For Philadelphia native Carter Hillman, Garner High's new principal, size doesn't really matter.
Hillman, comes from East Wake School of Health Sciences in Wendell, a school of about 400 students. In making the move, Hillman will jump from one the smallest high schools in Wake County to one of the largest in all of North Carolina. Garner has about 2,600 students.
The husband of a school teacher and father of three in grade-school, Hillman spent two and a half years at East Wake School of Health Sciences.
He will receive a $106,610 salary at Garner High School.
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Drew Cook had been the principal at Garner High for five years before he accepted a job in the Wake County Public School System's central office in July. Cook, a Garner native, was the county's principal of the year in 2011 and is credited for helping to raise the school's test scores from the bottom of the county-wide rankings to the middle of the pack..
Hillman wants to continue that trend as he starts his new post as Garner's new principal on Tuesday. We sat down with Hillman in his last few days at East Wake School of Health Sciences, to find out more about him and his outlook on being the new principal at Garner High. Here's an edited version of that conversation.
Q: You're going from being principal at a school with about 400 students, to a school with about 2600 students. How will you adjust to that?
A: To me if you focus on the right things, the size of the school doesn't really matter. If you're focusing on good instruction, you're focusing on what your teachers are doing. The truth of the matter is teachers in the classroom are the rubber on the road. My job is to see what the teachers are doing, how they are doing it and impact them in that way. I don't necessarily see it as 'Carter Hillman you're going from a school that you're responsible for 300 kids to a school you're responsible for 2,600,' I'm responsible for the resources and getting the resources to the people so they can do the best job they can. It's the same job.
Q: What made you want to become principal of Garner High?
A: I've always liked schools that the brand name of the school is the name of the town. I've always believed when you have a place like that, as goes the school goes the town, as goes the town goes the school. There's a symbiotic relationship between the two. That partnership, that's really exciting. They have some challenges ahead of them with moving the school. A new school coming in and then going back to a school. I've been involved in opening a new school in Wake County. I've been involved with a move that has taken place when I was a teacher, and then the move back. I think some of those skillsets should help in that transition, creating organization. But I'm really excited about that opportunity of getting involved and having the chance to have a larger impact.
Q: What is your philosophy as a principal?
A: I'm not a singular entity making decisions. A school is a school because it has the ability to problem-solve. I am a part of the process. I know there are times when I have to make a decision in order to move things forward and I have no problem making that decision. I have no problem having the difficult conversations with people when they need to be made. On my ride home from school if I can say 'the decisions I made today - in partnership with whoever else was involved - were the best decisions for children,' then I am OK. What will keep me up at night is when I feel like I haven't done that. I'm not going to be an island and I'm not going to stand there make decisions that are going to impact other people without their input and without their determiniation.
Q: What are your top goals for Garner High?
A: That's hard to say at this point and in some ways that would be unfair. I'm not coming to a school that has this huge issue. I want to see what's going on at that school. I want to be able to talk to people. I want to be able to talk to the community and talk to the students to see where is it that I fit in so that we can make the best growth.
Q: What do you like most about Garner?
A: At this point, I'd have to say the people because that is the biggest thing I know. The people have been great. The people have been welcoming. They've been warm. (They've asked) 'hey how can I help?' And when you know you have a group of people who are willing to roll up their sleeves to be engaged, to be concerned about their kids, to be concerned about the school they go to, you're in a win-win situation there.