July 29, 2014. Watauga County Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott has announced that Preston Clarke, current assistant principal at Watauga High School, has been chosen as the new principal of Valle Crucis School effective July 29. The recommendation to hire Clarke as principal was approved by the Watauga Board of Education at a special called meeting of the Board Monday evening.
“I am very pleased to announce the selection of Mr. Clarke as our next principal at Valle Crucis School,” remarked Elliott. “He is a strong leader who loves students and enjoys close working relationships with both teachers and parents. The Valle Crucis School community will enjoy his open and inviting attitude as well as his strong work ethic.”
Clarke’s selection followed a search process that drew 35 applicants for the position, six of whom were selected for interviews. The 25 members of the interview committee included Valle Crucis parents, several Valle Crucis School personnel, Assistant Superintendent Dr. David Fonseca, Human Resources Director Dr. Stephen Martin, Cove Creek Principal Toby Cone, Hardin Park Principal Mary Smalling, Ron Henries and Delora Hodges of the Board of Education, and several directors from the WCS central office.
Prior to the review of applications, a stakeholder input meeting was held at Valle Crucis with parents, school personnel, and students to help identify the needs of the school and the most important qualities for their next principal. Stakeholders identified a large number of professional traits they would like to see in the next Valle Crucis principal. This feedback was compiled and consolidated into a Leadership Profile which was used in selecting candidates for interviews.
In presenting the hiring recommendation to the Board of Education, Dr. Elliott remarked there were a number of strong candidates for the position and that Clarke emerged as the best candidate following an extensive and very thorough screening process. For the six finalists, that process included in-depth interviews, preparing and delivering a presentation based on Valle Crucis data, and an individual meeting with Dr. Elliott to tour the school.
“Watauga County Schools is an excellent school system with a strong reputation across the state and the Southeast,” Elliott noted. “While other school systems in our area are struggling to attract high quality applicants for teacher and administrator positions, we continue to see strong interest from people wanting to live and work in this community.”
Dr. Stephen Martin, Director of Human Resources, noted that the value of the school system’s program for supporting and growing emerging leaders is evident in recent hiring decisions. “It is worth noting that WCS implemented a Leadership Academy during the 2013-2014 school year. All six assistant principals in the district and three teacher leaders participated in this program. Our last three administrative openings have all been filled by participants in the Leadership Academy, including Preston Clarke (Valle Crucis principal), Philip Norman (Green Valley principal), and Lauren Dotson (Hardin Park assistant principal),” said Martin.
Clarke responded to his selection by expressing appreciation for the opportunity to serve as principal. “I am grateful to the Watauga County School Board and Dr. Elliott for granting me the opportunity to be the next principal at Valle Crucis Elementary School,” Clarke stated. “I am honored to serve the faculty and staff, students, and parents of the Valle Crucis community. This is also a bittersweet moment for me as I transition from Watauga High School. I have developed very meaningful relationships with the faculty and staff at the high school over the past five years, and I will miss interacting with them on a daily basis. Most of all, I will miss serving and interacting with the students at Watauga High School. However, I am eager and excited to continue to serve Watauga County Schools in a different capacity.”
Clarke graduated from Maiden High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and health education from Appalachian State University in May 2006 and completed a master’s degree in school administration from Western Carolina University. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in educational leadership at East Tennessee State University. Clarke also participated in the North Carolina Future Ready Leadership cohort for Assistant Principals during the 2013-2014 school year.
From August 2006 until July 2009, Clarke was employed as an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) elective teacher with Catawba County Schools. He then joined the Watauga County Schools as a social studies teacher at Watauga High School from August 2009 until September 2011. Most recently, Clarke has been an assistant principal at Watauga High School since September, 2011. During his service as an assistant principal, Clarke has had experience with curriculum in English, social studies, and media/technology, and he carried out additional duties in attendance review, scheduling, school safety, teacher evaluation, IEP (Individual Education Plan) meetings, and interviewing and hiring staff.
In addition to his classroom and administrative experience, Mr. Clarke has also been an assistant football coach and assistant women’s basketball coach at Watauga High School.
Clarke is succeeding Martha Clark as principal at Valle Crucis. Ms. Clark resigned to move to the New England area for family reasons.
Clarke’s wife, Hannah, is a teacher in the math department at Watauga High School. They have a three year old son, Landon, and a one year old daughter, Emma.
“I believe the future is very bright for the Valle Crucis school community,” Elliott remarked. “The school has an outstanding group of caring and dedicated staff members, a highly committed parent-teacher organization, and a new principal who is dedicated to building relationships and providing the highest quality education possible for our students.”
Valle Crucis, one of the eight K-8 schools in Watauga County, had an enrollment of approximately 354 students for 2013-14.