Under the Dome

Former Durham principal running for state office

Henry J. Pankey of Durham has announced he will run for state superintendent of public instruction in 2016.

Pankey, a Democrat and an assistant principal in Winston-Salem, is a self-described school turn-around specialist known for discipline and dress codes. Pankey took over Southern High school in Durham in summer 1998, when it had a reputation for unruliness and was one of the 10 worst in the state in student performance.

A year later, Southern received the best possible ranking in the state's former ABCs system and Pankey was named Durham principal of the year.

In 2001, Pankey was named principal at Hillside High School in Durham. He was replaced after one year. He went to work at the state Department of Public Instruction, and has been an assistant principal in Winston-Salem for 10 years. He was named 2012 assistant principal of the year.

"The superintendent needs to be an expert in improving test scores," said Pankey, 63. He said he's improved many schools in his career. "I've done it," he said. "I believe I can do it again."

The current superintendent, Democrat June Atkinson, is in her third term.