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Les Deming named 2021-2022 UCPS Principal of the Year

Union County Public Schools (UCPS) is proud to announce Wolfe School’s Les Deming as the 2021-2022 UCPS Principal of the Year and Wesley Chapel Elementary’s Nicole Phelix as the 2021-2022 UCPS Assistant Principal of the Year.

On Wednesday, Oct. 27 UCPS Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan, senior leaders, and Board of Education members surprised the leaders at their schools with a plaque, balloons, flowers, and gift cards. Both winners will be given $2,000 and $1,000 checks respectively from the Union County Education Foundation. Half of each check will be donated to their schools and the other half is for personal use.

Shock and tears of joy flowed from Mr. Deming as the group surprised him at his school right after he was named principal of the year during a virtual principals meeting.

“This means more to me than anything, but even more than that this means so much to my school,” said Mr. Deming. “My staff is awesome, and I can’t say enough about them, and the student’s families are incredible. My students are why I do my job.”

Mr. Deming’s family was also present for the surprise visit, including his wife Lisa and three of their sons, his mother, and sister-in-law.

“When you think about leadership in the pandemic last year, and all you did for the students, the families, and your community. We couldn’t think of a better leader to represent our wonderful school system we are so proud of you," said Dr. Houlihan to Mr. Deming during the surprise visit. “We are very thankful for you and for your steadfast leadership.”

Wolfe School serves middle and high school students with disabilities in a specialized setting.

As principal Wolfe School, Mr. Deming has the extraordinary task of principal, leader, and friend to the exceptional children at his school. Leading a school during a global pandemic was no small feat, but Mr. Deming met the challenge head-on.

Mr. Deming worked closely with his staff to ensure there was proper contact with the students who worked from home during last year‘s school year. In addition, once it became an option he put a lot of effort into making sure the students who came to school for in-person learning stayed safe.

He masterfully worked with every single parent to make sure that they knew their child was safe and he did everything within his power to ensure that each student stayed on track with their lesson plans and progress.

“I believe that the principal is the most important role in public education. Being a principal at any school is a difficult job, so any way we can celebrate the work of our principals is time well spent,” said Dr. Sam Basden, UCPS director of high school performance.

Dr. Basden has observed Mr. Deming’s positive problem-solving skills and his cheerful disposition as he moves through the workday with a smile.

Link to Mr. Deming’s surprise announcement:

The group then traveled to Wesley Chapel Elementary to surprise Mrs. Phelix who was diligently working in her office. As the group filed into the front office she came out in total shock with a huge contagious smile on her face. She graciously accepted her plaque, flowers, and other awards.

Before coming to UCPS, Nicole Phelix taught special education for three years in Baltimore City, Maryland. After that, she taught at Shiloh Elementary for seven years before transferring to Wingate Elementary. Mrs. Phelix spent the next five years as assistant principal of Wingate Elementary. Then in the summer of 2017, Mrs. Phelix was announced as the new assistant principal at Wesley Chapel Elementary.

“I love coming to school every day. I love the students, the staff, and the community here,” said Mrs. Phelix. “It is an honor to represent the collective hard work, dedication, and passion of all the leaders in Union County Public Schools.”

Link to Mrs. Phelix’s reaction:


The following UCPS school leaders are the 2021-2022 Principal of the Year finalists:

Jared Worthington - Marvin Elementary

Dr. Gina Chisum - Indian Trail Elementary

Ashley Smith - Sun Valley Middle

Kevin Beals - Sardis Elementary

Laura Gaddy - Stallings Elementary

Dr. Kim Fisenne - Porter Ridge High

Dr. Cassie Eley - Piedmont Middle

Dr. Kevin Plue - Forest Hills High

Kristy Thomas - Rock Rest Elementary


The following UCPS school leaders are the 2021-2022 Assistant Principal of the Year finalists:

John DeLucia – Piedmont Middle 

Shanda Lauri – Wingate Elementary 

Lindsey Williams – New Town Elementary


Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!


Please see the pictures of the surprise visits in the photo gallery below:  



Published Oct. 28, 2021