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Patrick Greene, principal of Greene Central High School in Greene County, was named 2022 Wells Fargo Principal of the Year at a ceremony in Cary today.
He said that his success as a school leader is in large part due to a principal from two generations ago who took an interest in his grandfather — a four-time dropout from the seventh grade. His grandfather attended church with the principal, and the principal helped him on weekends and evenings to get caught up in school and graduate. He even bought his grandfather a class ring.
Greene said that taught his grandfather the importance of education. His daughter, Greene’s mother, was first in her class in high school and went on to college even though higher education wasn’t a forgone conclusion for women back then.
“She raised a son who loved school,” Greene said in his acceptance speech. “I’m here today, but none of that would have been possible without the leadership two generations ago of a principal who I don’t even know his name.”
In a press release from the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI), State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said the following of Greene:
“Patrick trusts student leaders to set an example for their peers to improve their school, and they, in turn, trust him to hear them out and respond genuinely and effectively,” Truitt said.
“He trusts his teachers to work hard and give students everything they need to grow and succeed. And for their part, teachers trust him to work just as hard — maybe even harder — to provide and protect the kind of learning environment they need to achieve powerful teaching and learning in their classrooms.”
According to the press release, Greene has been the principal of Greene Central High School for nine years, and helped move the school from one of the state’s lowest performing “to achieve high growth in the two years prior to the COVID pandemic, which forced the suspension of school accountability measures.”
Greene was one of nine regional finalists vying for the award. The other finalists were:
- Northeast: Alison Covington, South Greenville Elementary (Pitt County Schools)
- North Central: Keith Richardson, Knightdale High (Wake County Public Schools)
- Sandhills: Antonio Covington, East Hoke Middle (Hoke County Schools)
- Piedmont-Triad: KaTrinka Brown, Jackson Middle (Guilford County Schools)
- Southwest: Larenda Denien, Idlewild Elementary (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools)
- Northwest: Dr. Heather Melton Freeman, North Wilkes Middle (Wilkes County Schools)
- Western: Dr. Marsha S. Justice, Edneyville Elementary (Henderson County Public Schools)
- Charter Schools: Maria Mills, Carolina Charter Academy (Angier)
Speaking before the announcement, State Board of Education Vice Chair Alan Duncan said that all the candidates should feel like they have achieved something by being a regional finalist.
“Your contributions are tremendous, they are remarkable, and they have been noted,” he said. “You are all winners, and we owe you a great debt on behalf of the state of North Carolina.”
Truitt told the audience that teachers are the most important factor in ensuring a high-quality education for students, but that teachers can’t do it without their principals. She called the finalists for principal of the year “multipliers of excellence” in their school buildings.
“You’ve been recognized for your leadership, your character, and your ability to inspire,” she said. “All of you are such amazing examples of what public education can be when there is a steady and a reliable voice at the top.”
Elena Ashburn, 2021 winner and principal of Broughton High School in Raleigh, spoke about visiting 38 schools this past year, which she said was one of the toughest for educators in the state’s history.
“I’m incredibly moved by the thing that I saw in every single school across our state,” she said. “And what I saw was courage.”
She went on to challenge the audience to think about what they are going to do to be courageous in ensuring a high-quality education for all of the state’s students.
Greene will receive $3,000 for personal use and $3,000 for his school and will spend the next school year traveling the state, according to the press release. The principal of the year program has been ongoing in North Carolina since 1984.
You can watch a video of the presentation below.