In honor of National Principals Month, New Hanover County Schools’ Principal of the Year, Dr. Lauren Kefalonitis, has prepared this week’s blog. Dr. Kefalonitis is principal of Bradley Creek Elementary School.
As a school leader, our top commitment is to improve student learning. However, a positive school culture can enhance the learning environment by encouraging greater collaboration, effort, and productivity.
Maya Angelou said, “People don’t remember what you said but how you made them feel.” I believe this speaks to the importance of a school’s culture for both students and staff. Bradley Creek Elementary School is a diverse learning community that welcomes students from various backgrounds and socioeconomic levels. Creating a positive, student-centered learning environment that not only fosters academic excellence but also promotes cultural acceptance, which is at the center of our core values. Establishing such core values and revisiting them frequently has allowed them to become a fabric within the make-up of our school.
As we celebrate National Principals Month, I reflect on the hard work and dedication of New Hanover County Schools administrators. Regardless of where their schools are located within New Hanover County, each principal is confronted by their own set of challenges. Although from afar, the chairs, desks, and books may look similar, each school’s culture is unique. Each principal works to build relationships, understand their community, and construct the most positive student-centered culture.
Unfortunately, all too often, students throughout NHCS, as well as our country, are exposed to community trauma. In recent days, school culture has become a foundation of support for numerous students for this reason. Although each circumstance is very different, the need for a consistent, loving, and welcoming environment is always the same. Students and their families are confronted with situations that are much more than sounds bites or a series of new stories; these incidents produce tangible worry and concern. Principals work to create a school community that wraps their arms around those who may be frightened or troubled by providing a loving and nurturing environment for all children. We work to not “toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world” but rather educate “children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless” (L.R. Knost). All school stakeholders, including families from all backgrounds, come together to offer assistance when needed and to support the school community.
Just as Bradley Creek has its own distinctive culture, so does each of the fellow 45 schools in our district. Whether it is through home visits, family nights, or community events, principals throughout NHCS work to provide families a safe, positive, inquiry-rich environment that is often present after the hours of 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. I am incredibly proud to work beside and learn from each of these amazing individuals. I am honored to call them my peers, mentors, and friends. Together, we create environments where students are excited to enter, parents feel welcomed, and teachers feel eager to conquer the day.
New Hanover County Schools Principals