Back to school: Alexis Cowan dreams of Henderson transformation

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 17, 2018

SALISBURY — Alexis Cowan is a practiced hand at innovation and transformation. For the past two years, he’s served North Rowan schools as the district’s first community principal. This year, he’s shedding that mantle and taking up a new one — that of principal at Henderson Independent High School.

Cowan, a Rowan County native, said he visited Henderson several times during his community principalship, and noticed even then that the school could benefit from having a shared vision. When former principal Arlisa Armond left to lead a school in Guilford County, Cowan applied for the position.

Now that he’s manning the helm, Cowan said he plans to unite the school and to integrate it with the community.

“It is a challenge that is worth pursuing,” he said of leading Henderson.

The alternative high school serves students in sixth through 12th grade who have struggled in traditional education environments. While many in the community have preconceived notions about Henderson, Cowan said it’s much like any other school.

“Despite all the challenges with behavior and academics, (Henderson’s students) want school to be good for them, too,” he said.

After more than 30 years as an educator, he said he’s learned to strike a balance between letting students know he cares and holding them accountable.

Cowan has already touched base with the school’s teachers about changes they’d like to see, and said he plans to unite the student body under a shared culture, climate and vision. Working together — students, teachers and community members — can help turn the school around and “lift the spirit of hope.”

By increasing the community’s involvement with Henderson, Cowan hopes to increase internship offerings and expand career and technical education tracks. He encouraged community members to contact Henderson, visit the school and become involved.

“I really need the support of the community,” he said.

Cowan also thanked the faculty and staff of Henderson for welcoming him with open arms.

“I do not take it for granted,” he said.

Cowan received his undergraduate degree from Winston-Salem State University, and his graduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is married to his wife of 12 years, Judith, and has four children and four grandchildren.