Cary Academy 25th Anniversary

Magazine of CA

Charging ahead.

December 1, 2022

25 years ago, an intrepid group of education visionaries, technologists, and operations experts were tapped by our founders Jim and Ann Goodnight and John and Ginger Sall to design a ground-breaking, student-centered, technology-forward, mold-busting school for the future. Cary Academy was born.

Much has changed since that hot August day in 1997 when we first welcomed 255 students to campus, gathering in front of the Administration building for our first ever Handshake Ceremony. (For proof, look no further than the timeline in the following pages.)

Twenty-two classes of Chargers have since walked across the commencement stage, heading out into the world as lifelong learners and global change makers. Muddy pathways have long given way to stunning, mature landscaping. Clunky desktop computers—so groundbreaking at the time— have been traded for lightweight tablets that can accompany students on their learning sojourns outside the classroom or VR goggles that can transport students to new worlds altogether. Construction barricades have yielded to new buildings—shrines to the arts and sciences that are thoughtfully designed to inspire creativity, embolden curiosity, and support teaching and learning. Nascent athletic teams have grown into state champion powerhouses.

Throughout the many changes the years have brought, one thing has remained wholly unchanged: an unwavering commitment to our learning community and founding mission—to inviting discovery, leading innovation, fostering collaboration, and pursuing excellence in all its many forms. It is imprinted in our very institutional DNA, a promise to our students, families, faculty, and staff.

For 25 years, we’ve witnessed this commitment in action every day. It’s in the way our faculty have continually pushed our curriculum to keep CA at the forefront of pedagogical innovation year after year. It’s in the way our students, empower d by the voice and choice they have in their learning, astonish us daily as they embrace their interests to forge their own learning journeys to remarkable outcomes.

It’s in the support from our community— perhaps no more evident than in these last COVID-shaped years—and the way we have stood together in times of adversity, modeling the very persistence, resilience, and human kindness we hope to instill in our students. It’s in the many ways our alumni are making positive changes in the world, fearlessly pursuing passions that originated right here on campus. And it is in how our inclusive community increasingly reflects the rich diversity of our area, representing a variety of experiences and perspectives that enrich us all. It is in our ongoing anti-racist and equity work that seeks to ensure all our community members feel seen, heard, and respected for their authentic selves.

This last year, we’ve embraced our 25th- anniversary theme—looking back, charging ahead—coming together on a variety of occasions to celebrate this momentous milestone. Like any good student, we know that fully appreciating our present and charting a course for the future, means taking stock of our past—of the experiences and people that have shaped who we are as an institution today. It means acknowledging both how far we have come and the work that still lies ahead. We have so much to celebrate.

To our founders and board members, we offer heartfelt thanks for your enduring vision and tireless support. To our faculty and staff, your commitment to our mission— the way you bring it to life in and out of your classrooms—is breathtaking. To our students and alumni, you are the beating heart of Cary Academy, the very embodiment of our mission in the world. And to our community and all who support us, we could never do it without you.

Together, we can’t wait to discover what the next 25 years will bring. We know it will be phenomenal.

T H E F I R S T 2 5 Y E A R S


1994 :: Cary Academy’s visionary founders Ann and Jim Goodnight and Ginger and John Sall articulate a bold vision: a school for the future centered on the whole child— one that fosters academic achievement, champions social and emotional development, leverages technology as an innovative learning tool that would engage and empower students, and inspires engaged citizenship.

1994-1995 :: CA’s founders convene a collaborative planning committee comprised of local education experts, operations managers, and technologists. Together, they embark on an exploratory, in-depth planning process, traveling widely to conferences and peer institutions across the country, soliciting feedback and perspectives.

Late 1995 :: The site for CA’s campus—Harrison Road—is selected. Raleigh’s Cherry Huffman Architects are hired to prepare initial architectural drawings.

As a new school, it was crucial that the campus reflect established models of educational accomplishment and an atmosphere of quiet, scholarly reflection. With its famous central quadrangle, domed rotunda, brick facades, and Georgian columns, the University of Virginia is selected as a model.

Behind the traditional, elegant façade, a powerful technology infrastructure emerges, including cutting- edge personal computers, an enhanced campus intranet, and state-of-the-art software. These innovations, coupled with flexible classroom spaces, offer faculty and students the flexibility to accommodate multiple teaching and learning modalities.

