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Newton-Conover’s Kisha Clemons named principal of the year

Kisha Clemons of Newton-Conover City Schools was named the 2020 Wells Fargo state Principal of the Year at a ceremony in Raleigh on Friday, Aug. 28.

Clemons, principal of Shuford Elementary School, said she was accepting the award on behalf of her school.

“I’ve been so blessed to lead such a wonderful community who have walked with me hand-in-hand to create a vision of equity and excellence,” she said.

Clemons joined the school in 2016, serving before that as a principal in Rowan-Salisbury Schools and an assistant principal in Catawba County Schools, according to a press release from the state Department of Public Instruction. She started her career as a music teacher and band director at Beaufort County Schools for her first year of teaching, and then moved to Catawba County, where she’s from, to do the same.

Kisha Clemons, 2020 NC Principal of the Year. Courtesy of Matt Bristow-Smith and Abdur Gant.

Clemons is currently an educational leadership doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, according to the press release.

In her acceptance speech, Clemons said when she thought about what being named principal of the year symbolized, and as she thought about the work ahead, she was reminded of two words: “greatness” and “courage.”

On greatness, she said: “There are extraordinary things happening all across our state.” She said it’s necessary to highlight what is happening and spread the news about all the good.

On courage she said: “As I think about opportunities for change, it will require us to be courageous leaders. We can’t just talk about it, we have to be about the change.”

She went on to quote John Lewis, the civil-rights leader and member of the U.S. House of Representatives who passed away recently. He said: “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble.”

“Our language, our actions, our decisions must reflect a commitment to all students,” she went on to say. “And when I say all, I truly mean all.”

State Superintendent Mark Johnson praised Clemons at the ceremony.

“I personally know her great work, and I can speak for all of North Carolina when I say we’re very fortunate to have such hard working and passionate leaders like Kisha in our schools,” said Johnson, according to a press release.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson with Kisha Clemons, 2020 Principal of the Year. Courtesy of Matt Bristow-Smith and Abdur Gant.

Clemons was one of eight regional principals of the year who were vying for the statewide honor. According to the press release, the other seven were:

  • West: Lori Fox, Haywood Early College (Haywood County Schools)
  • Southwest: Jennifer Brinson, Wolf Meadow Elementary School (Cabarrus County Schools)
  • Piedmont: Ashley Lemley, Southwood Elementary (Davidson County Schools)
  • North Central: Ruth Steidinger, Olive Chapel Elementary (Wake County Schools)
  • Sandhills: Alfred Jean Hammond, Upchurch Elementary (Hoke County Schools)
  • Northeast: Sheila Evans, White Oak Elementary (Edenton-Chowan Schools)
  • Southeast: Deborah Hoffman, Jacksonville Commons Elementary (Onslow County Schools)
The 20202 North Carolina regional principals of the year. Courtesy of Matt Bristow-Smith and Abdur Gant.

The principal of the year gets $3,000 for herself and $3,000 for her school, according to the press release. She will also get a stipend from Wells Fargo to travel around the state “serving as an ambassador for education.” She will also be an advisor to the State Board of Education and be on the board of directors for the Public School Forum of North Carolina.

Watch the full ceremony below.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.