Garner Magnet High School’s popular, homegrown principal Drew Cook appears set to leave the school for a promotion after 17 years working there, five of them at the helm as principal.
The Wake County Board of Education voted to move Cook to senior director for high school programs. Cook would oversee all high schools in the county in the new position in the instructional services division of Wake County Public Schools and report to Todd Wirt, assistant superintendent of academics.
Cook called his time at Garner full of the “most enjoyable and fulfilling professional experiences that any educator could ever ask for” in an emailed statement from a conference in Washington, D.C.
“Meanwhile, I am excited and inspired by the prospect of taking on the new challenge of district level leadership, and feel confident that my experiences at Garner Magnet High School have prepared me to make a valuable contribution in supporting the work of high school principals across our district.”
The school board vote occurred as part of a number of personnel decisions made in a closed session.
The timing of his transition to his new role is unclear. John Williams, currently in the position, is stepping down July 31. Williams is the brother of Garner mayor Ronnie Williams.
Cook will make $105,000 per year in his new role.
Cook, a Garner native who attended and played basketball at the high school, became principal in 2009, in the midst of the recession. He had been an assistant principal and a teacher at the school before that.
He didn’t take long to make an impact.
Named the county’s principal of the year in 2011, Cook presided as the school’s test scores have risen from the bottom of the county-wide rankings to the middle of the pack. That rise has come despite a swelling student population eclipsing 2,400 in a school built for far fewer students, and a population with a substantial share of low-income students. Garner High has also won a variety of awards for its improvement and achievement. Dropout rates and discipline issues have also decreased in recent years.
“I have witnessed firsthand how a dedicated, professional, and innovative faculty can work together with students, parents, and a community to truly transform the culture of a school,” Cook said in the email. “I am proud to have been a small part of that work, and to some degree, Garner will always be home for me. That said, I am also certain that the best days for Garner Magnet High School and our students lie ahead.”
Cook began teaching at Garner in 1997 after earning his degree in political science and secondary social studies at UNC-Wilmington. He transitioned to assistant principal in 2005 after earning a masters in school administration from N.C. State.
According to the WCPSS website, the programs team Cook would head provides leadership and support for families. Its goal is to develop systems to support schools “to ensure the courses offered are aligned to local, state and national standards, relevant to student needs and of sufficient rigor” to get into college or a career. It also aims to “improve the instructional program by offering leadership in national trends, training in best practices and resource deployment that supports teaching and learning.”
The school board did not name a replacement for Cook at Garner.