1996 :: CA’s planning committee presents the plan to the local community, including local leaders attending the Cary Chamber of Commerce annual planning conference. Six months later, Cary officials approve campus construction, and Cary Academy officially breaks ground in April 1996.

1996-1997 :: With campus construction underway, the founders transfer day-to-day responsibility for Cary Academy’s program development to newly hired educational administrators, including Head of School Don Berger, Head of Middle School Marti Jenkins, and CFO Deborah Reichel.

1997 :: Cary Academy’s draft mission statement, which endures to this day, is crafted and approved.

August 1997 :: Two buildings—the Middle School and Upper School—are completed, just in time to welcome students on opening day. Three additional buildings—the Student Center Dining Hall, Sports and Fitness Center, and Administration building—follow shortly in the months thereafter.

August 18, 1997 :: CA opens its doors for the first time. Two hundred forty-four new Chargers assemble outside the Middle School for our first-ever Handshake Ceremony.

Fall 1997 :: Construction of Berger Hall, our state-of-the- art performing arts center, commences.

October 1998 :: Berger Hall opens to students.

1998-1999 :: CA joins the TISAC conference for athletics.

1999 :: CA embarks on its first long-term strategic planning process, making the bold move to incorporate current students into the process.


May 2000 :: CA holds its first Commencement ceremony, celebrating the Class of 2000.

December 2000 :: CA celebrates its first Homecoming celebration.

2001 :: The William C. Friday Summer Fellowship Program is created, establishing funding to award annually to three to five selected faculty for professional development projects that directly strengthen their teaching and field expertise.

Summer 2001 :: CA’s technological infrastructure undergoes a complete renewal and expansion.

2003 :: Two new buildings open—the Fine Arts Extension, featuring enlarged visual arts studio space, and the Sports Education Annex, with basketball courts, sports medicine facilities, and classrooms—dramatically expanding the capacity for arts programming and rehearsal spaces.

May 2003 :: Our inaugural World Exchange Program travelers set off for learning opportunities in China, Argentina, Germany, and France.

2004 :: CA launches its Cary Academy Recognition for Mission Advancement (CARMA) program, offering a four- year award to those faculty that uphold and advance the school’s mission in extraordinary ways.

2004 :: CA embarks on its second long-range strategic planning process.

2006 :: The Class of 2006 launches the immensely popular X-Factor student athletic booster group.

2006–2007 :: CA once again upgrades its technology, leapfrogging conventional laptops in favor of new wireless-enabled tablets that feature inking capabilities which allow students to take notes and make sketches directly on-screen.

2007 :: The community celebrates the Charger Stampede, revealing the large painted Charger horses that adorn campus, sponsored by the PTAA.

2007 :: CA celebrates its 10th anniversary with the publication of 1500 North Harrison Avenue Bistro—A Cary Academy Family Cookbook and a large community event at Koka Booth Amphitheater.


2013 :: After an extensive and highly competitive search, CA selects Dr. Michael Ehrhardt as the new Head of School.

2014 :: Construction is completed on a new Field House next to the Stadium Field, finishing the last element imagined as part of the school’s original master facilities plan.

2015 :: CA embarks on an ambitious new master facilities plan as part of its latest strategic plan. To support this plan, the school begins its first-ever Campaign for Cary Academy.

2016 :: CA tests some of the open-space concepts embedded in the master facilities plan with two projects in the Upper School and renovates the lower part of Berger Hall to create a Discovery Studio and small makerspace.

2016 :: In the fall, students and alumni organize and host the first TEDxCaryAcademy with a theme of Ideas and Impact. Friday Night Lights—a spirit night of flag football and community games—makes its debut. In the spring, the Upper School re-introduces a structured internship program for 22 juniors during Discovery Term.

2016 :: Ground breaks on the new Center for Math and Science, a renovation and expansion of the former Sports Education Annex, featuring renovated Upper School math classrooms, eight state-of-the-art science laboratories, a greenhouse, and a large makerspace with 3D printers, a laser cutter, and a water jet. It also houses a bright and welcoming large-group meeting space and our second gymnasium, the CMS gym.

