Wake County educator is in the running to become NC Principal of the Year

The principal of Fuquay-Varina High School is among eight finalists for North Carolina Principal of the Year.

Jonathan Enns was named Wake County’s Principal of the Year last October. He said that honor helped vindicate a decision he made 17 years ago when he walked away from his love of flying to become an educator like both of his parents.

“There were two things that I enjoyed professionally,” Enns said in an interview the day after receiving the Wake County award. “One was flying an airplane and the other was walking out of a school at the end of the day. I just chose, and I don’t regret it in the least.

“The part that won over in education is being able to serve other people.”

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction announced the finalists on Wednesday, naming a Principal of the Year from each of the eight education regions in the state. All received $1,000 for personal use and $1,000 for their schools.

Enns, 43, welcomed the recognition but gave credit to others. “Being named Principal of the Year (for the North Central Region) is an incredible honor, but I think it is more of a reflection and testament of the work of our students, staff, and community,” he said.

Enns began his career in 2001 as a physics teacher at Green Hope High School in Cary. He said he wanted to have an impact on more students and staff so he became an administrator, first as an assistant principal at Fuquay-Varina High and later as principal of Phillips Middle School in Chapel Hill. Enns returned to Fuquay-Varina High in 2014 to be its principal.

Since then, the school’s graduation rate has climbed 12 percentage points, the passing rate on state end-of-course tests has risen 7.9 percent, and enrollment in Advanced Placement courses has increased 130 percent. At the same time, suspensions have decreased by 54 percent at the 2,300-student school.

Enns credits the school’s success to building relationships with students and having high expectations of them.

The eight finalists will sit for interviews before North Carolina names its Principal of the Year during a luncheon May 11 in Cary.

Here are the other finalists:

▪ Jim Butler, Richmond Senior High School, Richmond County Schools.

▪ Melissa Godfrey, Andrews Elementary, Cherokee County Schools.

▪ Titus Hopper, Cleveland Early College, Cleveland County Schools.

▪ Tracy Kimmer, Yadkin Early College, Yadkin County Schools.

▪ Desarae Kirkpatrick, Nebo Elementary, McDowell County Schools.

▪ Tabari Wallace, West Craven High, Craven County Schools.

▪ Cathy Michelle White, D.F. Walker Elementary, Edenton-Chowan Public Schools.

Staff writer T. Keung Hui contributed.

Scott Bolejack: 919-829-4629, @ScottBolejack