After the retirement of beloved principals Mary Castleberry at Wendell Middle School and Dalphine Perry at Zebulon Middle School, their respective schools will hear new voices at morning announcements starting later this month.
Dr. Stephanie Smith has replaced Perry at Zebulon Middle, while Robert Morrison filled the seat at Wendell Middle. Both started officially last week.
Smith and Morrison have a lot in common. Both currently commute from Fuquay-Varina. Both were assistant principals at high schools in southern Wake County.
Morrison, however, started his career in Wake County Public Schools 22 years ago, teaching math at Fuquay-Varina High School and coaching soccer and basketball.
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At Fuquay-Varina, he watched the school system burgeon and the school hold 800 students in a region of the county that was educating 7,000 students.
Twenty years after finishing undergraduate classes, he completed a Master’s degree at Campbell University. He became an assistant principal at Holly Springs High School in 2010.
“I love coaching, I was the department chair for math and had minor leadership roles at the school, and that’s what I wanted to do,” Morrison said, explaining his timeline.
Now, he enters Wendell with a salary of $91,877. He’ll continue to live in Fuquay while his daughter finishes two years of high school and his son starts his freshman year of college.
Building relationships with staff is huge for Morrison, who has to get to know a whole new faculty. But he’s excited to work again with Area Superintendent Ed McFarland, who used to work as principal at Fuquay-Varina High.
“(I want to) really tap into the expertise in the builidng and make sure there’s a shared vision and that the staff is buying into it,” he said.
Although he’ll listen to and learn from the faculty around him, he plans to question with a desire to improve the school.
“I want to ask ‘Why do we do that.’ Sometimes there’s a good reason and sometimes people say, ‘I don’t know,’” he said. “I’m going to question, but it’s just for knowledge and to see if we can improve it. There’s no intents besides why do we do this, do we have a more efficient way of doing this?”
A different path
Smith takes over as principal of Zebulon Middle School with a salary of $90,656, coming from her position as assistant principal at Fuquay-Varina High School for the past school year.
Previous to that, she worked in administration in the Brunswick County schools, and before that, she taught middle school and worked in the New Hanover County school system.
She completed three post-graduate degrees – two Master’s degrees and a doctorate during those years.
Although she and her husband and three young children currently live in Fuquay-Varina, she says they will likely move to the area soon and love this side of Wake County.
Smith is excited to work at Zebulon Middle, and has plans to develop the magnet program even further.
“We’ll work on magnet membership,” she said. “It’s dwindled... but we want to build up our magnet programs and have ... something that makes us competitive.”
More importantly, she has a passion for the students and their families.
“I have passion for what I do every day,” she said. “and a true passion for educating students in order to help them.”