2017 :: Students compete in the first-ever Drink Cart Challenge, a team-based entrepreneurial competition. Several years later, the school will launch a full-blown entrepreneurial program and a new Charger Café.

2018 :: CA conducts its first large-scale alumni survey, garnering incredible feedback on the institutional impact it has had on the careers and lives of former students.

The structured internship program grows into the Work Experience Program, providing mini-internship opportunities for nearly 75% of juniors.

2019 :: CA doubles the size of the old weight room in the Fitness Center to create the Wilson Training Center, which features updated, state-of-the-art equipment and increased natural light.


2020 :: The track is resurfaced with a new Olympic-caliber Mondo running surface, the first of its kind in the Southeast.

2020 :: Renovation is completed in the Library, creating a new Charger store and café, a quiet study area, and several new glassed conference and meeting rooms.

2021 :: CA opens the academic year with a renovated Upper School that includes a revised entry, open and bright hallways, new meeting and collaboration spaces for students and faculty, and a new home base for the Center for Community Engagement.

T H E N E X T 2 5 Y E A R S

2023 :: CA begins work on its newest strategic plan, following an ambitious vision:

“Cary Academy will create personalized learning opportunities that are flexible and relevant in an environment that supports student wellbeing. We will cultivate self-directed and bold life-long learners who make meaningful contributions to the world.”

2023 :: Cary Academy embarks on an expansive Middle School renovation to align the building with the aesthetic established across campus and provide for middle-school- specific learning and community spaces.

2036 :: Cary Academy celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Written by Mandy Dailey, Director of Communications

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Looking back, charging ahead: Celebrating 25 years

January 19, 2022

Get ready to celebrate! Mark your calendars for Cary Academy’s 25th Anniversary Celebration – a weekend of celebrating tradition and looking towards the future.

Friday, May 20

Leadership Circle Stewardship Reception
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Center for Math and Science

Alumni Reunion Welcome Reception
7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Upper School

Saturday, May 21

Cary Academy 5k
8:00 a.m.
Track and Field Stadium

25 Years of Cary Academy: A Celebratory Picnic
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
The Quad

A Festival of Fun for Families and Friends of All Ages
12:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Middle School Field

Alumni Class Reunions
Times will vary
Various Locations

Sunday, May 22

2:00 p.m.
Center for Math and Science

Written by Mandy Dailey, Director of Communications

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January 19, 2022

Save the date!

Mark your calendars for Cary Academy’s first community-wide giving day on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Stay tuned for more details and information about how you can unlock the future for our Chargers!

Written by Mandy Dailey, Director of Communications

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January 19, 2022

Save the date for a special Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day on Friday, March 25th! Guests can join their Middle and Upper School students on campus from 8 AM to 12 PM for a fun-filled Charger experience.

Invitation to follow with more details.

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Giving Tuesday: Celebrating 25 years of community partnership

December 2, 2021

Each year, on Giving Tuesday, CA focuses on how we can give back to our local community by considering the ways in which we can support those who help to bolster our mission–all while doing important work in the world.  After all, as our mission states, CA is more than just a school; we are a learning community—and that community extends well beyond the confines of our campus. 

Our community partners are integral to nearly all aspects of the CA experience. They help with the thorny logistics of transporting students across the state, ensure that we are well-fed, and keep our campus systems humming (who doesn’t appreciate a working air conditioner?). Others help us deliver transformative and eye-opening service, entrepreneurial, and experiential learning opportunities in collaboration with those outside of our immediate community.  Regardless of their contribution, we want to make sure we take time to acknowledge and appreciate our extended Charger community—those people and organizations that help not just our students and families, but those across the Triangle, thrive.  

With strong leadership from our students, the past two years we hosted drives for the Diaper Bank of North Carolina and filled the youth store for Haven House in Raleigh. This year, as we celebrate Cary Academy’s 25th anniversary, we are reflecting and honoring the important role that many of our community partners—local nonprofits, vendors, businesses, sponsors, contractors, and friends—have played in making CA what we are today. As the old adage goes, it takes a village. And we are so incredibly appreciative of ours.  

