RSS celebrates principals in October

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 28, 2021

SALISBURY – Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ social media pages have been filled with photos of principals with text posing the same question: What is your favorite thing about them?

Part of a monthlong celebration of principals, the responses have been from parents to faculty who have spoken about their kindness, their energy and how they look out for students.

Rikki Baldwin is one of the district’s principals. She started her principal career at China Grove Middle School last year in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s kind of, maybe, my normal,” Baldwin said.

She said one of the biggest challenges has been having grace for everyone at the school. Staff needs to give grace for parents and students, and that same grace needs to be extended to all the staff as well.

“I think from a principal’s perspective, our number one goal is to keep students safe,” Baldwin said, adding for her that means every kid feels comfortable while they are at school and what is happening outside is left home so the school can focus on learning.

Baldwin said she has seen issues outside of school creep in more than her past experiences as an educator. Some students are terrified of COVID-19 and have lost family members or parents to the disease. For others, masks have presented more of a barrier to learning. Masks were made optional in RSS effective Wednesday.

Baldwin said for her faculty she wants students to focus on the facts and the things they can control.

There have been some positives. She said the pandemic has taught educators how to persevere, break away from tradition and be more flexible while focusing on the goal of educating children.

“It makes us become better educators,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin said recently she has had people at all levels approach her and offer support. She credited district leadership staff providing mentorship to her as she has started her journey as a principal and credited district staff for helping fill faculty absences when quarantine numbers were high earlier this school year.

April Spry, a third-year principal at Granite Quarry Elementary School, said one of the most difficult things for the school recently was transitioning students back to a full-time schedule. Students were only at school two days per week most of the previous school year.

Spry said they were not able to be around their peers as much and many of them lost loved ones or had sicknesses in their families.

“COVID has hit our kiddos hard,” Spry said.

Spry said the social and emotional wellness of the students needs to be in place for the academics to follow, and having them in school more has helped staff make sure the students are well. That also means staff need to take are of themselves, because the work is hard.

The school is one of a number in RSS that has adopted Capturing Kids Hearts, a social framework that helps build good relationships between staff and students. The school was in the midst of implementing the system in early 2020, shortly before the pandemic began.

“I almost feel like it was kind of a gift because we did not know what was coming,” Spry said.

Spry said she the base of parents for the school has had a good base of parents. They will stop in the car line and tell her they appreciate her work. Parents have donated breakfast for staff and local faith-based organizations have donated supplies as well, recognizing some of the financial trouble families are dealing with.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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