creek or Jeffreys Grove Elementary schools.
With the new program focus, the 2011-2012 school year saw two successful STEM Expos, considerable implementation of technology in every teaching space, and innovative teaching practices focusing on 21st century learning skills. Student performance soared. In 2012-2013, construction across campus for the K-8 conversion was completed: a new roof, new playing fields, new band room, new middle grades furniture and complete media collection, and the construction of a state-of-the art Science & Engineering Building. The STEAM program refined the school's focus on the Academy of Engineers Grand Challenges, creating school-wide themes for project-based learning. For example, the Grand Challenge for spring 2013 was "Providing Access to Clean Water.: Students in all grade levels are learning about the social, politicial, geographic, economic, moral, cultural and logistical elements of this theme through developmentally-appropriate activities based on grade level curricula. The school's business/community/university partnership has expanded significantly to provide capital resources and support to students' projects and bring experts into the classroom in person, virtually, or through student internships. in
Mrs. Hummel Honored
Congratulations to Mrs. Amanda Hummel (Pre-K teacher), who was awarded the prestigious Lara Jane Parker Award for Excellence in her work with students with communication and mobility needs. Here she is at the April 11, 2013 reception at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill.
State Superintendent Visit
Dr. June Atkinson, our State Superintendent, held a press conference at Hilburn Academy on April 23rd to announce a new school-business literacy initiative. Click here for details!
N&O features Hilburn's Service Club
Click here to check out this great article featuring members of Hilburn Academy's
Student Service Club!
Student Service Club!
Science & Engineering Building
Photo Update: 3.14.13
Photo Update: 3.14.13