In collaboration with our students and the Center for Community Engagement, for Giving Tuesday this year we will be putting together grateful gathers – bags of goodies, treats, and notes of appreciation, to those who have quietly, tirelessly given their time, their services, their wares, their support – all to assist and enhance the experiences on this campus. Utilizing X-Day, students will assemble the bags, and throughout the month of December, employees and students will deliver almost 70 gifts to friends across the Triangle.  

The Cary Academy experience, and particularly the work of the Center for Community Engagement, relies upon community partnerships to help make learning tangible and realistic. We could not do the work we do without the support of others. During this season of gratitude, we encourage you to reflect on those who inspire you, assist you, and help you to be the person you are—and the person you are becoming–and join us in extending an extra token of thanks to them.  

Written by Maggie Grant, Service Learning Director and Ali Page, Director of Development

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Marti Jenkins

Faculty Reflections

Founding vision

September 1, 2021

Ask founding Head of Middle School Marti Jenkins to recount a favorite memory of her twenty-five years at Cary Academy and she’s hard pressed to answer.

“That’s too hard; there are too many!” she exclaims with a laugh, before sharing a series of quick vignettes that spring to mind: The thrill of breaking ground on campus (and the nail-biting anxiety of getting the required certificate of occupancy the day before school opened). The excitement and nerves of traveling to local events (while eight-months pregnant) with little more than a series of watercolor renderings and an impassioned mission to entice prospective parents to enroll. The overwhelming sense of community at the opening day ceremony. And, the warm connections made with early families—those that were willing to make the leap of faith and join CA based on the strength of vision alone.

Of course, there are also the countless moments—small and large, challenging and cherished—that she has shared with students over the years that are close to her heart. While impossible to choose a favorite, she admits that graduation days are highlights, as are the many notes, emails, and visits from former students that come back as adults to say thank you or share stories of their success (particularly from those that might have struggled initially in Middle School, but ultimately found their place and flourished).

In her final weeks on CA’s campus, however, it is those early days that have been top of mind as she reflects on her journey.

Inspiring vision

Her eyes light up as she recalls them—pivotal moments that shaped CA’s foundations, long before the first bricks were laid. Together, they represent many intense hours spent collaborating shoulder-to-shoulder with an intrepid group of education visionaries, technologists, and operations experts that were tapped by Cary Academy Founders Jim and Ann Goodnight and John and Ginger Sall to design a ground-breaking, technology-forward, mold-busting middle school for the future.

For Jenkins, it was a time awash with the palpable promise of possibility.

“The opportunity to open a school is such a rare occurrence, such a wonderful opportunity for an educator,” enthuses Jenkins. “There was so much dreaming in that first year, so much exciting and inspiring brainstorming. We got to ask the big questions—the ones that matter. What would our mission be? What would an ideal middle school look like? How do we best serve the needs of our students?”

What emerged from those marathon planning sessions was, of course, the philosophical and physical blueprint for the Middle School we know today—one that broke significantly from the traditional junior-high model that was still prevalent at the time.

“Junior highs were generally envisioned as miniature high schools,” explains Jenkins. “Decisions—about curriculum, wellness, resources, etc.—were made with high-school students in mind and were expected to trickle down to the younger students.”

It was a model that was far less personal, far less human development-oriented and student-centered than middle school concept championed by Jenkins and embraced by CA’s founding leadership and faculty.

“We wanted something different. Instead, we started with a blank slate and the freedom and flexibility to focus specifically on the middle school-aged learner. We put them in the center and designed a program, a building, a school from there—one that would best meet their specific physical, emotional, intellectual, developmental, and social needs.”

A new blueprint

For Jenkins, that focus was personal. “I love Middle School-aged students. I love seeing them change on an hourly, daily, and annual basis. You might be talking to a student one day and that same student will be a little different the next day, just depending on the space they are in. At CA, we focused on developing a program that morphs around their needs, that meets them where they are and prepares and guides them for what comes next.

“I think from all my years here, that’s still what I am most proud of, what I find most exciting. We are true champions of the young adolescent learner,” reflects Jenkins.

Founding Middle School teacher, inaugural Service Learning Director, and CA parent, Tami Polge, remembers well the energy Jenkins brought to early planning and faculty meetings, facilitating lively discussions that would ultimately go on to shape the curriculum, culture, and lasting traditions of the Middle School. She credits Jenkins with setting a pioneering example—one that empowered faculty to dream big, lean into the CA mission, and innovate and collaborate in new and exciting ways.

