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Celebrating when public schools run in the family: Dr. John McDaris named HCPS principal of the year!

Driving through a cheering crowd of students and staff at Rugby Middle School on Tuesday, Dr. John McDaris was surprised with the news that he’s been named the 2023-24 Principal of the Year for Henderson County Public Schools (HCPS).

McDaris is the son of Jeff McDaris, former superintendent of Transylvania County Schools and now regional impact director for myFutureNC.

Filled with anticipation, the entire school community lined the driveway, as McDaris arrived on campus with a police and fire escort. The Rugby Raider band, cheerleaders, and students added to the excitement with music and cheering. As McDaris got out of his car, confetti fell from above and the crowd erupted into applause and cheering. Leading the way to greet him were his loving wife, three daughters, and parents filled with joy and tears.

“I am simply overwhelmed by this honor. I consider it a joy and privilege to serve the Rugby students, staff, and community alongside the greatest collection of educators in North Carolina,” said McDaris. “I would like to express deepest thanks to the Rugby community, the leadership of Henderson County Public Schools, and all of the exceptional principals in our district who I admire and by whom I am continually inspired.”

Each school year, the HCPS Principal of the Year is nominated by and voted on by his or her peers – the other 22 principals in the district – giving special significance to the designation.

“We are immensely proud of Dr. John McDaris for being honored as the Henderson County Principal of the Year. His unwavering dedication, innovative leadership, and profound impact on our students and staff make him a standout choice among his peers,” said HCPS Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources W. Scott Rhodes. “This accolade is a testament not just to his hard work, but to the meaningful connections he fosters every day within his school community and his colleagues within the district.”

“His commitment to students and passion for public education are evident.”

— Superintendent Mark Garrett

Superintendent Mark R. Garrett spoke to McDaris’s leadership.

“Dr. McDaris is an outstanding school leader who is more than well deserving of this honor. His commitment to students and passion for public education are evident as he leads Rugby Middle School,” he said. “He has a vision for the school that is taking it to even greater heights. We are excited to have Dr. McDaris represent Henderson County Public Schools as the Principal of the Year and know he will serve us proudly.”

McDaris joined Henderson County Public Schools in 2014 as an assistant principal at North Henderson High School, following four years as a social studies teacher in Transylvania County. He later served as the assistant principal and athletic director at West Henderson High School until 2021. Since then, he has been leading Rugby Middle School.

“Dr. McDaris inspires the students and staff to create a common vision of excellence. He models and facilitates this collaboration in a way that all feel valued and heard. Rugby is thankful for his passionate leadership that has created a safe, nurturing environment for all,” shared Assistant Principal Justin McKenzie.

Editor’s Note: This is a press release from Henderson County Public Schools.

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.