Since being selected as William A. Hough High School's first principal in June, Terri Cockerham's life has been hectic.
With the task of building a school from the ground up, Cockerham has been in charge of everything from monitoring the construction of the school, which is located on Bailey Road in Cornelius, to hiring its staff.
"It can sometimes get stressful," she admitted.
Cockerham has already overseen the naming of the school, as well as choosing the school's mascot, the Huskies, while also iring key staff members such as department chairs, assistant principals and an athletic director.
In the last few weeks, her time has been consumed by interviewing perspective staff members. Her days have been long, with a number of afternoon and evening meetings in order to not pull the teachers out of their current schools.
Cockerham, who has a long tradition with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools after graduating from Olympic High School in 1979 and working for the district for her entire career, doesn't mind the work she's put in this year because she knows how important it is.
"The decisions I'm making now will impact this area, these students and the community," said Cockerham. "It's fun creating something from the ground up, knowing that you're going to put your mark on something that will be there for years and years to come."
One of the reasons Cockerham, 48, was hired was because of her experience with construction. During her eight years as principal at Eastway Middle, she oversaw a two-year relocation to allow for building renovations to the school.
She said that she was comfortable with the construction aspect of the job, but she's found that staffing a new school is much more challenging.
This process can be long and grueling as Cockerham not only has to think about teaching positions but also how to strategically place her staff of about 100 people. She needs to fill important roles such as student council advisor and coaches.
"We want to be able, when August gets here, to hit the ground running with everything in place," said Cockerham.
Hough will have Advanced Placement courses and most of the perks other schools enjoy, including a booster club and a full athletic program, when the estimated 1,450 students attend their first day of school.
Hough will not have a senior class during the 2010-11 school year, so the number of students is projected to increase to 1,800 during its second year.
Cockerham will be glad when classes start.
She said it's been odd working at CMS's North Learning Community in Huntersville - an office building - instead of being at a school.
"It's a different world," she said. "It's made me realize how much I do like schools and that that's where I belong."
Cockerham, who makes the commute from Charlotte every day, added that not being able to interact with students or attending afterschool activities has been the hardest part about this year.
"I realize more and more that that's the piece of my job I enjoy the most," said Cockerham.
As a student at Wake Forest, Cockerham thought she wanted to go to law school after graduation, but after student teaching she fell in love with the students and made a last-minute switch to education.
Cockerham, who was the principal at Providence High for four years before taking her current job, started teaching at Olympic High School - her alma mater - after graduating from Wake in 1983.
It was at Olympic that Cockerham started looking into taking an administrative role.
While still teaching, Cockerham went back to school - this time at UNC Charlotte - to get her master's degree in education. After finishing, she was offered a job at Smith Junior High. She went on to get her doctorate in education from UNCC in 2005.
"I missed teaching a lot at first - still do sometimes," she said.
To fill that gap, Cockerham sometimes teaches courses at colleges such as Winthrop and Queens University.
But for now she's focusing on getting Hough ready for its opening.
"I'm looking forward to it - I can't wait."