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Kirkland named Pitt Schools Principal of the year

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Principal of Wintergreen Intermediate and Primary School Cathy Kirkland receives her award for principal of the year at Rock Springs Center on Oct. 17, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Amber Revels-Stocks
The Times-Leader

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Eleven administrators were honored for their dedication and service at Farm Bureau’s Pitt County Schools Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year banquet on Wednesday night at Rock Springs Center.

Cathy C. Kirkland of Wintergreen Primary and Intermediate Schools was honored as 2018-19 Principal of the Year, and Yolanda Williams of Creekside Elementary School was named 2018-19 Assistant Principal of the Year.

“It’s a complete shock,” Kirkland said. “All of the nominees this year are amazing principals, so I’m honored to have been name Principal of the Year.”

Kirkland, who has served Pitt County Schools for 21 years, became the principal at Wintergreen in 2016. She has a master’s in school administration and a bachelor’s in early childhood education, both from East Carolina University.

Becoming an administrator was a natural progression for Kirkland.

“I had taught for 14 years and just decided I would follow in my father’s footsteps and be an administrator,” Kirkland said. “He’s passed away, but he was a retired superintendent of schools. He was amazing.”

Her father had great expectations for Kirkland and she has strived to meet them.

“He was very loving but knew what needed to be done and made sure to do it,” she said. “I’ve just tried to emulate that in my career.”

Williams became an assistant principal in 2013. A native of Ayden, she has a master’s in executive leadership, a bachelor’s in psychology and a bachelor’s in biology.

“I’m very thankful and grateful,” Williams said. “I’m just in awe for the honor. I’ve been blessed to serve under many principals who have served as mentors to me and who still mentor me.”

Williams planned on teaching biology her whole career. However, fate had a different plan.

“Actually, I never wanted to be an administrator. I wanted to continue in the classroom,” she said. “I went back and got my master’s just to have options. When a door of opportunity presented itself, I took a leap of faith.”

Williams thanked her mentors, Principal Don Marr of D.H. Conley High School and Julie Kerry, for helping her become a successful administrator.

“Don Marr believed in me when other people didn’t,” she said. “He was my principal when I was a biology teacher for three years. When became the principal at D.H. Conley, he brought me with him.

“Julie Kerry mentors me to this day,” Williams said. “She told me, ‘You are very competent but you lack confidence.’ She encouraged me to grow in my confidence to become a more effective leader.”

Superintendent Ethan Lenker ended the ceremony by thanking everyone, including the event’s sponsors.

“Look around the room. How blessed am I to be the superintendent of a school system like Pitt County? I get to work with these people every day,” Lenker said. “We’re lucky in Pitt County to honor our administrators the way we do. They work incredibly hard, incredibly long hours at a very difficult job, and they’re outstanding at what they do. We have great leaders in our schools.”

Kirkland and Williams received more than just honor of being named Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year, though.

They each received $500 for themselves and $500 for their schools from the Pitt County Educational Foundation. The N.C. Principals and Assistant Principals Association —for which Kirkland serves as treasurer — gave each winner $250 for themselves and $250 for their schools. Roberson and Associates gave Kirkland a $250 gift card and Williams a $100 gift card. They also received several gift cards and gift baskets from local merchants.

Also nominated for Principal of the Year were Wynn Whittington of Pitt County Schools Early College High School, Jeremiah Miller of Bethel School, Kamara C. Roach of W.H. Robinson Elementary School and Jennifer Poplin of Hope Middle School. Also nominated for Assistant Principal of the Year were Leigh Ann Swinson of Elmhurst Elementary, Karen Godwin of J.H. Rose High School, Tarrus Carr of D.H. Conley High School and Reed Potts of D.H. Conley High School.

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