There’s a new member of the pack at Lincolnton High School with a new principal who arrived on Monday. Preston Clarke was hired by the Lincoln County Schools Board of Education on July 9 to replace former principal Tony Worley who was suspended from his position on June 22 and resigned on June 25 amid allegations of sexual misconduct involving a student.
Clarke is coming to Lincoln County after spending five years as the principal of Valle Crucis School (K-8) in Sugar Grove. Prior to that, he served for three years as assistant principal at Watauga High School.
“Demographically, Watauga County is very big and the socio-economic disparity is very wide,” he said. “So you have kids coming from a wide range of different homes and facing different dynamics in their houses. While we didn’t have the diversity as far as ethnicity, the socio-economic status was a challenge.”
Clarke wanted to get back to a high school and he said that he felt at this time in his career, it was a move he was ready to make.
“I did enjoy my time at Watauga High School and, before that time, I worked at Maiden High School, where I graduated from,” he said. “Before going to Valle Crucis I had eight years of high school experience.”
Since he accepted the position, Clarke said that he’s been studying what makes up the Lincoln County Schools District and Lincolnton High School.
“You want to be somewhere there’s a lot of support from the top down and you want the stakeholders to be supportive and involved,” he said. “Everybody here seems very supportive and proud of their school and wants it to be successful. That’s what attracted me to Lincolnton High School. It seems to be very much a team-orientated approach, which I agree with because nobody gets there by themselves, we all need help.”
Clarke’s primary goal for his first year is to get to know the people, their families and what they value. This is important to Clarke because he needs to know what they bring to the table — their talent and skills. He’ll be meeting with every staff member over the coming week before school starts.
“I can’t work with somebody I don’t know,” he said. “I want to know who you are and who your family is. My thing as far as being a leader is it’s family first. You come into this building I want you to know what I’m invested in your family as well.”
At this time, Clark’s not looking for what’s wrong with the school. Instead, he’s asking a lot of questions. What’s more important to him right now is what’s right about the school, what are its strengths. He doesn’t want to stop doing what’s right while looking for what’s wrong. From there, “it’s one day at a time, one person at a time to achieve growth and to make sure the right processes are in place.”
“The number one ultimate goal for me is our students, every student, every day and to give them the best educational experience because that’s what they deserve,” he said. “No matter where they come from, who their parents are, what their circumstances are, we have a responsibility to provide them with the best educational experience when they come through these doors. That has to be consistent. We owe them that. We owe this community that.”
Clarke knows that he can’t do it all by himself but he plans to lead the charge to put everything in place to make this goal happen. In reality, Clarke said, a lot of people look at high school as getting to the end but in reality, it’s the beginning of the next step of going out into the real world and being successful no matter what they do.
“I don’t believe in a title,” he said. “I believe we’re all here to serve in a professional, selfless manner with integrity and to represent Lincolnton High School in the correct manner.”
Until they sell their home in Deep Gap, Clarke, his wife and two children, Landon, 8, and Emma, 6, are staying with his in-laws in downtown Maiden. They will ultimately be looking for a home in Lincoln County and hope to enroll their children Pumpkin Center Primary due to the proximity of where they are currently staying in Maiden.