Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Favorite Principal

Posted September 30, 2009

Close your eyes. Think back to your school days. Make a quick scan of your journey from elementary to middle school and then on to high school. Who was your favorite principal along the way? What made this person stand out? Please share your thoughts.

Savon Willard is sure to pop up on many favorite principal lists. Savon is retiring this week after more than 33 years in public education. Some of her biggest fans can be found at Salem Elementary School. Savon opened this high performing Apex school ten years ago. Over the last decade Savon has drawn the praise of parents, children, teachers and administrators. She was a finalist for 2008 Principal of the Year in Wake County.

My wife Cindy, a speech therapist, worked with Savon for several years. Cindy says:

“Savon has always been extremely supportive of her staff. She will to go bat for her staff and obtain whatever resources are needed in order for teachers to do their jobs. One of her quotes that I liked was ‘Be what you want to see.’ She has always been on the cutting edge of innovation.”

Salem Elementary parent Maria Johnson had this to say about Savon Willard:

“She has steadfastly led with calm love and respect for all our teachers, staff, parents, and especially our children. She developed our Salem Family. She is our matriarch, whom we look up to and cherish. Savon IS the culture of Salem and she will be greatly missed. So, out of love and respect, we are saying good-bye...with tears in our eyes and joy in our hearts for a woman who made a difference in all our lives.”

Another parent, Madi Krevat, also gushed with praise for Savon:

“She tried to say hello to every child as they came into school and it was so nice to see their faces light up as she called them by name. To some, the title principal evokes a little fear but no one feared Savon. All the children loved her and she never walked away from a hug or a handshake or a smile or a hello. Savon always put the needs of the children first.”

A glowing assessment of Savon Willard came from Salem kindergarten teacher Darlene Germano:

“All of her efforts at Salem Elementary had the bottom line of helping our children grow and learn both academically and socially. She really cares and her tireless enthusiasm has inspired me to be a better teacher. I will miss her spirit at our school but am so glad our paths crossed, both professionally and personally! She's the best!”

I don’t know about you but I get a lump in my throat when I read stories about great educators. Savon Willard has left her marvelous mark on Wake County. She will be deeply missed in the school system.


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  • sassysewer Oct 1, 2009

    I think I'd have to say my favorite principal was Mrs. King at New Hope Elementary School in Wilson. My son had to transfer mid-year and she walked with us the first day he was there to introduce us to his new teacher. As we walked down the hall, she greeted each and every student by name and you could tell she truly loved the children that were in her care. She took advantage of every opportunity to build up their self-worth and make them feel special.

  • cinder572 Sep 30, 2009

    Mrs. Tandra Mapp - she's there for the kids and she treats her staff like the adults they are!!

  • davidgnews Sep 30, 2009

    That would have to be the one and only Raz Autry, from when I lived in Montgomery Country (East Montgomery principal).

    He and the family later moved to Raeford, where he became Superintendent of Schools.

    Great guy - friendly, principled (no pun intended), fair, and very well-respected.

    Just do a Google search - his son George was a schoolmate of mine. They're still doing great things.

  • thecatsmeow67 Sep 30, 2009

    Here is another one for Northwood High School--Bishop Leach. He was the asst. principal there for many years. I do remember him being an imposing figure but being fair and impartial. I remember at graduation rehersal we were cutting up a bit and he let us know very quickly that any more of it and we would be recieving our diplomas in the mail and we knew better than to try and test him. I loved that man.

  • blytle Sep 30, 2009

    Bill, if you can, please pass on my regards to Savon. I hope she'll remember me.

  • thefensk Sep 30, 2009

    Well, principals were people I tried to stay away from. One notable was Mrs. Rubright, who was principal of my Junior High School. She was notable in that she grew up across the street from my mother and her family ... I think I was cautioned that this fact made my future virtuous behavior in Jr. High an absolute necessity.

  • 2xMom Sep 30, 2009

    Ms. Willard has been my son's principal for the past 3 yrs. We had been redistricted from a school we loved. She was wonderful right from the begining. Making new students & parents feel welcome, easing the transition. My son loves Ms. Willard, saying many times "I can tell Ms. Willard, me & her are friends. She listens to me." He has gone to her w/ problems & joys & she has responded to both w/ hugs, praise and discipline when needed. It takes a very special person to create that type of relationship w/ students. We at Salem Elem have been well taught by an excellent educator to follow the Salem motto says.. "Whatever it takes to honor & educate." Thanks for the lesson Ms. Willard. Parent's will miss your guidance & kids will miss your hugs. It was my son's favorite way to start the morning.

  • LMRA Sep 30, 2009

    In about 12 months, my favorite principal will be my sister Christine Laurita (she will be completing her Masters in School Admin at UNCP). I'm really proud of her and I know she'll be the answer to this question in about 15 years!

    I would have to say Mr. Richard Stephens. He was the principal of my junior high (Oakdale Bohemia Road Jr. High in Oakdale, NY). He was the 'good cop' to the Asst. Principal's 'bad cop.' Plus I had a wild crush on his son Mike. They lived in my neighborhood so I would ride my bicycle past their house to catch a glimpse of Mike and Mr. Stephens would always wave and say hi to me. Mike, on the other hand, would hide from me.

  • CricketGayle Sep 30, 2009

    I'd have to say my favorite was Fred Putney. He was assistant principal at Neal Jr. High School in Durham. He took the time to get to know the students and to greet everyone by name. If you had a brother/sister at the school or who had previously attended, he knew that too. Most of the time, kids associate the principal knowing your name as being a bad thing (too much time spent in his/her office), but it was nice to carry on a conversation with Mr. Putney and feel like you really mattered to him and that he was concerned about how you were doing.

  • 2thebeach Sep 30, 2009

    Dr. Bradley - former Assistant Principal at Northwood High School in Pittsboro. A compassionate and thoughtful person, dedicated to the well being of all students. Championed at-risk students. Attended non-rev sports. Knew the student's names. Great role model. Just an all around good guy.




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