At Clement Elementary School, Principal Bo Mullins spends a lot of time concentrating on data, research and developing plans for student success.
The empty building was quiet Tuesday morning, but Mullins is looking forward to seeing rooms filled with students and hearing the voices of teachers in a few weeks.
“I get excited this time of year because my folks are coming back — my kids are coming back,” Mullins said. “As well as we’ve done, we want to do better.”
The determination of wanting to see children achieve through education is one of several reasons why he was recently named the 2018-2019 Principal of the Year for Sampson County Schools. Mullins was honored and surprised when an announcement was made during a recent retreat for SCS administrators and central office staff. He immediately thought about the CES staff when it comes to student success.
“You just can’t be Principal of the Year on your own,” Mullins said. “It’s a staff and community effort.”
The Duplin County native reflected about his father Mike Mullins and his mother, Vivian Mullins, who passed away a few years ago. Mullins said it wouldn’t be possible without them. His parents dropped out of school because of circumstances and work for their siblings. They later earned their GEDs and made money as textile workers.
“We grew not having a whole lot, but our needs were met,” he said. “But the one thing my mom and dad said was ‘get an education.’”
Growing up, the Pink Hill native was told that education was a tool toward having a better life. He also credited mentors he met along the way. Some of them are Ken Kennedy, a retired principal who helped him get started in education; and administrator Dora Jernigan, who taught him how to put kids first. Now, education is something he instills in the staff at Clement.
“Education is the ticket for these kids to do better than what we’ve done,” he said.
Prior to SCS, Mullins worked in Wayne County for one year and Duplin County for about 20 years. He served in multiple positions, including as a teacher, principal, assistant principal, assistant superintendent and leading departments such as child nutrition, student services, maintenance and transportation.
“I’ve done just about everything, but the most rewarding thing is being principal of the school,” he said. “You can lead teachers, your staff and students. This is where it’s happening — in the school building. It’s very rewarding being a principal in a system where they want the kids to be successful. There’s places out there where it’s really not about the kids, let’s be honest.
“That’s the reason why there’s a push for charter schools, home schooling and Christian academies. It’s because sometime parents feel that we’re not doing the very best that we can do for their kids. I think Sampson County Schools is doing a very good job of being very successful in educating the students and meeting the educational, social and emotional needs of kids. We’ve got a lot of challenges like every system does, but you’ve got to meet those challenges.”
He expressed his enjoyment with SCS while praising how it is student-focused and works toward improving the lives of students. Mullins described it as “night and day.” He’s been at other places where it was not exciting to come to work every day.
“One of the things my parents told me growing up was get a job you enjoy and it won’t be a job,” he said. “That’s where I’m at with Clement and Sampson County Schools. It’s not really a job. It’s a calling and you can see where you’re making a difference in lives and there’s nothing better than that. I’m partnering with great people. I’m thankful that God put me here.”
Mullins said CES is blessed to have a board of education, central staff and superintendent (Dr. Eric Bracy) that supports teachers and education. He feels that SCS is a top tier school in North Carolina.
“To be honored as one of the best of one of the best school systems,” he noted, “it means a lot.”
During his time at Clement, the school earned the first A+ ranking in Sampson County and was one of 87 schools in the state to receive the recognition, which is based on student growth and other accomplishments such as not having major differences between subgroups. CES was also a 2017 Title I Distinguished School and is hoping to become a Blue Ribbon School in the fall. The honor recognizes public and private schools throughout the United States for academic excellence.
“Again, it’s because of our students, teachers, staff and the community,” Mullins said. “They made it easy for me to be a principal here and to lead.”
In the next couple of weeks, Mullins said he wants to continue to increase expectations for the upcoming school year.
“We’re going to lay out higher expectations,” Mullins said. “During the previous two years I’ve been here, I’ve laid out where I think we can go as a staff. Our staff here supported that and they’ve met every challenge. Because of that, we’re an A+ school.”
When Mullins is not leading CES or helping other teachers in the district, he serves as the pastor of Whosoever Will Praise & Worship Center in Pink Hill. Through the church, he leads the Alpha & Omega Home, a program focused on helping men recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. About 600 participants receive services such as job assistance and finding homes.
“That’s a big thing that we do and that’s what God called me to do,” Mullins said.
Whosoever Will Praise & Worship Center also runs a food bank to help needy people with nutritional needs. He’s married to wife Karen and they have two children Ethan and Jade. Mullins also considers Syler, a child affiliated with the program, his child too since he helped raise him.
After graduating from high school, Mullins earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture education from North Carolina State University (NCSU) and a master’s in agricultural and extension education from NCSU, later obtaining a master’s in school administration from the university as well.
Tim Register, SCS board member, said the district is extremely fortunate to have quality administrators leading schools.
“Mr. Mullins is an excellent example of the kind of leader it takes to move schools forward,” Register said. “He has provided his staff with the support and leadership to achieve excellent academic results. Under his leadership, Clement Elementary has been recognized at the country, state and national level. We appreciate his commitment to excellence.”