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Principal runs tight ship with open-door policy

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J.H. Rose principal Monica Jacobson stands for a photo in the hallway at the school Friday morning. Jacobson was chosen as the 2016 Principal of the Year for Pitt County Schools.

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Holly West

Saturday, September 17, 2016

At J.H. Rose High School, Principal Monica Jacobson’s door is always open. 

Jacobson was recently named the Pitt County Schools Principal of the Year — a recognition that comes as no surprise to the faculty, staff, students and parents who interact with her every day.

“She’s just one that will always listen and take into consideration whatever you present her,” head counselor Christa Monroe said. “She’s thoughtful before she makes a decision.” 

Math teacher Tracey Moore said Jacobson, who has been the principal at J.H. Rose for four years, takes the idea of having an open-door policy seriously.

“Literally, her door in her office is open. Now sometimes you can’t find her in there because she’s out here,” Moore said, motioning down a hallway lined with classrooms. “When I go in and we’ve talked, I’ll go out and I’ll go to close the door she says, ‘No, no, leave it open.’ That’s her.”

For Jacobson, openness is essential to the family atmosphere she works to create. 

“I just want them to recognize, and I think they do, that I’m here to serve them,” Jacobson said. “I don’t ever want them to think I’m too busy, that they can’t come share with me any desire they have, whether it be for their classroom, or if it’s a student, something they need to help them educationally.” 

Before becoming principal at Rose, Jacobson served as the principal and assistant principal at G.R. Whitfield School. She previously served as an assistant principal at Rose and once taught civics and economics and U.S. history at the school.

Jacobson holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her first foray into teaching was at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, where she served as a tutor for the Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, program while working on her master’s degree in teaching at Winthrop University. After completing her master’s, she taught Advanced Placement U.S. History, sociology, psychology and African-American studies at a Charlotte high school.

On a normal school day, Jacobson can be found walking the hallways during class changes and hanging out in the cafeteria during lunchtime so she can talk to students. Senior Tyler Stox, vice president of the Student Government Association, said he and his classmates know they can approach her about anything. He recalled an incident in which he had an issue with one of his teachers and went to her for help.

“I ended up leaving the class and going straight to Mrs. Jacobson’s office and she sat down and talked to me then and there, stopped her entire day for me,” Stox said. “If I ever think about her, I think about that incident. It highlights how she really cares about each and every student.”

While Jacobson seeks to have close relationships with students, Stox said she’s no pushover. 

“She definitely does run a tight ship here at Rose,” he said. “But it doesn’t go in vain. Everybody loves her for it.” 

Her dedication does not go unnoticed by parents. Kim Kuhn, who has two children at Rose, said Jacobson is one of the most hardworking people she knows. 

“I get emails with information and responses from her at all hours of the night,” Kuhn said. “It seems like she never stops working.” 

As the principal of a high school, Jacobson faces many challenging situations, but her colleagues say she handles them expertly. 

“She handles everything with such dignity and grace,” said Russell Knight, the band director and chair of the school leadership team. “Even when she’s dealing with a difficult student or a difficult parent, she’s just always so calm and at peace.” 

Sheldon Taylor, head of facilities management, said he admires her quiet strength. 

“She’s one of those that’s behind the scenes, and I think those are the type of people that get things done, those that don’t have to be in the forefront,” he said. 

Her commitment to students, staff and families earned her the designation of 2016 Principal of the Year. She was chosen from among eight candidates and recognized at a ceremony hosted by the Pitt County Farm Bureau on Sept. 8.

Jacobson said she’s honored to receive the award, but it’s not about her.

“It’s the work that everybody does in the building, from the students, the parents, the community,” she said. “There are great initiatives that go on at Rose, and they’re not all from my brain. People come to me with wonderful ideas and I try to do my best, if I think it’s something that’s going to benefit our students, we come together to try to make that happen.” 

Contact Holly West at hwest@reflector.com or 252-329-9585.

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