APEX — Goal-setting can be difficult, but Apex High School Principal Matt Wight has an especially tough challenge this year.
It's hard to get much higher for Wight, who last week was named the Wake County school system's 2008 Principal of the Year. A day after winning the award, he had to set his goals for the coming school year.
"How am I going to top this?" asked Wight, who had also been a finalist for Principal of the Year in 2005.
For the students, staff and parents at Apex, it's going to be hard for Wight to get much better.
"I've always felt that Apex was a good school, but he's helped turn it into a great school," said Rebecca Andrews, a guidance counselor at the school.
For Wight, the keys to his success since taking over at Apex High School in 2006 have been making himself highly visible and promoting joint staff planning.
Wight focuses on professional learning communities, in which teachers in the same subjects jointly meet and plan their lessons.
Wight also has an open-door policy and is constantly moving around the campus.
Some principals isolate themselves by staying in their offices most of the time, but not Wight.
"He's very accessible," said Linda Colhoun, whose daughter attends Apex High. "He may not agree with you, but he'll always listen to you."
Colhoun said students have compared Wight to fictional character Harry Potter for his ability to seemingly appear in multiple places at once on campus.
On and off campus
Wight's visibility extends to events off campus, whether it's an athletic event or the choir performing at a local Borders bookstore. It makes 12-hour days a norm and longer shifts common.
"When your job is a high school principal, your whole family takes the job," Wight said. "It's not been easy for my family."
But it doesn't mean that Wight has ignored balancing his work and home lives.
Wight has always tried to get home before his children went to bed. When they were younger, he read to them. Now he settles for tucking his kids in to bed.
That still wasn't enough for Wight. He didn't want the only time he saw his kids to be at night.
Wight now does some of his work from home, so that he can wake up his children before heading to the high school.
"Starting the day off with them makes it feel more complete," Wight said.
'Just a good guy'
As a display of affection, the school put on a surprise 50th birthday celebration for him last month. Many students and staff members wore black shirts saying "Oh No! The Big 5-0." He was inundated with banners and cards and various musical arrangements of "Happy Birthday" from the band.
"He's just a good guy," said Anne Williams, the school's PTSA president.
Wight isn't looking to retire or leave Apex High anytime soon. He has one big dream to fulfill. He wants to be the one on stage during graduation handing out the diplomas to his daughters, who are now in middle school.
"It would be one of those special times, like if you were a minister marrying off your own daughter," Wight said.
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