“I’m grateful for Marti’s leadership­—for setting a tone for the Middle School, one that put a high priority on team building, lifelong learning, and the spirit of adventure,” recalls Polge. “When we proposed a new curriculum, or even a whole new program such as service learning, when we pitched field trip ideas or events, or when we requested resources, Marti was actively listening and receptive. For some of the more ambitious ideas, she would have a twinkle in her eye, asking how it would further our mission and what we needed to pull it off.”

And so, under Jenkins’s guidance, the hallmarks of the student-centric CA Middle School experience emerged: a robust advisory program to support physical, social, and emotional growth; an integrated, interdisciplinary curriculum that would inspire curiosity and invite discovery of connections across content areas; and arts, world language, and physical education components that were integral, not elective, to encourage experimentation, safe risk-taking, and exploration. Most crucially, it would all be delivered by a supportive, rallying community of educators working together in grade-level teams to truly know and understand each student as an individual—their needs, passions, strengths, challenges, aspirations, and concerns—to ensure everyone had the best chance to thrive.

“Marti‘s gift to CA was designing a program that always kept Middle School children’s adolescent development at the forefront of our planning,” recalls former founding Head of School Don Berger. “She developed the Middle School team concept that still exists today and orchestrated the student-centered teaching that blended beautifully emerging technology with core academic skill development. She also made sure the arts were an integral part of all students’ learning­—a major reason that CA is as renowned for its arts program as well as its technology.”

Firm foundations

It was a forward-thinking vision that was shaped, in large part, by the culmination of Jenkins’s own history and experience as an educator in both independent and public schools across the United States.

Jenkins, who was born overseas, traveled extensively as a child, courtesy of her father’s engineering career. Igniting a love of travel, the arts, and of cultural exploration, these experiences would one day translate to an undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology with a minor in the arts from Vanderbilt University.

The varied elementary and secondary education experiences of her youth—including both public and private institutions, American and European—also sparked an interest in education and teaching that was only furthered after opportunities to work with children both in high school and college. It was a nascent interest that would later lead to the pursuit of a Master in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of New Orleans.

In that program, she discovered her true passion. “Working on my certifications, I just fell in love with teaching, with working with kids,” recalls Jenkins.

After graduation, she spent years teaching in schools across New Orleans, both independent and public, gaining important insights into the affordances of both—into what worked programmatically and organizationally, and what didn’t—lessons that she would ultimately bring to Cary Academy. She was particularly intrigued by opportunities to combine her passions—education and the arts—in curricular innovations.

“Teaching in New Orleans was a fabulous experience, but I realized right away that I could make more of an impact, have more opportunities to make changes, if I was a school administrator,” explains Jenkins. “I had a wonderful professor at the University of New Orleans that used to say ‘don’t ask why, ask why not.’ It always stuck with me.”

Asking ‘why not’?

Wanting to have the power to push the envelope and advocate for change—to ask ‘why not’ in the transformation of classrooms—she embarked on her second master’s degree. This time, she chose a Master of Education in Education Administration from the University of Texas at Austin which focused on the principalship level.

In Texas, she had opportunities to work in close collaboration with local school boards and communities, making recommendations for programmatic improvements. It was her first taste of effecting real change on the larger education landscape, of making education responsive to community and individual learner needs.

Happily, a successful trimester long culminating internship—as Assistant Principal in an elementary school in one of the top school districts in Texas—turned into a post-graduation invitation to take the position on a permanent basis. She was on her way.

Later, a move to Jackson, Mississippi for her husband’s career would prove serendipitous, coinciding with a career opportunity seemingly tailor made to her interests: a principalship for a new magnet public school program that combined academics and performing arts for grades four through twelve. As principal, Jenkins would transform the entire program, transitioning it from a pull-out model to an on-site program.

“It was exciting!” recalls Jenkins of her four years at the Power Academic and Performing Arts Complex. “We were partnering with the national advocacy organization Parents for Public Schools that was fighting flight from public schools. There were so many cool opportunities to work closely with the community, with the parents. I really valued that, just as I had in Texas.”

