Garner Cleveland Record

Cleveland High and Cleveland Middle to flip-flop leaders

Jenna Sauls
Jenna Sauls courtesy of Johnston County Schools

Johnston County Schools has hired a familiar face to become the new leader of Cleveland High School, after its only other principal announced her retirement.

Kendrick Byrd, the principal for Cleveland Middle School, will take over for Anne Meredith, who helped open the school five years ago.

Meanwhile, Cleveland High School’s assistant principal, Jenna Sauls, will replace Byrd as principal at Cleveland Middle.

Both will start work in their new positions on July 1.

“It has always been a dream of mine to be a high school principal,” Byrd said, “And I can think of no better place to serve than Cleveland High. The community is a fantastic community. The students are great. And to be renuited with those students brings me great excitement.”

Sauls said the same.

“I’m very excited,” she said. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity. To be able to stay in the Cleveland community, it’s been awesome and I’m excited to be with those middle school students again.”

A spokeswoman for the school district said she could not provide the salaries because the 2015-16 budget is not out.

“Because we are tied to the legislative decisions, the salaries have not been determined,” Tracey Peedin Jones said.

‘The time has finally arrived’

Sauls, who has been an educator for 15 years, helped open Cleveland High School along with Meredith five years ago. They both began the planning phase the year before.

But before Sauls was assistant principal at Cleveland High School, she served as an assistant principal at McGee Crossroads Middle School in Benson.

“It’s been five years since I’ve been in middle school,” she said. “It’s that age where they don’t know everything but they’re still old enough where you can carry on a conversation. They are just starting to figure out who they are. To know you can have an impact on their lives during that crucial time is a very cool thing to be apart of.”

Sauls said the most important thing she learned as an assistant principal at Cleveland High was cultivating relationships with your staff.

“The most important thing – and there are so many things – I learned from Anne Meredith, was positive and caring relationships are the foundation for an extrodinary schools. You have to be visible and be seen and get to know your staff. I feel that a happy school is a happening school.

“That is what I plan to take to Cleveland Middle School.”

She said she wants to continue the level of excellence that has already been set by the previous administration, and continue to improve on them.

Sauls said before she learned that she would get the job, she was called into Superintendent Ed Croom’s office. He asked her if she still wanted to be a principal.

She said ‘yes.’ And he told her that he wanted her to be the principal of Cleveland Middle School, and would recommend it to the school board to vote on.

“The time has finally arrived,” she thought.

“That’s something when you go into administration, is where you want to work toward,” Sauls said. “So knowing that you’re moving to the next level and he is entrusting you with that school, students and faculty, it’s definitely very real but it’s also very humbling.”

Familiarity for Byrd

Byrd served at Cleveland Middle for four years. So most of the students who graduated while he was there, and the future students who will graduate from the middle school, will go to Cleveland High School.

Byrd said that is one of the things that excites him most. He said he’s looking forward to seeing his former middle school students mature into high school students.

“I think it helps me tremendously knowing the kids and having a relationship with the kids,” Byrd said. “It will help me communicate effectively with their parents. Having built relationships with community and parents will help me with the transition and help them with the transition to a new principal.”

He said his goal is to “continue the tradition of excellence that was already established” by Meredith and build on that.

“To make Cleveland High the best school in the district and hopefully one of the best high school in the state,” he said. “I’ll be collaborating with the staff to do that.”

Byrd, a graduate of N.C. A&T, received his masters from N.C. State and educational specialist degree from East Carolina. He has a wife, who is also an educator, and a son and daughter, who attend Johnston County Schools. He has been in education for 19 years, more than half as a teacher and the other as an assistant principal and principal.

He said when he got the call that he would be hired as principal many thoughts went through his head.

“I was excited about the opportunity. Really excited about the opportunity,” Byrd said. “I thought about Cleveland Middle. The bittersweet part of that is I have made great relationships there.”

He said his children were excited too. His eight-year-old son asked him if that means he can stand on the sidelines at the football games.

Byrd’s daughter is a rising seventh-grader at Cleveland Middle. He was her principal for a year. He said she told him “Darn Dad. You’re leaving.”

“In a sarcastic tone,” Byrd added.

Alexander: 919-829-4822;

Twitter: @GarnerCleveland

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