Two District 5 school principals named state’s best
Principals Gerald Gary of Dutch Fork Middle and Akil Ross of Chapin High take top 2017 honors in selection by their statewide peers
It’s been a couple of heady weeks for Lexington-Richland School District Five.
First, the district was named South Carolina’s best by a national website, out of 81 districts statewide. And, now, two of the district’s principals have been named the state’s best as well.
Gerald Gary of Dutch Fork Middle School was recognized as the 2017 S.C. Middle Level Principal of the Year, and Akil Ross of Chapin High School have been recognized as S.C. Secondary Principal of the Year by the South Carolina Association of School Administrators (SCASA), district officials announced Monday.
Both men were awarded the honors at a surprise ceremony.
Gary is in his fourth year as principal of Dutch Fork Middle School. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education at Francis Marion University in 1998, a Masters in Educational Administration from the University of South Carolina in 2004 and a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University in 2007.
Gary began his teaching career as an eighth-grade Language Arts teacher at Blythewood Middle School in 1999. After three years there, Gary spent a year as lead teacher at Blythewood Academy and three years at Summit Parkway Middle School as an assistant principal. Before becoming principal at Dutch Fork Middle, Gary spent eight years as an elementary school principal in Kershaw County Schools and at Leaphart Elementary School in District Five.
“This is a very humbling, awesome experience to be named the 2017 South Carolina Middle Level Principal of the Year by SCASA,” Gary said. “We have so many great principals not only here in District Five, but across the entire state of South Carolina. To represent them at a national level means so much to District Five, the students, faculty and staff at Dutch Fork Middle School and myself.”
Ross is in his sixth year as principal at Chapin High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at Duke University in 2002, a Masters in Secondary Educational Administration from the University of South Carolina in 2005, an Educational Specialist degree from South Carolina State University in 2009 and a Doctorate of Education in Curriculum Studies at the University of South Carolina.
Ross began his teaching career as a Social Studies teacher at Eau Claire High School in 2002. From there, he served as assistant principal at Chapin High School from 2005 to 2010 before taking the role as principal. In 2015, Ross’ leadership led to Chapin High being selected the Palmetto’s Finest High School by SCASA.
“The award may have my name on it, but it is really the work of the students, the amazing faculty and staff I have here and just a tribute to the awesome community of Chapin,” Ross said.
“I’ll be honest, this was a huge surprise,” he added. “To walk in this arena and see all the students, faculty, staff, community members, our elected officials and most importantly my wife and family, that means so much to me.”
SCASA Executive Director Beth Phibbs presented the awards to Gary and Ross and shared her thoughts on each being named Principals of the Year.
“Dr. Gary and Dr. Ross are exceptional leaders who set high expectations for their students and staff and encourage them to achieve at high levels,” she said. “Both men are gifted visionaries who are respected and appreciated by their students, teachers and staff, parents, and the community.”
“This was a great day for District Five,” said District Superintendent Stephen Hefner. “Dr. Gary and Dr. Ross are tremendous school leaders. They truly give all they have to make their students succeed and their schools excel. We are so very proud of their accomplishments and know that they will represent South Carolina very well.”