Former principal and central office administrator David Rockefeller didn’t take long to say he’d be delighted to step in while Wake County public schools seeks a permanent replacement for Drew Cook at Garner Magnet High School.
The former Millbrook High School administrator heaped praise on the outgoing administration and pledged to empower the remaining staff during his stay.
While some lauded his work as principal at Millbrook, he also faced public controversy during his three-year stretch as principal from 2000-2003. Rockefeller spent the next seven years working at the central office.
Rockefeller said the WCPSS human resources department called him a couple of weeks ago and asked him if he’d be interested in taking over, and he said “I’d be delighted.” As of last Thursday he had yet to meet with Garner Magnet High School staff to begin becoming acclimated.
“Drew Cook has just been an abs outstanding administrator. I’ve known Drew for a number of years, and have great respect for what he’s done,” Rockefeller said. “My role will be to keep the ball rolling in the interim. I will empower assistant principals to step up and do great things from their side of responsibilities. I do not intend to come in and make dramatic changes.”
No timeline has been established for the transition of Rockefeller nor of Cook to his new central office job. District spokeswoman said the process has conducted staff, parent and student input sessions, and created a profile of characteristics.
“The selection process is in progress, and we hope to have a permanent new principal selected quickly,” Luten said.
Rockefeller served as assistant principal for five years at Millbrook before taking over in 2000 after then-principal Michael Talley was arrested for drunk driving.
Rockefeller was appointed in 2003 to become director of career and technical education for the school system. Though seemingly short, the three years provided the school relative stability at the time, as Rockefeller’s successor became the sixth principal in 10 years.
Karen Luginbill, then co-president of the Millbrook PTA, said she was sorry to see Rockefeller go, saying “I think he’s been great for Millbrook.” In October 2001, one year after he shifted from assistant principal to principal, Millbrook’s 2000-2001 test scores landed it on the list of the state’s 10 most-improved high schools.
But his legacy at Millbrook was not without its bumps.
In November 2002 the schools facilities received a C rating from county officials for bathrooms in disrepair, dirty locker rooms and roaches, with the inspector calling the grade unusually low for a public school. It regained an A rating three months later and Rockefeller worked with the county to secure money for facility upgrades.
He also generated criticism for a few student punishments. He prohibited the cheerleading team from competing in a tournament after an unsanctioned off-campus practice during a snow day, though the county said the practice had not violated any policy.
Another pair of parents complained of his unwillingness to discuss the case of their son, who was not allowed to try out for baseball while being held accountable for three tardies in which late pickups by the bus driver were said to be largely responsible.
Rockefeller, without going into specifics on any of the incidents, said any decision is going to leave some people unhappy. He also noted that his time as a principal was a decade in the past.
“I made decisions in that job that I made at the time I thought were the best decisions to make. Turning around and wondering what if, I don’t see as being productive,” Rockefeller said. “I’m proud of my time at Millbrook High School, I loved Millbrook High School, and that’s pretty much where it stands on that.”