Jenkins, pictured here with her husband David, looks forward to more time with family.
Building together

Indeed, for Jenkins, building something more than a mere school—but a true collaborative learning community—has always been paramount. If it was the promise of a blank slate and similar start-up vibe that initially drew her to Cary Academy, in part, it has been the incredible close-knit and mission-driven Cary Academy community that has encouraged her to stay all these years.

“As a community at CA, we all live and breathe our mission. I don’t think all schools can say that. Discovery, innovation, collaboration, and excellence—I see our mission in action constantly. I see it in the dedication and creativity of our faculty and staff, in the forward-thinking vision of our board, in the curiosity and personal growth of our students, and in the support from our wonderful families.” She stops to smile, “Who wouldn’t want to work in such an exciting environment, with such wonderful people?”

Fostering a sense of community—a sense of belonging—amongst the Middle School student body has also been crucial for Jenkins. Having moved many times during her childhood, it is not something that she herself experienced growing up. Recognizing that void in her own past has helped her to prioritize ensuring that her program supports students in authentically connecting with one another to find their place and people.

Cultivating that community is, of course, an important part of her legacy, but Jenkins is humble. She is quick to shift focus away from herself, spotlighting instead the “incredible” group of faculty and staff that she has helped develop over the years.

“It really is about the larger learning team. I view my role as minor compared to what the folks in the classrooms are doing. I’m just supporting that role, making sure their needs and the needs and interests of our program are met,” she offers.

“I’m proud to have built a place that attracts creative, energetic, student-centered, dedicated folks that love teaching Middle School and all it entails. It takes a unique person; not all educators can do it. When you’re working with this age, if something comes up—and it will­—the content is not going to take first place; you have to be able to be flexible, to be able to set aside whatever you had planned for that day and, instead, meet them where they are. Sometimes, you have to put yourself in their shoes.”

“I think the best teachers are those that either had challenging experiences themselves as students, or had really wonderful experiences. Either way, they remember and bring the lessons learned from those experiences to the classroom in a powerful way,” she continues.

Longtime colleague and eighth-grade social studies teacher David Snively credits Jenkins with giving him the freedom and flexibility to do just that. “The guiding principle that I took from Marti was something she said to me way back in the 20th century: ‘Do what you think will be best for the students.’ That directive gave permission for all sorts of stuff, from simulations to trips,” offers Snively.

“The message provided a constant, consistent signpost pointing towards an endless number of paths to follow and explore. For me, I think that message is what makes our program so special, and I thank Marti for making it the foundation on which the Middle School is based.”

Measuring success

As any good educator, Jenkins evaluates her success and the program she helped to found and build through the lens of her students.
“Kids showing up every day, happy to be here, wanting to come back every day. Former students that come back and say ‘I just loved Middle School.’ Feedback from new parents that say ‘this is such a change for my child, they’re excited about getting up and coming to school’—these are huge for Middle School,” offers Jenkins. “I love watching as our students grow, get older, and go through the Upper School with a critical eye, one that is truly reflective of their own voice and thinking, their own perspective; that feels like success.”
A success, indeed, and one that Laneta Dorflinger, a longtime member of CA’s Board of Directors, credits to Jenkins.

“I have had the good fortune of witnessing Marti’s visionary leadership through two lenses: as a parent and as a Board member,” reflects Dorflinger. “Always pleasant, calm, and in control, Marti embodies a rare combination of experience and qualities, including an unwavering commitment to CA’s mission and students, that has always inspired a strong sense of confidence in her leadership and the Middle School she helped to create.”

“Cary Academy owes Marti a debt of gratitude,” agrees Head of School Mike Ehrhardt. “With dedication and vision, she has helped build a remarkable foundation for our Middle School—one that sets us apart and on which we can build for the next 25 years.”

The future ahead

Now, as Jenkins looks toward retirement—a decision influenced by pandemic-inspired reflection—she’s excited to spend more time with her family, with her husband and stalwart support of over forty years, David, and her two daughters, CA alums Quinn ’12 and Anna ’15, and a grandchild on the way.

After dedicating so much time and energy to CA, she’s looking forward to crossing some long-postponed items off her bucket list. Ever the lifelong learner, she’s working towards getting a master gardeners certification—“It’s all about the chemistry,” she explains—and anticipating a long-awaited return to travel, including a tour of the United States by motorcycle and the intracoastal waterways of North Carolina by boat.

