ROWLAND — Southside Ashpole Elementary School’s new principal strolled the halls of the school last week and liked what he saw.
Bruce Major, 48, was selected by the North Carolina Innovative School District and its managing partner Achievement for All Children to lead the low-performing school that it has taken over from the Public Schools of Robeson County for a five-year stint.
Eric Hall, superintendent of ISD, and Tony Helton, CEO of Achievement for All Children, said Major is a transformative leader with proven experience in turning around schools like just like Southside Ashpole. The small school in Rowland is another in a series of professional challenges for Major.
“I’ve been in Rowland all day today, and I’m excited,” Major said. “There are a wealth of resources here.
“The facilities are in good shape, more than adequate,” he said. “I’m impressed with the community. The resources are here to sustain student success.”
Major stopped by the local barbershop to take the pulse of the community — and got a haircut too. He expects to be in Rowland for five years and turn a failing school into a top performer.
The Sumpter, S.C., native is a career educator, beginning as a school psychologist and moving into administration. Major’s last assignment was leading an international school in China, but it was his time spent at a charter school in Charlotte that is the most meaningful to students and the community in Rowland.
“Sugar Creek is much like Southside Ashpole with a 99 percent minority enrollment,” Major said. “We were able to turn a low-performing school into the top-performing school in the state.
“We moved the school within five years with steady growth each year,” he said.
That is also the plan that Achievement for All Children and the Innovative School District have for Southside Ashpole. Major will make a salary of $100,000 per year.
“We’re proud to have a school leader of the caliber and character of Bruce Major,” Helton said. “Bruce understands fully that all children can learn, and I am excited about the opportunities for children here.”
Hall said there was a great deal of interest in the position. Southside Ashpole is the first of at least five schools that ISD is tasked by the state to takeover as a turnaround model.
“We’re confident that Bruce will be a catalyst for success,” Hall said. “Great schools have great leaders, and great leaders get it done.”
As a charter school principal, Major is already familiar with the curriculum that Achievement for All Children has selected for Southside Ashpole classrooms. He will also see students in uniforms, the school leaders have decided.
“Education is about people, process and product, and it is in the process where schools usually fail,” Major said. “We did some great things at Sugar Creek; it’s about best practices, and we’re here to implement them.”
On hand to meet with the new principal were members of the Achievement for All Children board of directors, Rowland Mayor Michelle Shooter and Town Clerk David Townsend.
“We’ve been desperate for this,” Shooter said. “I believe this is a great community, and we’re ready.”
Major is currently a Charlotte resident, and Rowland has a population of just more than 1,000. The differences do not worry him.
“We will continue to be a neighborhood school and welcome parents and the community at large,” Major said. “This will be a team effort, and teachers will have a voice in what we do, because learning starts with them.”
Major begins work full time on Monday.