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Waccamaw Middle: New principal is seventh in 12 years

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Jamie Curry started work Monday at Waccamaw Middle School, becoming the school’s seventh principal since it opened in 2001. She replaces Mark Phillips, who resigned last week after a year at the school.

Curry had been an assistant principal at Waccamaw High since 2010 and was a finalist for the middle school job in 2012. “Jamie is an excellent candidate,” said Superintendent Randy Dozier. The interim appointment needs to be approved by the school board, which meets Aug. 6.

Dozier said he spoke with middle school staff and faculty as well as school board members before making the appointment. “They were very supportive,” he said.

So were students at Waccamaw High. “They were supportive, but concerned,” he said. “She was well-liked.”

Dozier said Phillips resignation was for “personal reasons” and as a personnel matter he couldn’t comment further.

This will be Curry’s 20th year in education. She started late, earning a degree in elementary education when she was 30. She went on to teach eight years in elementary school and eight more in middle school, earning multiple master’s degrees along the way. She also earned National Board certification and was the district Teacher of the Year in 2004-05. She was a curriculum coach for a year before moving to Waccamaw High.

“I’m just passionate about helping children,” she said. “It seems like lots of kids get lost between the cracks. I wanted to make sure I could touch the lives of as many kids as possible.”

She said her experience at elementary and high schools helps as she prepares to lead the middle school. “It’s challenging for kids, it’s challenging for parents and for educators,” Curry said. “I absolutely love this age.”

It’s still a time when students can be molded and “encouraged to believe that they can do everything,” she said. “It’s more difficult the older they are.”

But middle school students are also exposed to more social pressures and expected to know more academically. She doesn’t want the transition in leadership to add to the challenges.

“It’s a huge transition,” Curry said. “We’re going to try to be as positive as possible.”

Her immediate goals are to build trust and build relationships. “Those things are huge,” she said.

Waccamaw Middle has rated “excellent” overall and for improvement on its state-issued report cards for the last three years. “Waccamaw Middle is a great school with a great reputation,” Dozier said.

Bill Dwyer, principal from 2008 to 2012, left to take a job in private industry. He replaced David Hammel, who was principal for a year before moving to Waccamaw High.

“I hope Ms. Curry will be able to take it for three or four years,” said Richard Kerr, a school board member who also chairs the School Improvement Council at Waccamaw Middle. “I think you’ll see continued improvement.”

In his year at the school, Kerr said, Phillips helped develop a new strategic plan, improved discipline and put new procedures in place. “He did an outstanding job,” he said.

Among those procedures was recognition for academic success, said Carrie Dear, president of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association. He promoted teacher and student involvement and “he was a very good leader,” she said.

She and Kerr were both pleased by the choice of Curry as his successor. “I think the world of Jamie Curry,” Kerr said.

Parents and students can meet Curry at a reception Aug. 1 from 6 to 6:30 p.m. following registration at the school.

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