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When to give, when to take: NC principals get personal

This is part of The Principal’s Office, a short video series on what it means to be a school principal in North Carolina.

We hear a lot about how every child in a school building is more than a student. They’re a whole human being with wants, needs, desires, histories, goals, and dreams.

As it turns out, those who sit in the principal’s chair meet all the same criteria.

In December, I had the opportunity to meet with three North Carolina principals in their offices to learn about their work and personal lives. I wanted to understand what it’s really like to be a principal.

A resounding theme was the need to provide emotional support for others in the building and the surrounding community.

Dr. Vernon Lowery, principal of Westover High School in Fayetteville, highlighted the importance of speaking positively to children, sharing an anecdote of the opposite happening to her when she was in school.

Marcus Gause, principal of T. Wingate Andrews High School in High Point, talked about how that paradigm can be flipped. He told me a story of one student who offered unsolicited support when he needed it most.

“In the worst days that you can possibly have, a kid in this building can change it,” said Gause.

Carrie Tulbert, principal of Northview IB Middle School in Statesville, said she loves the many opportunities she has to support others. But they can also make it difficult to get everything else done.

During my conversations with these principals, a specific Todd Whitaker quote came up on two separate occasions. That quote is this: “When the principal sneezes, the whole school catches a cold.”

Robert Kinlaw

Robert was director of multimedia for EducationNC. He is a journalist and award-winning documentary filmmaker in the Triangle. Robert attended both public and private grade schools in North Carolina and graduated from the Media and Journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill. He has produced video content for The News & Observer, ABC11-WTVD, UNC-Chapel Hill, The News Reporter and more. His short documentary Princess Warrior received an Excellence in Filmmaking award at the 2017 Carrboro Film Festival. Visit his website at