(pictured above: Spencer Hardy takes over at Parkland on March 3.)
After nearly 38 years in public education, Dr. Tim Lee, the longtime principal of Parkland IB Magnet High School, is passing the torch.
Shelby native Spencer Hardy will take the helm at Parkland on March 3.
“Somehow I think that it’s time,” Lee, 60, said of his retirement. “It’s the right time for me and it’s the right time for Parkland.”
A veteran educator in his own right, Hardy has spent his entire career in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School system. The father of four currently serves as principal of Main Street Academy, an alternative school for middle and high school students.
“It is a great time to join the Parkland team,” declared Hardy, an avid sports fan. “They just won the girls track championship and they just won the men’s wrestling championship for the eighth time. That brings so much excitement as I come in.”
Longtime Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education member Victor “Vic” Johnson recommended Hardy for his first principalship at Atkins Academic and Technology High School, where he led the School of Biotechnology from 2008 until 2011. Johnson, who is a former school administrator himself, said Hardy has the personality and people skills necessary to be successful in the position.
“He knows how to deal with these young people, and I think they will like him because he’s an easygoing fellow. He doesn’t throw his weight around,” Johnson said. “…You’ve got some kids that need that extra supervision. Sometimes, you can be that lightning rod in that school for that kid, if you get the kids that really care for you, like you. You’ve got to make sure that you get kids to feel that you really care about them, so it doesn’t take long for kids to figure out who’s on their side.”
Parkland Parent-Teacher-Student Association President Deena Dreyfuss said she is hopeful that Hardy’s presence will usher in a new era of Mustang pride that will translate to increased parental involvement and community support.
“I’m hoping that the new principal will be able to get more parents to feel like they should get more involved,” noted Dreyfuss, the mother of a Parkland senior and a student at Paisley IB Magnet who plans to attend Parkland. “…I think Parkland still doesn’t get as much recognition for what they’ve done over the past few years as they should.”
Spreading the word about all the good things that are going on at the school will be one of his greatest – and most important – challenges, Hardy said. In his 15 years as a school administrator, Hardy says he has learned the importance of building relationships with the students and families he serves.
“You have to be out and about with students, making those connections,” commented the 46-year-old, who began his career as an alternative education teacher at Petree Middle School (now Petree Elementary). “You have to make sure that the students know who you are. You have to show the students that you’re interested in them. You have to make sure the students know that you’re there for them.”
Hardy has put his belief in relationships into practice at Main Street, where students are encouraged to build positive connections with school teachers and staff through the TRP (Totally Responsible Person) program, which strives to provide support for students with behavioral challenges and set them on a more positive path and away from Main Street.
“It brought a human aspect to education,” he said of the program, which he launched at Main Street with a grant from Wells Fargo several years ago. “In that kind of environment, relationships are very important because those students don’t trust very easily. When you build those relationships, you’re more able to educate those students… Each student needs to be handled differently in order to be able to get the results that you’re looking for.”
Since coming to Parkland in 2005, Lee says he has worked to raise students’ achievement and expectations. Under his leadership, Parkland has seen an increase in its test scores, graduation rate and scholarship awards.
“I’m very proud of the amount of improvement that our students have displayed in lots of areas,” remarked the High Point native. “…I’ve enjoyed seeing the students grow. I’ve also enjoyed seeing the teachers grow and take on new challenges and meet those challenges.”
As a school that serves a predominantly minority population with a high number of students who come from low income families, Parkland’s accomplishments have sometimes gone unnoticed, but Lee said the school, which has been recognized on the state and national level for its improvements, continues to exceed the expectations that society has placed upon it.
“I hope I’ll be remembered for helping to raise both the expectations and the achievement level of our students,” he said. “… I’ve tried to instill that, no matter where you come from, what race or ethnicity, rich or poor, you have the ability to excel academically, and I believe our students have risen to that challenge.”
Lee, a grandfather of two, said he plans to spend his retirement traveling, spending time with family and perhaps down the road working part time as an educational consultant. Leaving the Mustang family behind is bittersweet for him, Lee said, but he believes Hardy is a worthy successor.
“I think I’m leaving it in capable hands, and I think I’m leaving it in a good place,” he said of the school, which is home to more than 1,700 students. “I’m very proud of the improvements that we’ve been able to accomplish here, but even with that improvement, I don’t think that it has tapped out yet… as much improvement as Parkland’s made, they can still continue to improve.”
In his new post, Hardy says he plans to build upon the successes of the past to create an even brighter future for Parkland and its students. As has been the case throughout his career, Hardy says he will measure his success by his students.
“I wanted to be a teacher at the high school level, because I wanted my students to come back to me,” he remarked. “I have to know I had some positive effect on people – that’s what makes the job for me. That, and seeing my students walk across the stage (as graduates). That’s what I’m in it for.”