This summer, Candis Jones took over the helm at Southeast Raleigh High School, the fourth principal at the magnet high school since 2011.
Jones, a Fayetteville native and former high school English teacher, credits one of her own high school teachers with inspiring her career in education.
“She basically told me that I was going to be successful and she was behind me. Coming from an adult who was not related to me, that meant a lot. It was a game-changer for me,” she said.
Jones attended North Carolina Central University on a teaching fellows scholarship. After graduation, she returned to Fayetteville where she worked as a teacher and assistant principal. She then made the move to Wake County, working as an assistant principal at Wake Forest High School for two years.
We asked Jones to weigh in on her arrival and plans for Southeast Raleigh High. An edited transcript follows:
Q. What did you think when you were first appointed to Southeast Raleigh?
A. I was thoroughly excited. I had been an assistant principal for eight years and so finally having the opportunity to lead a building was exciting. But with that excitement also came anxiety – not necessarily fear – but I know that to whom much it given, much is required. To be given the opportunity to be a principal for a school, it comes with a lot of responsibilities.
Q. How does Southeast Raleigh’s magnet program fit into your vision for the school?
A. I strongly believe in the magnet idea. I think it provides diverse experiences for all students. To be called the Center for Leadership and Technology, there are things in our building and programs we offer that other schools don’t. For me, the challenge will be to continue to provide the support that’s necessary but also begin the process of enhancing some of those things.
We’ve been working very strategically with the magnet office and the magnet coordinator here on staff so that we can enhance our magnet program. Every student can be a leader in their own right.
Q. Southeast Raleigh has been through many principal changes in recent years. How do you help the school through that?
A. When I got here I knew that were going to be some fear of the unknown, and I took it head-on. I’m able to build relationships with students, with faculty members, with parents – I’m very involved – so there are a lot of steps I took during the summer to ensure everyone knew what I stood for.
I think that allowed some barriers to fall and some walls to crumble because in order to move forward, I knew that I had to gain the trust and respect of all stakeholders. I think slowly but surely I was able to do that and will continue to do that by building relationships and bridging the gap between the community and school. I knew ahead of time, I had a hurdle, but I did my best to prepare for that.
Q. What did you tell the school community about what you stood for?
A. I talked about the three goals for the school year. The first one would be to ensure that we create structures and systems of support that will provide a safe and caring environment for all students. That to me is making sure we handle discipline firmly, effectively and fairly and equitably throughout the building.
The second was to increase student academic achievement not just in our [end of course] areas but all accountability measures. And the last was to... enhance the magnet programs, the academies, and all programs in our building that make us different.
... I have a vision for this school and that vision is to be the premier school in Wake County, if not the state. And who wouldn’t buy into that vision? Who wouldn’t want that for their son or daughter? And I truly believe that we can get there if we put those goals in the forefront and we all share in the responsibility for reaching those goals.