Dealing with the ups and downs of a new job, Knightdale High’s new leader enjoys being on a rollercoaster – both literally and figuratively.
Q: You came to Knightdale High this year to take the helm and brought quite an extensive resume with you. It is clear education is your passion. When did you decide that a career leading teachers and kids was your niche? Was it something you were always interested in?
A: “I was born and raised in northeastern North Carolina in a very small town called South Mills, in Camden County. I graduated high school in 1988 and there were less than 90 people in my graduating class. What I wanted to be when I grew up probably changed 50 times but I played every sport in the galaxy. I enjoyed it and I was decent, but the older I got, I began to realize I would never be good enough to make a living at playing sports so I originally thought I wanted to be a physical therapist so at least I could still work with athletes.”
Q: What sports did you play?
A: “Everything. In high school, I played basketball, baseball and football.”
Q: What was your favorite to play?
A: “My favorite to play was basketball, but my best sport was baseball. I even coached some basketball for a while. When I was in college, I realized I wanted to work in schools with young people. I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees at East Carolina University. I received my masters in administration from N.C. State and then went back and received my doctorate from East Carolina.”
Q: So, like most principals, you got your start in the classroom?
Q: What did you teach? Where was your first job?
A: “I taught physical education. My first job was in Burke County, in the mountains – that is where I coached basketball. I taught there for four years. I then came to Wake County. I taught at the Centennial Campus for three or four years. I was assistant principal at Timber Drive for two years. I was then principal at Swift Creek Elementary for four years, and then I was principal at Lake Myra Elementary for five years before I came to Knightdale High.”
Q: So it sounds like you started in high school, spent many years at elementary schools, and then returned to the older students. Many teachers and principals either have a preference for the younger students or the older ones. Is it your preference to work with teenagers?
A: “That is true – most do have a preference, but really, I enjoy them both. It was a smooth transition from elementary to high school. The job is similar, yet different, on many levels when working with the different age groups. I just like helping students fulfill their potential.”
Q: What brought you out of the classroom?
A: “Honestly, I am drawn to leadership roles.”
Q: With leadership comes conflicts. Many people shy away from leadership roles because they do not like having to deal with clashing personalities and conflicts you have to deal with between students, parents, and teachers. How do you deal with that?
A: “I believe that if you treat people with dignity and respect, you get the same in return. First, you have to make clear what your expectations are, and you have to work to ensure that you are staying true to being a student-centered principal – that has to be your moral compass. People will have differences of opinions, but in the end, everyone has to be aligned with what is best for the student.”
Q: What surprised you about Knightdale High?
A: “I had done my research so there were really no surprises but it is quite an adjustment working in a much larger school. You go to dealing with 1,700 students as opposed to 500.”
Q: Are you married? Any kids of your own?
A: “I have been married for 15 years. We have two daughters – 11 and 14.”
Q: Are your daughters athletes like you?
A: “They are neat well-rounded kids but not much into sports.”
Q: Are they involved in anything that keeps you busy?
A: “Irish competitive dancing.”
Q: Are you Irish?
A: “My wife is.”
Q: So they must have performed recently in Raleigh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade?
A: “They sure did. It was a lot of fun.”
Q: What else keeps you busy?
A: “I love to watch sports. I am an avid cook and reader. And I am a rollercoaster enthusiast. I have ridden a ton of them. I have been to a lot of amusement parks. I suppose I am just a big kid.”
Correspondent Dena Coward