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Toomer establishing 'The Wildcat Way' at Horton Middle School


PITTSBORO — Talk about hitting the ground running!

Not even on the job a full two years, Horton Middle School principal Valencia Toomer has put in the requisite work to elevate her students, her staff and herself. She is the North Carolina Association for Scholastic Activities (NCASA) 2018 Principal of the Year.

NCASA is a nonprofit school association that promotes the academic excellence and success of North Carolina students through scholastic competition. Think quiz bowls and art displays and performances by show choirs. Which are not areas wherein Horton's students traditionally participated prior to Chatham County Schools (CCS) Superintendent Dr. Derrick D. Jordan inserting Toomer there.

Toomer went to work, encouraging her staff members to nudge students to make some noise. NCASA heard them:

  • Horton student Lexi Spivey was a 2018 NCASA Middle School Student of the Year finalist
  • Horton teacher Tracy Miller was a 2018 NCASA Middle School Scholastic Director of the Year finalist  
  • Horton parent Lisa Holder was a 2018 NCASA Volunteer of the Year finalist

Those Horton representatives helped CCS earn points in the race for the NCASA School District Cup for large school districts. CCS — in its first year competing as a large district —  came in third place behind runner-up Cumberland County Schools and winner Guilford County Schools.

Last school year, CCS won the School District Cup for medium school districts. The addition of the Chatham School of Science and Engineering — the district’s early college — made CCS eligible to compete with large districts. Yet because of Science and Engineering’s small student population, CCS would have been allowed to keep competing against medium-sized school district’s. Based on the accumulated points — including those earned by Northwood High School’s Riley Shaner emerging as a 2018 NCASA High School Student of the Year finalist — CCS would have repeated as School District Cup champ for medium school districts, according to NCASA Executive Director Leon Pfeiffer.

CCS, though, like Toomer, dared to dream.

“Mrs. Toomer is only in her second year as a principal at Horton Middle School. She came in with high expectations and very high standards. She is systematically rebranding our school,” Miller said. “Mrs. Toomer engaged immediately with the idea that our students could excel at any level if they were determined and engaged. Though we are not a magnet school for arts or sciences, and we are a high-needs, diverse, public school from a rural district in a tiny town, she believes we are capable and limitless.”

Published May 16, 2018