Elizabeth Pierce, principal of E.B. Frink Middle School in La Grange, is the 2019 Southeast Region Principal of the Year, one of eight regional winners now in the running for the statewide title of Wells Fargo Principal of the Year.
Pierce was surprised with the announcement Tuesday morning during a meeting that brought together fellow LCPS principals, Superintendent Brent Williams and members of the district staff and a number of special guests, including current N.C. Principal of the Year Tabari Wallace of West Craven High School in Vanceboro, former N.C. Principal of the Year Jason Griffin and Wells Fargo executive Michael McCoy.
“We have 2,600 schools in our state. Mrs. Pierce, you are now in the top eight, one of the top eight principals in the state,” said Griffin, who won the state title as a principal in Perquimans County and is now director of federal program for Craven County Schools.
“I can’t think of any better representative for this school system and the principals in this region than Elizabeth Pierce,” Superintendent Williams said. “I told someone once that Elizabeth always does it the right way and she gives it everything she’s got. She leads with the heart – a heart for children, a passion for doing what’s right, whatever it takes.”
Pierce is in her 14th year as an educator and her third year as principal at Frink. Previously, she was principal of Moss Hill Elementary School for two years and worked at an assistant principal at Rochelle and Woodington middle schools and Kinston High School. She holds a master of arts degree in education and a master of school administration degree, both from East Carolina University.
“I feel like something like this is shared with everybody in this room. I said this when I got district principal of the year, but I mean it. I just feel like this is a shared honor,” Pierce said to her LCPS colleagues. “I’m so grateful for this. I’m so shocked and humbled by it and so appreciative. I feel grateful to be able to do what we do everyday. I’m truly happy in what I do. I can’t imagine doing anything else in my life. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Pierce was caught by surprise when a regular monthly meeting of LCPS principals and district senior staff – one at which Wallace was ostensibly to speak about innovations at West Craven High – turned into a celebration of her award.
Among those on hand for the surprise were Pierce’s husband, Mike; Keith King, chair of the Lenoir County Board of Education; and Bruce Hill, the board’s vice chair. Kathy Oliver, Southeast Region education facilitator, represented the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, which partners with Wells Fargo in the competition.
Pierce’s selection as LCPS’s 2018-2019 Principal of the Year made her a contender for the regional title, along with winners from the other 12 counties in the Southeast Region, one of eight regions across the state administered by NCDPI.
Both Griffin and McCoy were members of the panel that interviewed the county representatives in December.
“Throughout her portfolio, she mentioned these words over and over,” Griffin said. “She mentioned dedication, compassion, happiness and mostly importantly reflection. You don’t get to this level without exhibiting these four characteristics. You can see she is truly moving Frink Middle School in the right direction.”
McCoy, who represented Wells Fargo on the interview panel, said, “It was a great day to see what’s going on in the Southeast Region and specifically what you’re doing in Lenoir County. Through that process, I know that your leadership, focus and determination have been keys to your success as a principal. You’re going to be an excellent ambassador for the region and hopefully for the state as well.”
As a regional winner, Pierce will serve on the state’s Educator Quality Workgroup, represent the region at conferences and statewide meetings and participate in professional development activities sponsored by NCDPI.
The current N.C. Principal of the Year selection process dates back to 1984. In that time Lenoir County Public Schools has had one state winner – Craig Hill, in 2007, as principal of Kinston High School – and one regional winner – Frances Herring, in 2014, as principal of Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School.
The 2019 Wells Fargo Principal of the Year is expected to be announced in May.