Suppose school is closing early and the dismissal procedure has changed.
Why use the intercom to communicate to hundreds of preoccupied kids when it would be easier and more effective to hold up large, directional signs in the hallways?
These are the types of things Camille Hedrick thought about as principal of Apex Middle School. Soon, she’ll bring her brand of quirky but innovative leadership to one of North Carolina’s biggest and most accomplished high schools.
The Wake County school board recently tapped Hedrick to become principal of Panther Creek High School in Cary. She plans to assume her new role in late September.
Hedrick will be the school’s second permanent principal since it opened in 2006. Rodney Nelson, who helped open the school, retired last spring. Danny Barnes has been serving as interim principal.
Hedrick’s name might sound familiar to Cary residents. Her husband, Jim Hedrick was principal of Green Hope High for several years before recently assuming the same role at Athens Drive High in Raleigh.
After working alongside her for 13 years of their 36-year marriage, Jim Hedrick said he’s sure his wife will excel as the leader at Panther Creek.
“She’s an extremely strong instructor, and she understands what goes into good teaching,” he said. “Before they talked about collaborative learning, she was doing collaborative learning.”
Despite their relationship and careers, the Hedricks have contrasting personalities.
Camille Hedrick describes her husband, a former football coach, as an understated introvert.
Meanwhile, she considers herself a “type A extrovert” with a knack for communicating – whether it’s teaching Latin or posting school announcements on social media.
Using her fingers and thumb to make a V shape, she explained the origins of Roman numerals to demonstrate her love of tackling problems with “quick, simple solutions that are easy to communicate.”
On the Sunday before class started at Apex Middle, she posted several tips for parents on the school’s Twitter account, which she controls.
“As a parent and grandparent, I often ask myself, ‘What would I want to know?’ ” she said.
When it comes to teaching, the 58-year-old values those who “put children first and content second.”
And when it comes to leading a large staff of teachers and administrators, her main goal is creating a healthy work environment.
Camille Hedrick once taught in a school environment she relished so much that she chose to commute more than an hour to get there every day, despite being offered a job closer to home at a school where her husband worked.
Test scores, graduation rates
She’ll enter a culture at Panther Creek High that has already produced high test scores and graduation rates that exceed 90 percent. The school, made up of many affluent western Cary families, has a reputation for parents who are heavily involved.
But Camille Hedrick said there’s more to Panther Creek than what some might assume. She cited a report by the state Department of Public Instruction that showed 38 percent of students at the school came from economically disadvantaged families in 2013.
“It looks like a rich school. But it’s not a rich school,” she said.
She said her highest priority at Panther Creek will be helping every student graduate within four years. Students who don’t graduate on time are less likely to ever graduate, she said, and the effects of being left behind are hard to shake.
“Think about the emotional damage for the student,” she said. “And think about the fiscal price to the school district and parents if they don’t get their kids out in four years.”
One of the first things she wants to do is help make the transition from middle school to high school easier for students.
Some ninth-graders fall behind early and can’t catch up because high schools aren’t set up to offer the same amount of attention to struggling students, she said. Teachers and administrators often “swarm” to help middle school students who fall behind.
But once students go from being “1 in 130 to 1 in 800 ... suddenly, we don’t swarm them when they need help,” Camille Hedrick said.
She looks forward to working with her staff to change that.
In the meantime, she’s enjoying her final days at Apex Middle School. Being appointed principal to Apex Middle and Panther Creek High was like “winning the Grammys twice,” she said.
“I feel like I’m getting married,” Camille Hedrick said. “I’m leaving one family and going to another.”