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CHCCS Assistant Principals Shine in Their Gifts

National Assistant Principals Week is April 6-10, and under normal circumstances, the amazing CHCCS administrators would be well-celebrated in their own schools, by staff and students alike. But normal circumstances are on hold for now, so it seemed a good time to check in with the close-knit team of Assistant Principals to find out how their workdays- and their lives - have changed over the past month.

Assistant Principal (AP), Tiffany Newsome, at McDougle Elementary School, said, “Since we were last in school, my life has changed drastically. I am so grateful for having such a wonderful community of staff to work with during a time of crisis! I have seen my McDougle family stand in the gap for our families during their time of need. As an AP, I have been thinking about ways in which my leadership experience is being transformed right before my eyes! I wake up thinking about our families, and I also think about how my colleagues are doing as they navigate this time as well. I am adjusting tasks each day to fit what is important that day. As my principal and I work together during this time, I am reminded that it is a blessing to have good leadership. We certainly can't do this work without the leadership and guidance of others!”

Stacie Boyer is a first-year AP at Ephesus Elementary School, but she is developing a presence there that makes it hard to believe she has only been a Roadrunner for eight months. She said, “My role has shifted from an organizer/developer/manager to counselor/supporter/cheerleader. Our teachers are the boots on the ground making these things happen for kids and families. When this all started, I quickly realized my primary responsibility was to check in with staff, celebrate them and assure them that we would be okay - and that we would get through this together. Admins are only as good as the team we build and during these times, I am so incredibly grateful for the team at Ephesus. They are my ‘why’ each day, and I am thankful to be able to serve families with them.”

The words appearing again and again in comments are “navigate,” “relationships,” “community” and “love.” The Assistant Principals’ forced pivot away from daily, even hourly interactions with students has led to increased attention, communication and encouragement for their staff.

National AP week

Jaclyn Novotny, AP at Estes Hills Elementary School, said, “As a first year Assistant Principal, what I've learned is that things are never the same day to day, especially now. I know my job has shifted to less interaction with kids, which breaks my heart, but more support for the teachers as we all try to adjust. I am blessed to have my. job and thankful that my Estes Hills team is who they are. I wouldn't want to be with anyone else!”

Sarah Stephens left the larger world of Wake County Public Schools last fall when she accepted the position as assistant principal at Glenwood Magnet Elementary School. She hit the ground running in October, connecting with students, staff and families as she brainstormed and developed rollout events for the school’s transition to a STEAM magnet. Now her focus has shifted, however temporarily.

“During this time I have tried really hard to remain connected, consistent and empathetic in my messaging to staff and families and encourage them to remain flexible and give themselves the grace they deserve!” Stephens said. “This is an unprecedented situation, and so many of our teachers want to do this remote learning thing well, but it's just not going to be perfect!  Trying to juggle life, families, connecting with students and providing quality learning opportunities, all from our own homes during a worldwide crisis is HARD, and it's ok to just do our best and not beat ourselves up. Channing (Bennett) is such a great leader and is the one doing most of the relaying of information from the district, so I've really just tried to remain a calm and supportive presence with our staff and any students I get to connect with!”

Many AP’s reflected on the challenging, but inspiring nature of their roles’ shift toward deeper connections and messaging to staff about self-care during a time of such emotional and psychological hardship. 

Amanda Sands-Warren is Assistant Principal at Culbreth Middle School. “I would like to say this experience has allowed me to encourage my staff even more to stay strong mentally and emotionally, and I feel I have had the time to coach them through things that I know I would not be able to do in my normal day to day role,” she said. “I continue to express to them that I am with them and love them through this process, and we will be an even stronger family after we get through this. Building relationships is not just with our students but it's with our staff (family) as well!”

Northside Elementary School’s AP, Kirtisha Jones, always maintains a lively and celebratory Twitter feed. She tweets news and inspirational messages, and lately she has focused on humorous and personalized shoutouts to her staff. “My position has shifted because, although I always strive to lift up positivity and find ways to help support and guide my staff, in these times this has become my greatest priority,” Jones said. “I have truly realized how much that word, that message, that moment to video chat, that encouragement, and reassurance really means for my staff (and all of us) in these times. I'm so proud that I'm able to be that for them, but above all the fact that they know it and trust me to do so is invaluable.”