The moment is admittedly bittersweet. Undoubtedly, she will miss her colleagues, in particular, her office staff and those faculty with whom she has worked side-by-side so closely all these years.

“That first year, we cut a piece out of the foundation of the Middle School building, and some of us have those bricks hanging on our walls,” Jenkins reflects. The people that have those bricks, and all the others that helped build the foundations of this program, a program that is so wonderful because of their efforts—I will miss them.”

And, of course, she’s gets a little misty thinking about precious moments with students—those that are so quintessentially Middle School: the din of excited voices in the hallway, a random saxophone solo that trickles into her windows from a student waiting for pickup, and all the impactful one-on-one conversations she’s had over the years from which she has learned so much.

“There is so much wisdom in our students’ voices, so many important insights they have to share,” says Jenkins. “If we really listen to what they are saying, really give their voices the consideration and weight they deserve, we can learn and do amazing things­—not only for them, but for us as educators, and as an institution.”

Rest assured, retirement does not mean Jenkins won’t be watching eagerly to see what comes next, to see exactly what CA is learning and we will respond as a community. With unwavering faith in the mission and the school she pioneered, she smiles: “I have no doubt that it is going to be amazing.

Written by Mandy Dailey, Director of Communications


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Welcome to the 25th Anniversary Year at Cary Academy!

August 12, 2021

While we are still dealing with the impacts of COVID-19, our first day of school was a joyous celebration of community — something we have not felt in almost two years. 

In 25 short years, Cary Academy has established a reputation as one of the leading schools in the country. While we don’t put much stock into rankings and such (we believe each school should be measured by its mission-fit for current students), we are very proud that our alumni report a high degree of satisfaction with their time at Cary Academy — both from a career and personal perspective. 

In our most comprehensive survey of 331 alumni, 87% indicated they would recommend CA to a friend. In addition: 

  • 98% of respondents indicated that CA had a positive or strongly positive impact on the development of their critical thinking skills, and 90% said the same thing about CA instilling a passion for learning. 
  • For those who had already graduated college, 85% said they were satisfied or highly satisfied with their current profession. 
  • And finally, and I believe most importantly, 93% of all respondents said they were satisfied or highly satisfied with their quality of life. 

During this momentous year, our 25th, it is important to give thanks to the school’s founders — who set this glorious school in motion and still help guide us today. Cary Academy was established through the generous philanthropy of Dr. James H. and Ann Goodnight, and John and Ginger Sall. They envisioned a college preparatory school that would serve as an engine for student-centered, technology-rich instructional innovation embedded in a liberal arts tradition. Our school’s inspiring and inclusive culture stems from its powerful founding mission to be a diverse learning community committed to discovery, innovation, collaboration, and excellence.

Cary Academy opened on August 18, 1997, with 244 students in grades 6-10. We quickly reached an equilibrium of 680-700 students that lasted for quite some time. During last year’s admissions cycle, we received applications from students attending 161 different schools around the region and country, and we enrolled students from more than 65 different schools! We opened our doors on August 11, with 785 students, 55% of whom identify as people of color and nearly 15% of whom are receiving some form of financial assistance. 

Cary Academy has grown over the last several years, in part because fewer and fewer students choose to leave the school before they graduate. Our attrition rate is one of the lowest in the country. As such, we’ve needed to expand in our Upper School to make room for a cohort of new students each year, who bring essential insights, interests, and talents to our community. 

We have much to be proud of during this anniversary year, and we stand in a position of strength to build an even stronger school moving forward. As I mentioned in my opening remarks to students at our Move Up Ceremony on the first day of school, Cary Academy is an amazing place — but each year, we must do our part to build new community and reinforce our special culture. Our school history gives us a proud heritage, but it is built up anew with each generation of families and students who pass through our doors. 

One alumni, in a recent survey, highlighted how special this is … 

The seven years at Cary Academy really defined my personality and who I am today. The biggest impact was being in a community of other students who were the right combination of intellectually curious, ambitious, and passionate. Many of these people are still close friends.”

We are grateful that you have chosen Cary Academy, and we look forward to a wonderful and unique school year. 

Written by Dr. Mike Ehrhardt, Head of School

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