Dr. Mark Winters, new principal at South Effingham High School, is spending his time getting to know the people, programs and the good things happening at the school.
Winters, the principal at South Effingham Middle School, was named to replace the outgoing Dan Noel last month and took the new job immediately.
“My first goal is to kind of get to know the staff. I know most of the students because they came through the middle school,” Winters said, “but I’ve met some students I didn’t know. They transferred in or they came from Ebenezer (Middle). That’s my first goal, getting to know the people who make up this school.”
He said his second goal is to recognize the great things going on in the school.
“I really believe when positive and quality things are going on, we need to celebrate that,” Winters said
Winters said by celebrating accomplishments, others also may come up with new ideas that will be quality programs as well.
“It spreads a positive energy and environment,” he said.
He said he would also like to increase the amount of school spirit and pride.
“Not just on campus, but also in the community,” Winters said. “I believe that our schools are the reason why many people move to Effingham. I think most people are very proud of our
schools and satisfied with our schools, but I think that we could shine a little brighter — maybe have people be a little more proud and simply by just letting them know what’s going on, whether it be athletics or whether it be fine arts and definitely academics.”
Winters said it was difficult to leave South Effingham Middle School.
“There were several things that played into my decision,” he said. “One was there is a great staff at South Effingham Middle School. They are a team that really pulls together and works together. When I told them I was leaving, I told them that school is definitely a team. One person leaving is not going to mean that team’s going to suffer, because they work together.”
He said he is confident that Superintendent Randy Shearouse and the board of education will place a “very competent, highly qualified, dedicated leader in that position” and the staff will continue to work as a team.
“There are a lot of people there that I will miss that daily interaction with,” Winters said. “I’ll miss seeing them do the awesome things they do every day in the classroom.”
He said a sixth grader asked him why he was going to the high school.
“I said to prepare it for you,” Winters replied. “She said, ‘but I’m not there yet.’ I said, ‘but you will be. In a couple of years you’ll be there, and I’ll be waiting on you,’ so with the students I’m able to say, ‘I’ll see you when you come to high school.’ With the staff, while we’re still working in the same system, we won’t have that day to day interaction. That’s a little sad.”
Winters said he has been “humbled and honored” by the students welcoming him to the high school.
“It sets the bar pretty high for me when the students welcome you here,” he said. “I’ve had several students tell me they’re glad to see me here, and that makes me want to work very hard to meet the expectations that they have for me as their principal. Many of them remember me from the middle school, and high school’s a little different.
“There are some things that go on in high school that don’t go on in middle school. There are more programs, and of course graduation and all the credits and units are a little more high stakes. I hope I can live up to the expectations of the students.”
He said he is excited to be at the high school and has met some wonderful teachers and support staff.
“I’m just so impressed. I spent my first day here in classrooms and the hallways,” he said. “My intention was to get in every classroom. I didn’t make that goal — it’s quite a large school. But I was just so impressed with the level of instruction, the level of student involvement in the classroom. Students were doing presentations; they were using technology; they were engaged with the teachers in a wonderful give and take with the instructional process. I’m just very excited about the level of quality that I see here, and I want to be a part of taking that even to higher levels of excellence.”
Winters said he hopes to have a friendly competition with Effingham County High School that will challenge both schools to be the best they can.
“For years I was involved in the friendly rivalry between Effingham County Middle School, Ebenezer and South Effingham Middle School, and that was a very good natured rivalry between the three middle schools,” he said.
He said he has already spoken with Yancy Ford, principal at ECHS, and he believes the two will enjoy that same type of friendly rivalry.
“We’ve already talked with each other about working with each other on some things,” Winters said. “I think there’ll be a very good collaboration, not just between the principals, but I’m hoping between staff and even students doing things together. Of course, we’re still going to have that rivalry, and Mustangs still rule if you’re down here, and I’m sure when you walk into Rebel territory, Mr. Ford will tell you just the opposite.
“It will be a friendly, good natured rivalry, and I think that type of friendly rivalry will help each of us to continue striving for better, but also acknowledging our sister school and their accomplishments.”
He said an example is congratulating ECHS for the state championship in wrestling.
“We made that announcement here, we congratulated them on what they’ve done. I think we can work together and acknowledge each other’s contributions,” Winters said.
He said he wants SEHS to be the best in everything the school does, but if SEHS can’t come in first, he hopes ECHS does.
“Of course, I hope they come in second, as long as we’re first,” Winters said. “I think that’s something whether it be the band program or the athletic program or the career and technology programs or even academics, academic clubs. I think it would be good for clubs and groups to challenge each other, but not challenge each other in a negative way, challenge each other to do things in the community and kind of a joint effort.
“I think really great things can come from that with two great schools.”