SALISBURY — The new principal of East Rowan High School says she believes in the generation that’s filling its classrooms.
Julia Erdie started her new position Aug. 1, replacing outgoing principal Kelly Sparger. Before she ever saw the job opening, Erdie said, she was already watching the Rowan-Salisbury School System with interest.
“When I was a principal fellow, I researched 21st century learning and the millenial generation we’re living in,” Erdie said. “I was very impressed with what Rowan-Salisbury was doing in that area.”
She said creating 21st century classrooms is not just about using the latest technology, but about adjusting the students’ instruction to fit the way they learn.
“It is recognizing that the students that we teach in buildings today are not the same students that we taught when we started,” Erdie said. “This generation of students learns differently.”
She referred to a book called “Millenials Rising,” by Neil Howe and William Strauss, that takes a positive look at today’s teenagers.
Students who are in high school now might seem apathetic, Erdie said, but it’s not that they don’t care about learning. They just don’t see how what they’re being taught is relevant to their world.
“It’s really about harnessing their desire to learn, and if you create a classroom that does that, they’ll step up and be engaged,” she said.
Erdie’s official start date at East Rowan was Aug. 1, though she took a few leave days in July to visit the school and meet some of the administration and staff. That included a meeting with Sparger, the former principal, who filled her in on what had been going on at the school.
She also met some of the students when they came by during the summer.
“Obviously, it’s a learning curve when you go into a new system,” Erdie said. “But everybody here has been wonderful, from the county office to my teachers to the students to the staff here. Everybody has been just very welcoming, and that has made my transition so much easier.”
From the beginning, Erdie said she wasn’t looking to come in and make big changes. Administrative staff members are running things well already, she said, so she wants to let them continue.
“I intend to fully utilize the school improvement team, so anything that they feel like needs to be adjusted or changed, we’ll work from there,” Erdie said. “Any changes will go through the school improvement team.”
School resource officer Scott Flowers said Erdie laid out clear expectations for teachers on their first day, and did the same for students when they started classes. He said he thinks it’s good for people to know what’s expected of them right up front.
“I know a lot of people miss Mr. Sparger. I miss him as well,” Flowers said. “But she is a good person to work with. We work well together.”
LuAnn Phelps, financial secretary, said she came to East Rowan with Sparger when he left Erwin Middle School 10 years ago.
She said she’s still adjusting to working for a new principal, but it has been a smooth transition. Erdie hasn’t changed anything major about the way the office runs.
“It’s gone really well,” Phelps said. “Ms. Erdie fits right in with everybody. It’s different, but a good different.”
Erdie, who lives in Concord, didn’t have to move when she switched school systems. She says it’s just a 25-minute commute to East Rowan.
Her 22-year-old daughter is a senior at Appalachian State University, and her 20-year-old son is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Before she joined the Rowan-Salisbury School System, Erdie was working for Cabarrus County Schools as assistant principal at Cox Mill High School. She had worked there since 2008.
She taught math at Northwest Cabarrus Middle School from 1997 to 1999 and at Concord High School from 1999 to 2006. After that, she spent one year as a principal intern at Jay M. Robinson High School.
Erdie said she loves high school sports, especially football and baseball, which her son played.
“Those are really dear to my heart because of being a mom and watching it from the time he was five years old on up,” she said. “I love to go to all the games, and I love to see the kids enjoying what they’re doing.”
“I am a real big advocate of student athletes,” Erdie said. “I think athletics and extracurriculars are important to the development of teenagers.”
Erdie holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Louisiana State University in Shreveport and a master’s degree in school administration from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
She tutored in college but didn’t begin teaching right away, Erdie said. Instead, she went to work in the private sector as a marketing analyst.
Erdie said she was drawn to education once she and her husband had children, but she can’t quite pinpoint the reason.
“To me, education is a calling,” she said. “There’s not any one thing that says, ‘You have to teach.’ It’s who you are and how you operate.”