Sparger retiring as East Rowan principal

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 8, 2013

SALISBURY — Kelly Sparger is retiring as principal of East Rowan High School.
Sparger will retire Aug. 1 after more than 31 years in education, said Rita Foil, public information officer with the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
He has been East Rowan’s principal for more than a decade.
“It’s probably one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make,” Sparger said Tuesday. “I love my job and I love the school — we have great staff and wonderful children — but I just felt like it was time to go.”
He said he wants to spend more time with his children and grandchildren and his parents. He also wants to play more golf with his brother.
Sparger is a 1968 graduate of North Rowan High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from N.C. State University in 1972.
From 1972 to 1974, he worked in Rowan County schools as a teacher and basketball coach.
His career took him elsewhere for about 20 years, Foil said, until Sparger returned to Rowan County in 1994 as principal of Erwin Middle School. He became principal of East Rowan in 2003.
Sparger said what he’ll remember most about his time at East Rowan are the relationships with students and staff.
“It’s nice to see the successes that our staff is able to have, and to see students that graduate and move on to become successful in business, sports or whatever the case may be,” he said. “It’s nice to think that in some small way, you might have made some small difference along the way.”
In emailed comments, Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said Sparger will be missed by many at East Rowan and throughout the school system.
She said he has been an “integral part” of high school principals’ meetings as he shares his many years of experience with them.
“I especially applaud Kelly’s leadership in doing what it takes to keep students motivated and focused to complete high school as shown by East having one of the highest graduation rates in our district,” Grissom said. “Kelly has a great sense of humor as well as a strong determination in doing what it takes to make East a top notch high school. I thank him for his years of service in education and wish for him the very best in whatever waits for him in his retirement. “
Sparger said he doesn’t know who might replace him, but he’s sure that Grissom will make a good choice for her recommendation.
“I hope it will be somebody who will take good care of the staff and students at East Rowan High School,” he said.
That person will face many of the same challenges that Sparger himself is dealing with as principal.
The state and federal government have made a lot of changes in public schools recently, Sparger said. It’s hard to keep up with them all, he said, and there isn’t much time to measure whether one thing has been successful before moving on to the next.
He said schools now have to work to meet standards that rely too much on test scores for accountability.
“I think we’ve been very accountable down here, and that’s a credit to our staff and our students, but it never seems to be quite enough,” Sparger said.
Still, he said his time as principal at East Rowan has been “an awesome experience.”
“We’ve got great young men and women down here, and it’s been a lot of fun. We have an awesome staff, and they’re incredible to work with,” Sparger said. “That’s what I’ll miss the most — the staff and students — those relationships and friendships. Watching them work so hard and be successful makes it worthwhile.”

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.