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10 to watch: Dr. Latoya Dixon

Dr. Latoya Dixon

When Knox Middle School lost its fourth principal since 2008 in the middle of the academic year last year, district leaders decided it was time to try something different and hired Dr. Latoya Dixon and Dr. Michael Waiksnis to take on the principal position together.

The pair worked closely with each other and Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody in her former position as superintendent of the Rock Hill School District, where Dixon and Waiksnis used to be principals.

The two were hired early in June and are the only set of co-principals in the Rowan-Salisbury School System.

“This has been a great experience for us,” Dixon said, adding that their experience working together in the past made the transition smooth.

“We didn’t have to work to develop professional trust,” she said. “I trust Mike completely. I feel strongly that he feels the same way.”

Dixon, who has lived most of her life in Rock Hill, South Carolina, was raised by a single mother and is the youngest of three girls.

“My mother is one of the wisest people I know. She really influenced my life,” Dixon said.

As for her sisters – they’re her best friends, Dixon said. “We’re very, very close.”

The family struggled with poverty, but Dixon said she wouldn’t change it.

“It definitely colors the way I look at different things,” she said. “It made me the person I am. I appreciate the person I am.”

Dixon has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and English from Clemson University and a master’s of education administration and a doctorate in educational leadership and administration from the University of South Carolina.

Before she became a principal in 2008, Dixon taught middle school English, coached basketball and volleyball and served as an administrative intern and assistant principal.

“I loved being a teacher, and I still do,” she said. “This is my work, but it’s also my passion. It’s my purpose.”

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Job title: Co-principal of Knox Middle School

Age: 37

Address: Rock Hill, South Carolina

If you won $1 million in the lottery, what would you do? “I’m really not sure – it just seems so unlikely,” she said, adding that she’d also like to “do something for charity” or start a nonprofit to help children in poverty and first generation college graduates.

Favorite hobby: “Based on the last 10 years of my life, I’d say working,” she said. Dixon added that she also loves sports, people, fishing and movies.

Who should play you in a movie? “That’s a really hard question,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to say a particular person, but someone who’s committed to being a good person.”

What would you choose for your last meal? “Basically, a heart attack on a plate,” Dixon laughed.

She listed fried pork chops, fried okra, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, sweet tea and homemade biscuits, which, she added, would “definitely have to be cooked by my mother – she’s a wonderful cook.”

Who will you watch in 2015? The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education and education as a whole on the national political level.

Biggest challenge in 2015: “I think it would be presumptions to pretend to know,” she said. “Our job is a challenge.”

She added that she plans to stay the course and stay focused as they continue the transformation process.

Biggest hope for 2015: ”For our children to have a hope and a vision for their future. Education is one of the greatest equalizers.”

Reaction to making the list: ”It’s definitely an honor. I’m a little surprised,” she said, adding that she and co-principal Dr. Mike Waiksnis “just wanted to come in and work hard and do the best thing for the kids.”

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