- Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools
Phoenix Academy High School Says Farewell to Retiring Principal John Williams
Phoenix Academy High School Principal John Williams recently said goodbye to the staff and longtime friends of the alternative high school he has led for the past 10 years. The central room of the school was decorated and a long table held a selection of lunch foods and snacks. There was a cake, of course, and there were also plenty of tears, and plenty of laughter.
For those friends and admirers of Williams, it’s a confirmed fact that his humility is a trait that is always present. Try to celebrate him, and he can instantly deflect the praise and accolades to the people in his sphere, in this case his staff, the Phoenix students, the Public School Foundation staff and the Central Office team who’ve worked closely with him through the years.
Nevertheless, in the presence of his wife and nearly all of the current PAHS staff, Williams listened quietly to the tributes delivered on his behalf.
School social worker Gloria Sanchez began her work at PAHS the same year Williams arrived, and she told him at the celebration, “It has been a pleasure to work with you for the past 10 years. You have been such an amazing principal in allowing your staff flexibility and creativity to build PAHS into this amazing comprehensive high school, where students feel safe and cared for. You will be dearly missed by our staff, parents and students. We wish you all the best.”
Chief of School Support and Wellness, Dr. Charlos Banks, also spoke about Williams’ impact. She recounted the power of his Motivational Moments, brief words of gratitude, reflection and wisdom he shared everyday. “He liked to say that leadership is not about being in charge, but it’s about taking care of the people in your charge.”
Banks added, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality, and when I think about the work and all the aspiration that he's had for our students here at Phoenix – a lot of folks would have walked into that vision and thought ‘We can’t possibly do this, we can’t possibly offer this to our students.’ But he was able to take a vision and make it a reality for his students and his staff.”
Madeline Blobe, executive director of the Public School Foundation, said, “John Williams truly leads by example. When you speak with John about the mission and work going on at Phoenix, he touches your heart in a way that inspires you to do your best. His leadership and heart will be greatly missed, but we are grateful for the gift to know and work with him. Congratulations to John as he embarks on his next adventure. We know he is not done changing lives."
When Williams accepted the floor to share his thoughts, they were characteristically brief. “I listen to all the great things said, and I’m humbled and embarrassed, but to assume all these great things happened because of me and not because of the people I’ve had the pleasure and honor of serving here and at the district level…” He shook his head. “The core of making a difference in anyone’s life is just trying to do what’s right. So I thank you for this opportunity, and I thank you for the acknowledgement of all the effort I tried to put in.”
Thank you, Mr. Williams, for what you brought to your students and CHCCS, for your leadership and your voice. Congratulations, and best wishes on your retirement!
Photo credits: Donna Youngblood