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Educating the exceptional

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The Achievement School taps headmaster.

By Ret Boney

RALEIGH, N.C.  [06.18.04] — Junell Blaylock will come out of retirement July 1 to become headmaster of The Achievement School in Raleigh, an accredited private school catering to children in grades 1 through 12 who have learning disabilities.

She will replace Leon Silber, the school’s founder and leader since 1981, who will retire at the end of July.

“She comes with a wonderful portfolio of experience,” says Barbara Goodmon, who serves on the board of The Achievement School and was a member of the search committee.

Blaylock brings 30 years of classroom and administrative experience to the school.

She was an elementary and high school teacher, administrator of learning disability and other specialized programs, and headmaster of Kerr-Vance Academy in Vance County.

“She has an outgoing personality and is good with people,” says Goodmon, who is president of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which publishes the Philanthropy Journal. “Junell will be very active and
engaged in the community.”

Junell Blaylock

Job: Headmaster beginning July 1, The Achievement School, Raleigh

Born: 1951, Auburn, N.Y.

Education: B.A., English, Bay Path College; MA., special education, M.A., administration and supervision, East Carolina University

Family: Daughter, 20, son 14

Hobbies: Home renovation, gardening, reading

Currently reading: “Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country”, by Rosalind Miles

Inspiration: Older brother, Kenneth, who is learning-disabled

Blaylock, who has an undergraduate degree in English, happened into the field of special education by chance when she accepted a job with an elementary school in rural Warren County.

She was placed in a class with fourth, fifth and sixth graders with learning disabilities, an environment that was familiar and gratifying for Blaylock, whose older brother had struggled through school with learning disabilities.

“At the time, there was no help for him,” she says, “So I felt like this was really important.”

While teaching in Warren County, she sought training in learning disabilities from Silber, who became a mentor for her, and earned a master’s degree from East Carolina University in special education, later returning for another master’s in administration and supervision.

After five years in the classroom, Blaylock became the director of exceptional children’s programs, overseeing programs for the mentally handicapped; speech-, language- and hearing-impaired, and  behaviorally challenged, as well as guidance, health and dropout- and drug-prevention programs.

After 13 years, a love for teaching led her back to the classroom, where she taught math and science to learning-disabled students at Northern Vance High School.

She then was hired as headmaster of Kerr-Vance Academy, a private school with students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

“It was a fixer-upper at the time,” she says. “It was a challenge.”

After a decade as headmaster, overseeing an enrollment increase from 265 students to 614, Blaylock retired to work on her 1932 “storybook house,” tend her garden and take on the occasional consulting project.

Within a year, an interested friend and a love for helping the learning-disabled pulled her out of retirement.

Now, she turns her sights to The Achievement School, where experienced teachers and individualized curricula are designed to help students who have learning disabilities, dyslexia or attention-deficit disorders successfully navigate through their primary schooling years, preparing them for further education or the work world.

“It seems such a full circle,” says Blaylock, “this school is a perfect match,” with her experience and skills.

Blaylock says she will spend the first year getting to know the school, undergoing training to learn the school’s specific approaches, networking with other professionals in the field and forming connections with local colleges and universities.

“We need to make sure the public knows about this,” she says, “about what a good job the school is doing with learning disabled students.”

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