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A.L. Brown’s Morris named North Carolina Principal of the Year

By Joanie Morris
Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS ó A.L. Brown High School’s principal, Dr. Debra Morris, was named the 2008 Wachovia North Carolina Principal of the Year Thursday afternoon by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
Morris was chosen from among eight regional finalists and honored during a luncheon in Raleigh.
Driving back from Raleigh Thursday, Morris spoke briefly about her award.
“I am (excited) because this award is really nice,” Morris said. As a finalist, she was selected as recipient of the award following interviews and on-site visits by a statewide selection committee comprised of the previous year’s principal of the year, the current teacher of the year, a member of the Principals’ Executive Program, a Wachovia representative, and a non-voting member of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
“It was based on a team that came out to our school and loved what they saw.”
The group spent the whole day at the school, talking with students, staff, parents and teachers about the programs, as well as getting a first-hand look at what goes on at A.L. Brown.
‘That’s why it’s so special,” Morris said.
She said she’ll remind her staff at the next staff meeting that this isn’t just her award.
“That’s their award,” Morris said. “You’re only as good as the teachers you surround yourself with.
“I’m surrounded by the best,” she said. “I can’t go wrong. They are right there with me every day. They are hard workers. …
“It is us, not me,” she added.
She said there will be a few changes at the school because of the award, but only for the better.
“I’m planning on still being at the school,” she said. “It will make me want to work harder. I want to live up to that title.”
In addition, she already has requests from other people anxious to see what’s going on inside the doors of A.L. Brown High School.
Teachers and staff at A.L. Brown were excited on Thursday after hearing the news that Morris had won the award.
Assistant Principal Greg Joyner said the school received a call about the award at around 2:45 p.m.
“It couldn’t have been given to a more deserving person,” said Joyner. He said the award was no surprise to those who work with Morris daily. “We knew this was going to happen. She is truly married to her job.”
Joyner was hired by Morris when she started at the school three years ago and said she is the best mentor a person could ask for.
“She has truly been a role model for us as an administrative team,” Joyner said. In addition, “she loves the kids.”
He said the improvement in the school is evident, and most is due to Morris.
As principal , Morris has established a school dress code, a Freshman Academy to help rising freshmen acclimate to high school, NovaNet (an after-school computer class), a book study with football players in the community and afterschool tutoring.
“She’s just implementing change,” Joyner said. In addition, she works hard “to give that unsuccessful student another chance to be successful.”
Teacher Terry Berryman echoed Joyner’s comments.
“She’s fun to be around,” Berryman said. “She loves the children.”
School Resource Officer Andrew Deal has been at A.L. Brown almost five years. He said Morris is a great principal to work with.
“We thought she was very deserving of (the award),” Deal said. “She works hard ó often too hard.”
Deal said the school wasn’t too surprised when the announcement came out that Morris had won.
From the police officer’s perspective, Deal said, Morris is an excellent principal.
“She’s very fair,” he said. “But she’s strict. She likes her students to be treated with respect and she demands her students treat others with respect.”
Deal said Morris considers different points of view when dealing with problems ó the police department, the school and the student.
“She is the School Resource Officer’s ideal principal to work with,” Deal said. “I’m fortunate to work with her.”
N.C. Board of Education Chairman Howard Lee said in a press release that Morris has an “obvious commitment and enthusiasm to ensure that all of her students succeed both academically and personally. …”I applaud her and her staff’s dedication to the success of A.L. Brown High and the students they serve,” Lee said in the release. He added that he is looking forward to working with Morris when she becomes an adviser to the State Board of Education.
Morris received her bachelor of arts in English with a minor in political science from Appalachian State University; a master’s of arts in English from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; a masters in school administration and a doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
She is a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the N.C. Association of School Administrators, the N.C. Principals’ and Assistant Principals’ Association, the Greater Cabarrus Reading Association and Phi Delta Kappa.
Morris has been named the National Association of Secondary School Principals’ and Met Life’s Principal of the Year for North Carolina for 2007, Kannapolis City Schools’ Principal of the Year for 2007, a regional and state winner in the adult poetry division of the North Carolina Reading Association 2007, and was one of 10 educators selected to represent the United States as a delegate to study civics education in Saratov, Russia, by the Partners in Education Program in 2000.
As recipient of the award, she will receive an additional $3,000 for her school and $3,000 for personal use. She also will serve a one-year term as adviser to the State Board of Education.
The Wachovia N.C. Principal of the Year program is sponsored in partnership with the Department of Public Instruction, the Principals’ Executive Program and Wachovia Corp. This is its 24th year.
Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or jmorris@salisburypost.com.

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