And the Principal of the Year is…Marc Whichard.
Whichard is the principal at SouthWest Edgecombe High School, the largest school in the Edgecombe County Public Schools district, with 900 students. Whichard received news of his honor on Oct. 22 and was publicly recognized for the achievement at Monday’s board of education meeting.
“Being chosen Principal of the Year out of the talent pool Mr. Farrelly (school superintendent) has brought into the district is very humbling and it’s an honor,” Whichard said.
This is the second time that Whichard has earned that honor. He was named Principal of the Year for 2011-2012, in his first year as principal at SouthWest.
Whichard will receive a $1,000 cash award from Wells Fargo, sponsor of the Principal of the Year program, and will move on to compete with other local award recipients from the North Central Region of the state.
Whichard describes his leadership style as “firm, fair and consistent…All three of those things woven in a family-like atmosphere, all of us working together for the benefit of the students.”
“Mr. Whichard is an outstanding Principal and is very deserving of this esteemed honor,” Superintendent John Farrelly said. “He exemplifies the qualities of a true instructional leader who is committed to providing SouthWest Edgecombe High School students with an outstanding educational program. The tremendous jump in the graduation rate is a testament to the team efforts Mr. Whichard is leading at SouthWest.”
When Whichard first took on the role of principal at SouthWest, the school’s graduation rates were third out of the traditional high schools in the district. In the 2012-2013 year, SouthWest had the highest graduation rates among the traditional high schools – 80.3 percent.
“What’s been most exciting to me is putting a school together that has achieved,” Whichard said. “We’ve come from third place academically to first place.”
Whichard’s goal is to continue to raise student graduation rates, saying he will not be satisfied until “every student graduates that needs to graduate.” He said the school provides counseling to every student identified as a potential dropout to help “get them across the finish line.”
“We have established a tone where teaching and learning is respected by our students and our community, with a heavy emphasis on college preparedness and rigorous instruction,” Whichard said. “My goal for SouthWest is to continue down the path we’re headed. We’re on a very strong path for success.”
Whichard has 10 years of experience in school administration, and seven of those years were with ECPS. He previously was assistant principal at Sam D. Bundy Elementary School in Pitt County. He has also taught history and English at Tarboro High School.
Whichard said he went into school administration to “give back to teachers,” whether it’s helping them with curriculum content or behavior management in the classroom.
“Me personally as an administrator is all about helping teachers be successful,” he said. In Whichard’s words, it’s a “servant leadership” approach.
The school administrator said he also gets great personal gratification from working with a student on a solution to a problem and “seeing the light bulb go off.”
“I can leave and go home knowing that I got a student back on track with where they need to be,” Whichard said.
That “care and compassion” for students and a desire to see them achieve academically is what drives Whichard every day as a school administrator. Moving forward, Whichard’s goal is go further in educational leadership and, in the short term, to chart out a plan for continuous improvement at SouthWest.