Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School (RSMS) kicked off the new school year with some extra good news. Sheila Peterson, now in her fourth year as the school’s principal, was named the Principal of the Year for Sampson County Schools.
Peterson was chosen for the honor by the other principals in the county school system. She shared that the distinction meant so much to her because it came from a vote by her peers.
“It’s a real special honor for them to think that highly of me,” said Peterson. “I’m very thankful because I’ve got some real tough competition . I’m just so grateful that I get to represent the county that grew me into the person I am. I’m very humbled by it.”
A Sampson native and hailing from the Union district, Peterson graduated from Union High School and then continued her education at Fayetteville State University where she received degrees in chemistry and biology. Then, she returned to school at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke to earn her Master’s in school administration and curriculum and instruction.
In total, Peterson has worked in education for 18 years with seven of those spent as an administrator. Before taking over the helm at Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School four years ago, she served as an assistant principal in the Midway district for two years and was an intervention specialist at Union Elementary early in her career.
Although new to the school, RSMS assistant principal James “Bo” Mullins, aware of Peterson’s experience and new distinction, shared that it is “good to be able to come into the county and work with the principal of the year.”
Peterson earning such an honor “tells me that I can count on her for good leadership and support,” he added.
When asked to describe the kind of leader she is as an aspect of what earned her the Principal of the Year honor, Peterson characterized herself as “a servant leader with a heavy coating of transformational leadership.”
“I’m here to serve the students, the parents, the teachers, the staff. I don’t ask anyone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself,” she stressed, adding that she is also a seeker of transformation. “We can’t stay stagnant…We’re always looking for opportunities for growth and enhancement for both the teachers and the students.”
As a servant and seeker for everyone at RSMS, Peterson is very fond of people and pointed out that it’s the people who make the school a great place to be.
“It’s the love inside the building,” noted Peterson of what makes RSMS a special school. “There’s a passion for learning and a passion for caring for each other here. We’re just one big family.”
And for the principal of RSMS it is seeing the children in that family mature that is such a rewarding part of her job.
“To see the children grow up over three years is an honor. Especially from sixth to eighth grade there’s a lot of changing,” Peterson said, describing how the students that age soak up knowledge. “They come out better than they were before and seeing that process, that transition, is a great honor.”
Before the eighth grade students head to Lakewood for high school, Peterson shared that she tells them, “We have been together through a full cycle,” adding that she is always thrilled when students leave middle school still caring about their grades and about what she as their principal thinks of them.
It’s the work with the students that makes Peterson’s job as principal so rewarding and that overshadows the challenges she faces as leader of the school.
“We really don’t look at them (difficulties) as challenges. They’re just little hurdles to get over,” noted Peterson. “We just focus on finding solutions. I tell my staff and students that if you seeing something that needs changing don’t complain about it. Come to me with solutions.”
And come up with solutions they have. “We have done things that I could only have dreamed of doing,” said Peterson of her time at RSMS. “We’ve set our expectations high and it’s been an excellent journey. I have no regrets.”
Peterson particularly pointed out how impressed she has been with the community’s involvement in the school.
“The community outreach has been phenomenal. We’ve given away over 350 computers to students since I’ve been here,” she shared, adding that the school has also been able to participate in the Backpack Buddies program and has been able to provide some medical assistance for students who need things like glasses. “We wouldn’t have been able to do as much without the community.”
Going forward into the new school year with the distinction of Principal of the Year, Peterson isn’t resting on her laurels. Instead, she’s keeping her sights set high for RSMS. “I hope to continue to maintain the rigor in the classroom, to provide more resources to better meet the physical needs of our students, and to provide teachers with the training they need to become specialized in Common Core and the essential standards curriculum…High growth is what we’re looking for.”
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.