West Charlotte and Hopewell high schools and Bailey Middle got new principals Tuesday.
John Wall Jr., currently principal of Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School, will lead West Charlotte, a challenge that’s likely to land him in the national spotlight.
West Charlotte, which had a graduation rate of 54 percent in 2011, is at the heart of Project LIFT, a $55 million, five-year public-private quest to boost that rate to 90 percent. That project, which stands for Leadership and Investment for Transformation, has drawn the attention of foundations and education experts across the country.
“John has deep respect for that school and its history. I think we’re going to see amazing things,” Superintendent Heath Morrison said.
Wall joins a long line of principals brought in to transform West Charlotte, where about 85 percent of the roughly 1,700 students are African American and come from low-income homes. While some principals helped students make gains, none has been fully successful. The local philanthropists who decided to focus their millions on school improvement selected West Charlotte and the eight schools that feed into it because those schools continue to be some of CMS’ weakest performers. (2012 test scores and graduation rates have not been released.)
In 2005, CMS hired John Modest, who also led Southeast Raleigh High at the time. He led West Charlotte for four years, when it saw significant gains in test scores. But graduation rates remained low, and the one year the reported rate spiked it was found to be based on erroneous reporting.
Shelton Jefferies, who spent the last three years as West Charlotte’s principal, resigned in June to take a top administrative job in Union County Schools.
Also Tuesday, Michael Jones was named principal of Hopewell High in Huntersville. He currently works in CMS central offices but has been an assistant principal at Hopewell and an interim principal at Vance High.
Chad Thomas, principal of Long Creek Elementary, becomes principal of Bailey Middle.
Valerie Truesdale, superintendent of schools in Beaufort County, S.C., was named chief information officer for the district, which means she’ll oversee technology. Morrison said that was a tough job to fill because he wanted someone with technical expertise and knowledge of how to use it in classrooms.
Truesdale will oversee a push to use digital learning to reshape the way CMS students learn, research and take tests. CMS spent millions buying iPads and training teachers in 2011-12. In August, the district plans to have wireless Internet in all schools, with some chosen to pilot a “bring your own devices” program.