At a surprise campus party, Durham school’s leader learns she’s Principal of the Year

Jackie Tobias didn’t enjoy being a high school student, but a counselor at her school made sure that she applied to college.

That ultimately led to master’s and doctorate degrees and a 30-year career in education.

On Thursday, staff at City of Medicine Academy made sure that Tobias was occupied while all 300-plus students, faculty and members of the Durham school board filed into the main lobby of the school. When Tobias was led down the hall and into the lobby, she was met with a roar of applause.

She had been named Durham Public Schools 2020 Principal of the Year.

To celebrate the accomplishment, she received a cake and bouquets of candy bars and flowers.

“Last night we were watching the World Series and one of the things that was said was, ‘you have to have a great lineup,’” Tobias said, in a short speech. “This is not because of me, this is because I have a great lineup.”

Tobias, who got her undergrad from the University of Florida, her master’s from UNC-Greensboro and her doctorate from Gardner-Webb University, has spent the past nine years as a principal.

In a news release on the announcement, Durham Public Schools said that six straight years of 100% graduation rates at CMA and an A performance grade from the state are some of the reasons why Tobias was selected.

CMA has been the top DPS high school for growth and in the top five percent of academic growth for three years.

“Tobias concentrates on improving equity as well, ranking fifth and second in North Carolina in academic growth for Black and Hispanic students respectively,” the news release said.

Sheldon Lanier at Brogden Middle, James Hopkins at Lakewood Elementary and Gloria Woods-Weeks at J.D. Clement Early College High were the other three finalists for the award.

After taking pictures, Tobias put her hands in the air and danced with a group of students.

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Trent Brown covers the Town of Cary and other odds and ends. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 and is a Collegiate Network fellow.