WINNSBORO — Self-imposed high expectations will be at the core of the leadership next fall when Fairfield Central High School’s new principal takes the reins.
This is the first head principal job for Tracie Swilley, who will replace current Principal David Corley when the 2013-14 school year begins. Corley moved to a district office position for Fairfield County School District, so his tenure as the head of the Griffins comes to an end over the summer.
This job is a dream come true for Swilley. She has been in education for 10 years, the first four as a high school math teacher at Richland Northeast High School. Thanks to her leadership qualities and the mentorship of administrators, she said, she became an assistant administrator doing teaching and administration at Richland Northeast.
She then took a position as dean of students at Lower Richland High School before moving into an assistant principal position there.
“I was fortunate to have supportive leaders who recognized my potential and gave me the opportunity to branch out once I stated (administration) as my goal,” she said.
Her first administrative duties at Richland Northeast High School included organizing HSAP testing and collecting data the school used to apply for its Red Carpet Award. She also worked with master scheduling, organizing systems and the school day to maximize instruction time and technological resources.
Life experience has taught her that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching or to being a principal. While she plans to build upon successful programs and portions of the high school under Corley’s leadership, she admits that “I can only be me effectively, not Mr. Corley.”
“I think one of my strengths is my ability to build relationships with children,” she said. “If you build the right kind (of supportive) relationships, there will be no major discipline problems. We want our school to be even better and more successful and to shine a light on the great things going on at Fairfield Central. My focus and FCHS’s focus will be on quality teaching and learning for every student every day.”
Her students at Lower Richland said that Swilley was their biggest supporter but she is no nonsense.
“The students respect you for that,” she said. “They want order and discipline and limits in school.”
A collaborative leader by nature, she said she will be active in the community and called upon leaders, parents, members of the faith community and others to engage the high school and reach out to its students.
“My approach is gradual. We will set incremental goals and celebrate when we reach them as part of the process,” she said. “My goal is to build a culture of ongoing learning, growth and achievement.”
In high school, she experienced that type of growth as the played clarinet in the marching band and became band captain.
At Columbia College, she loved watching dance performances and the other art requirements of her liberal arts degree. So, Swilley is a big advocate of the arts and arts in instruction. “I just love to see students on stage and performing,” she said.
Athletics also are important to her for teaching leadership, developing character and providing motivation. At the end of the day she believes effective teaching is about relationships, about learning each student and what motivates them.
“I want my student athletes to be able to qualify academically for the next level (should they prove talented enough to play in college),” she said. “But our student athletes need to remember they are students first.”
She loved band competitions on Saturdays and Friday nights in the stands being part of the high school culture.
“I am big on school spirit and Griffin pride. I want them to be supportive and be a part of that, too,” she said.
Her goal is to get everyone involved in something, whether it be a club, sport or the arts. She said she will push academic rigor and get students to take AP and dual enrollment courses, noting that even if they do not pass the AP exam the coursework will help prepare them for post-secondary education.
She also seeks to promote supportive family and school environments. Adding harder courses during a student’s senior year can help increase the odds of him or her getting into college and of the student earning a degree.
She also is excited by the MTC partnership with FCHS and the STEM focus. Underwater welding and nuclear engineering MTC programs were two popular ones at Lower Richland High School and she sees them as being important to students here given the need for those skills on the site of the new nuclear plants.
Contact Kevin Boozer at 635-4016 ext. 14 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @kevinboozer.