Q: Tell us a little about how you chose a career in education?
A: “I’m a first-generation college student. My parents strongly emphasized hard work, but we never really talked about college. As a child I was actually expelled from school in second grade, but I had a teacher who really poured into me and kept me focused. In high school, I joined ROTC and had an Officer who was very encouraging.
This involvement led to a small scholarship, and I chose to major in political science with the hope of going to law school. Toward the end of my college career, I met a school district recruiter at a job fair. I shared my story with her and she said, ‘You need to consider the field of education because you are proof that your teachers’ commitments made a difference, and you need to do something for the next generation.’ So that week, I signed up for the Praxis and ended up teaching for three years in a critical needs area of South Carolina.”
Q: Wow, that is incredible! How did that transition go?
A: “I stayed for seven years in Lake City, SC and loved every bit of it. I found new ways to work with students and began considering a career in administration. This led me to the University of South Carolina for my master’s degree.”
Q: Share a little about your experience in our educational administration program?
A: “The foundation this program laid prepared me and motivated me for administration. It was incredibly practical. The program was hands-on, and I use things I learned every day. The biggest thing I took away was that I learned from professors and my fellow students. I still keep in touch with some of my classmates today.
After the program, I got a job at the middle school I attended as assistant principal. It was pretty neat to work with teachers that taught me. I went on to become an elementary principal and have now served for eight years as Clover High School principal.”
Q: What was it like to learn that you are South Carolina’s Principal of the Year?
A: “It was shocking! I was spending the day at the district office, and I got a call that I needed to return to the school immediately. So many things were running through my mind. When I arrived at the school, they brought me to the auditorium where the senior class and my family was waiting. It was quite the range of emotions.”
Q: What does it mean for you and your school to receive this award?
A: “The recognition is not for me. Every time they put my name on anything related to this award, they put my school name after it. My hope is to shine a light on all the great things we are doing. I want people to ask, ‘What’s different about Clover High School?’ and come here to see. Our staff and students are courageous, and to me, Clover High School is the Principal of the Year.”
Q: What are some of the things that make Clover High School different?
A: “Our support structures. We posted our highest graduation rate during the pandemic at 96 percent. This is all due to our incredible support system. Every student in our school is assigned to a team with an administrator, a school counselor, a social worker and a mental health counselor. This group meets weekly to talk about their assigned students. This individual attention is given to 2,700 students, and that is the key ingredient to our success. We also have a range of opportunities that fit a wide variety of our students. We have the largest ROTC unit on the east coast for the Air Force. We have certified 94 future pilots over the last 4 years. Our fine arts programs and clubs are amazing — we even have a Dungeons and Dragons club. We’ve given our students the ability to start clubs within their interests and these opportunities make us unique.”
Q: This is amazing! Tell us how that support structure got started?
A: “I went to a leadership conference around five years ago and saw something like that at a middle school level. This system involves the parents, students and administrators. Some parts of it are grant funded, including substance-abuse and mental health counselors based on our campus. These layers of support are critical for our students.”
Q: Thank you for your time, is there anything else you would like to share with your fellow alumni?
A: “Thank you for recognizing our school and the work we are trying to do here. I know you aren’t fully prepared until you’re in the thick of it. But, I truly feel that my coursework and time at USC gave me a wonderful foundation for where I am today.”
The South Carolina Association of School Administrators (SCASA) annually honors three of our state’s principals in secondary, middle and elementary education. More information on SCASA and their award process can be found at scasa.org.