UCPS names Principal of the Year and Assistant Principal of the Year
Union County Public Schools (UCPS) is proud to announce Piedmont Middle School’s Dr. Cassie Eley as the district’s 2022-2023 Principal of the Year and Forest Hills High School’s Jared Gatewood as the 2022-2023 Assistant Principal of the Year.
Piedmont Middle School students and educators packed the gymnasium on Monday, Oct. 31, for the announcement. Dr. Eley was confused and surprised to hear a drumline playing and see people clapping when she stepped through the doors. She was led to center court as Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan declared her the Principal of the Year. More cheers erupted.
Senior leaders and members of the Board of Education joined the superintendent in presenting her with balloons and flowers. The Union County Education Foundation awarded her $1,000 for the school and $1,000 for personal use.
"Friday, I got an invitation to be at the central office building for a Monday morning meeting. Before I left, my staff were acting a little weird and a few things seemed a bit off. When I got to the meeting, Dr. Jones threw me off. I was more than surprised when we arrived back at school," said Dr. Eley.
Dr. Eley's husband and son were also present. She had many emotions after taking a brief moment to reflect.
"I'm honored. I have colleagues in this district that keep me going and are my support system. That's what sets UCPS apart, the support," said Dr. Eley, who has worked at UCPS for her entire 16-year career. "My students are awesome and why I work so hard. They are the reason to keep going even when things get chaotic. It was wonderful to see their excitement because this is a win for all of us."
Dr. Eley will move on to compete at the state level.
The surprises continued at Forest Hills High. As assistant principal Gatewood was called to the cafeteria by a staff member, Principal Dr. Kevin Plue, students and staff gathered by the doorway. Gatewood was shocked to see so many people and was all smiles when the superintendent announced he was the Assistant Principal of the Year. Everyone cheered as he accepted his balloons and flowers. The Union County Education Foundation awarded him $500 for the school and $500 for personal use.
"I saw a few of my students and figured they were in line to get food. I turned the corner and saw a line of people on both sides screaming my name and saying congratulations. I was wondering what was going on," said Gatewood. "I'll never forget this experience. The students are the reason I come to school. I do what I do for them. I see a lot of myself in them. If I can make a difference in one student's life, it'll make what I do worth it."
The following UCPS leaders are the 2022-2023 Principal of the Year finalists:
Dr. Tracey Strickland - Parkwood High
Jeff Stout - Cuthbertson High
Dr. Michael Henderson - Wesley Chapel Elementary
Emily Kraftson - Weddington Elementary
Dr. Gina Chisum - Sun Valley Middle
Dr. Kim Fisenne - Porter Ridge High
Denny Ferguson - New Salem Elementary
Dr. Angela Foster - Marshville Elementary
Dr. Candice Boatright - Benton Heights Elementary School of the Arts
The following UCPS leaders are the 2022-2023 Assistant Principal of the Year finalists:
Jamee Giers - Walter Bickett Elementary
Keitha Rodden - Rock Rest Elementary
Mari McTamney - Antioch Elementary
Shane Ferron - Cuthbertson Middle
Terri Adams - Parkwood High
Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!
Watch Dr. Eley’s surprise. Pictures of both visits are below: