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Looking for local leadership

A small but engaged group of Salisbury High School parents met with Rowan-Salisbury Schools personnel Monday night to discuss what they want in the school’s new principal.
The hiring process is under way to select a new principal for SHS, which lost its most recent principal after just over a year on the job.
Overwhelmingly, the two dozen parents who attended the meeting asked for a principal who will live in the community and who will have a heart for the community. The fact that the previous principal never changed the out-of-state license plate on her car was not lost on these parents.
As parents signed in at tables outside the school auditorium, they were invited to write ideas on sticky notes and place them on posters labeled with the following categories, “Instructional Focus,” “Future & Direction of Salisbury High School,” “Culture, Diversity and Traditions” and “Community and Parent Involvement.”
“No commuting! Needs to live in Salisbury” was written more than once. Another note read, “Needs to have principalship as final goal.”
Salisbury City Councilman Brian Miller attended the meeting as an interested parent, he said, not as a politician. He has two children there now and a third child who will attend SHS.
“I want what every parent wants,” he said. “I want it to be as great an experience for the kids as possible.”
“I want to continue the rigor and top academic institution for which Salisbury High School has been known for years, and I want a principal who will work for all students, not just one particular group,” said Carole Parrott, the mother of four children, all of whom have attended or will attend SHS.
Her twins are middle-schoolers at Sacred Heart Catholic School, and she plans to send them to SHS, she said. “That’s the plan for now, but there are options now. But Salisbury High School has always had such a fabulous reputation and we need to keep it.”
Kristi Rhone, RSS executive director of human resources, and Eisa M. Cox, RSS director of secondary education, led the town hall-style meeting.
The school system is seeking input from the community in putting together a list of leadership priorities for the new principal. Such priorities are reflected in principal evaluation, which would take place throughout the year.
“We have taken to heart the information you’ve provided us,” Cox said.
All information on the system’s online survey is confidential, Rhone noted. That survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/s/D9HZLMP, or accessed via the SHS home page.
Parents asked if an income supplement were available for the position, but Rhone said not at this time. They also wanted to know if they’d have the opportunity to speak with candidates.
“No, it is not traditionally done,” Rhone said, although she did say parents would be involved in the interview committee.
Community involvement by the new principal was clearly key to these parents.
“We want a principal who knows where these kids come from, who knows the heritage of this school,” Susana D’Mello said.
“We don’t want to be a stepping stone,” Holly Grant said. “We really need somebody who wants to be a principal.”
Another parent asked how much experience candidates applying for the position have. Applications are open until Dec. 2.
“Someone needs a shot at some point in time,” Cox noted, “but typically, an applicant needs to be in an administrative position for at least three years. What we’re looking for is the depth of experience they do have. This is a diverse school, full of amazing people. There are traditions.”
Carmen Burton said that any candidate for principal needs to be “culturally sound.”
The Rev. Rhodes Woolly again brought up the question of local supplements.
“Is there any opportunity for the community to provide supplements?” he asked. “If we were to take that initiative, would that be a possibility?”
Rhone said that she would have to speak with Superintendent Lynn Moody about the legality of the request.
Rhone encouraged parents to take an online survey about the new principal. So far, some 180 people have responded, 80 of whom are SHS students. They’ll have the opportunity to take the survey again next week when laptop computers are set up in the cafeteria.
“We all want someone who is involved with us and knows us by name,” said Caroline Parrott, an SHS sophomore. “We want someone who asks about our lives, who supports us in athletics and makes it obvious they support us.
She added of Kathy McDuffie, interim principal, “I think she’s done a great job. She is being a good leader and reaching out to us — which we needed. I’m glad we have her.”
“This is the first time we’ve ever opened feedback in Rowan County,” Cox pointed out. “I don’t think we’ll ever find another Dr. Eagle.”
Cox was referring to former principal Dr. Windsor Eagle, who led SHS for more than 30 years.
Krista Woolly, however, said she’d like to see just that.
“I want somebody who doesn’t see color, who doesn’t see money, who doesn’t see academic achievement, but sees these kids as they are,” she said.
If students need AP or AIG classes they should receive them, she said. If they need remedial assistance, they should get that, too. “Dr. Eagle created a remedial boot camp, for goodness sake. We need someone who will think outside the box.
“I haven’t lived here all my life, but I live and work in my neighborhood and my kids go to school there. I’m not pulling them out of there and sending them 20 miles down the road to school, although I have thought about it. But I’m hoping we’ve learned from what we just experienced. If we have to wait for the right candidate, then we have to wait.”
Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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