With a professional career path which has been seemingly piloted toward his recent appointment as the new principal at North Lincoln High School, Roger “Chip”Cathey Jr. is excited for the 2019-2020 school year to start.
Cathey has been hired to replace former principal Mitch Sherrill who, for reasons undisclosed by either the school board or superintendent Dr. Lory Morrow, was put on paid administrative leave the end of May. The board accepted Sherrill’s retirement from his position at their regularly held meeting on June 11.
Becoming an educator was not at first what Cathey was going to do as a career. After graduating high school, he attended North Carolina State University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in forestry.
“Very quickly out of college, I realized that there was a lot more to life,” he said. “My wife, Kristin, was a teacher and she loved her job. It was contagious.”
Cathey started teaching science at the high school he graduated from, North Mecklenburg High School. He taught there for two years before coming to East Lincoln High School where he taught for another four years. He left teaching to pursue a master’s degree in school administration. He return to Lincoln County Schools in 2003 to serve as assistant principal at S. Ray Lowder Elementary School for a year before spending two years as the assistant principal at Pumpkin Center Elementary.
He then left the Lincoln County Schoolsdistrict to serve first as assistant principal at St. Stephens High School in Catawba County, then as principal at Webb A. Murray Elementary School and, most recently, at River Bend Middle School, also in Catawba County, where he has been principal since 2013.
Even while he was with working for the Catawba County Schoolsdistrict, Cathey and his family have been living in Lincoln County. His former commute was 21 miles, now it’s just four and a half.
“We have been living in this feeder district (North Lincoln) for a long time,” he said. “We moved into the house we’re living in now the night before my oldest son, Jackson, started kindergarten. We actually had a couple of Pumpkin Center Elementary teachers' husbands help set up his bed.”
Jackson has since graduated from North Lincoln High School. Cathey has another son who will be a senior at the school this year and one who will be in seventh grade.
“It’s been a long-term goal of mine, in some capacity, to come here,” he said. “Even if it was later in my career to come back as a science teacher or a coach.”
Cathey was an assistant football coach for two years while he was assistant principal at Pumpkin Center. He also coached at East Lincoln High School and North Mecklenburg High School. He’s done coaching athletes at this time though.
“My coaching will be with teachers and athletic directors,” he said. “It’s a different style of coaching but it’s still coaching.”
Cathey is excited about the stage North Lincoln High School is at.
“In school years, this school is very young,” he said. “We’re just at the point where we’ll be getting our alumni’s kids coming through. We’re also right at the point where a lot of decisions are made about the facility and maintenance. Everything is great for a few years and then things start break. You need to decide how you’re going to fix or repair it and invest your time and energy. The same thing with the culture. The culture thrives for the first few years on being new and then you settle in and have to make a decision on where and how you’re going to be. I got to see that at East Lincoln to some extent. I was on the tail end of that process. To be here at this time is really exciting.”
Collaboration is important to Cathey, and not just at his school. He wants to work with the other high school principals within the district to bring more unity between the schools.
“I love all of Lincoln County and I feel like that’s probably one of my roles, to be able to help with that,” he said.
Deciding what high school is going to look like is something that Cathey feels like needs to be looked at both at North Lincoln and at the other high schools within the district.
“We have to look at increasing personalized learning for all of our students,” he said. “Not just a blended model using on-line learning but all the tools available to us. It’s a much more fluid and dynamic environment than when I went to school. These kids now have so many more options and choices. We have to use all the tools available to us to continue to be competitive and provide kids a great education so they can change the world.”