Jones often receives reciprocal “Twitter love” from her staff and colleagues. Northside media specialist and fellow enthusiastic tweeter, Kat Cole, posted, “I love my AP and I only wish I could celebrate this week with her in person. She makes our school and the world a brighter place.” AP meeting

Janyelle Johnson, AP at East Chapel Hill High School (ECHHS), said, “As we continue to navigate through this pandemic, I’m reminding staff to be mindful of their needs along with their family. If those needs aren’t met, that affects their interaction with the students. When staff focuses on their needs, they can also understand what may be occurring in the lives of our students. We’re all in this together and we will all come through this wiser and much stronger!  #BeMindful #BeIntentional”

Social Studies Teacher, Brian Link, at ECHHS, spoke of the strengths of several assistant principals. “APs are often a school's unsung heroes,” Link said. “They, like current Carrboro High principal and former East AP, Beverly Rudolph, help young teachers get the lay of the land and find their footing academically while encouraging veteran teachers to maintain excellence through evaluations -  formal and informal alike.”

“They help welcome students and families to feel part of the school and work collaboratively with them and faculty to get students back on track when things go awry,” Link continued. “They, like Mr. Acome, are our first responders when emergencies take place. They, like Ms. Herrera, help keep the machinery of school -- especially testing and athletic events -- running even if it means long days and nights.  They, like Ms. Johnson, help champion programs like AVID which make our schools more equitable. And APs, by working together as a team help make our principals, like Mr. Proulx, better leaders and ensure that they, our staff and students, have one great day after another. I'm proud to be a Wildcat and proud of our administrators.”

Phillips Middle School parent, Samantha Fiske, in sharing her thoughts on Tiffany Cheshire, reflected on the many roles and talents a strong AP must embrace. “Ms. Cheshire is a superhero wearing an Assistant Principal costume. Whenever there is a problem, she suddenly appears to resolve the situation. Bus route issues? Missing schedule? Can’t find the nurse - Ms. Cheshire is on it.  To top it off, she does it all with grace and a big smile. We’re lucky to have her as a role model for the Phillips community.”

Carrboro Elementary School Teaching Assistant, Angela Redd, offered praise for their first year AP. “Mrs.Carmen Betts is best known for her compassion for ALL students and staff,” Redd said. “She is also hands-on with helping out with projects  or groups throughout our building and supporting her colleagues. The African American Women's bulletin board in the school's lobby was spearheaded by her. Carrboro Elementary school is blessed to have a former staffer as our Assistant Principal.”

Jaimi West served as a principal intern last year at McDougle Middle School, and this year she returned as AP. “All the staff members and their dedication to the students and leveraging the relationships they have formed through the school year are truly inspiring,” West said. “I have always been a firm believer that strong relationships with students are the key to building a foundation for meaningful learning.  As we navigate this new way to deliver instruction, the relationships the staff members have with students are proving to be the way to get kids to log on and continue learning. Teachers are keeping track of who is logging in and participating in Advisory, core or elective classes. If they are seeing that a student is not "present", they are reaching out to staff members who have strong bonds with the students to have them contact the student to see how we can support him. These strong relationships are helping us make sure to meet the needs of our learners.”

Christina Richardson is the AP at Rashkis Elementary School. “This at-home/ distance learning time has confirmed how truly grateful I am for my colleagues and students,” she said. “The sense of the community we've built and the lengths that staff and faculty go to ensure their students' needs are met is truly inspiring. I'm honored to be a member of the Rashkis and CHCCS teams.”

At Smith Middle School, another first year AP is Pamela McAllister, who said, “I am so blessed and thankful to be back in the CHCCS district, working with such hardworking, supportive and dedicated staff and colleagues. This unique and unprecedented moment in history has forced all of us to pause, reflect and really focus on what matters. And that is love for self and each other.” In a nod to her fellow Assistant Principals, McAllister said, “Thank you for your leadership, unity and collaboration in this great effort to persevere through such trying times. I am proud to be a CHCCS AP!”

To all 23 of our rockstar Assistant Principals, thank you for everything you do for students, staff and families!