After seven years as principal of Wendell Elementary Arts and Science Magnet School in which he took it from a low-performing school to being recognized as the top elementary magnet school in the nation, Shane Barham is moving on to a new challenge.
Barham will be taking over as principal of a new Wake County Public School System school in Raleigh, Rogers Lane Elementary in east Raleigh, in January. The school opens for class in August.
“Wendell Elementary is in a good place right now,” Barham said. “I’m going to be sad to leave but glad to leave on a happy note.”
When he took over in 2010, the school was plagued by academic underachievement and discipline was out of control, Barham said. And staff morale was low. “It was either improve or risk being taken over by the state,” he said. “It was very challenging. It was difficult in the beginning. ... But the good thing is when you’re in a situation like that the only thing you can do is improve.”
Barham said his role was to set the agenda for change and get everybody on board. The staff trusted each other and put the focus on the students, he said, and he felt the support of the larger Wendell community as he worked to improve the school.
To improve the discipline problem, he made sure the students understood the rules, issues were addressed as soon as they came up and that he supported his teachers. “We really had to rebuild and reshape the culture of the school,” he said.
Barham said he saw gradual improvements in his first couple years there, but it took about three years before he started to see big changes and the school began to be recognized for its achievements, first as a magnet school of distinction and then as a magnet school of excellence the last two years.
In 2015, Magnet Schools of America named the school top elementary magnet school in the nation, and Barham was one of eight principals recognized as a top regional magnet school principal, traveling to Miami to receive his award.
“It really does feel good when you were at the bottom, to work your way to the top,” he said. “But I didn’t do it by myself. I had the support of the staff and the community.”
Hannah Hopkins, who serves on the school’s parent teacher association board and has a daughter in first grade there, said Barham has had a great relationship with the students and their families. “He is wonderful and we’re going to miss him,” she said. “I know that he will be a blessing to Rogers Lane Elementary. I’m thrilled for the people at Rogers Lane. They’re getting quite a principal,” Hopkins said.
Linda Johnson, executive director of the East Wake Education Foundation, a Wendell nonprofit that prepares young children to enter kindergarten, said she hated to see Barham leave Wendell and that he gave the area a reason to be proud with the national recognition for Wendell Elementary. “From what I have heard,” she said, “from both his staff and the parents, he was approachable, a good listener and whatever he did was in the best interest of the children.”
Brand new school
Barham will be moving from a school with about 550 students to one with a capacity of 900, and though he expects Rogers Lane to open with only about 600 students, he expects it to grow. The school will focus on personalized learning and may have a magnet designation, but the school system has not determined that for sure yet.
He will be receiving a small raise from his current $83,684 salary at Wendell to $85,393 at Rogers Lane.
“I’m excited about being the principal of a brand new school, being able to build something from the ground up.” Barham said. “It’s just exciting to have that opportunity. ... I want to establish a mission, vision and goals and hire the right people to achieve this mission, vision and goals.”
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826