Midlands educator celebrated as National Principal of the Year in surprise announcement

Updated: Oct. 20, 2017 at 1:17 PM EDT
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CHAPIN, SC (WIS) - It is a big day for Chapin High School Principal Dr. Akil E. Ross, Sr.

In a surprise announcement at the school on Friday, Ross was named the 2018 Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

His pride beamed during the assembly, which he originally thought was to celebrate the school's achievement of winning School of the Year by the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence in 2017. But L-R 5 School District Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hefner took over and made the announcement to the crowd.

"Dr. Ross is most deserving of this high honor. He is a great visionary, an extraordinary leader, a highly-skilled manager, and a phenomenal culture builder," Hefner said. "He is an excellent representative of our profession and will be a most effective spokesperson for public education on the national level."

Ross celebrated with the student body, his family, officials with the Lexington-Richland School District 5, State Superintendent Molly Spearman, and Gov. Henry McMaster during the surprise assembly.

"Dr. Ross is an exemplary leader who challenges both his students and staff to achieve at the highest level," Spearman said. "I congratulate Dr. Ross on being named the 2018 National Principal of the Year and look forward to his continued dedicated service to the students of South Carolina."

Under Ross' leadership, Chapin High School was recognized as a South Carolina Palmetto's Finest Award recipient in 2015. He also challenged his faculty to aim for a 100 percent graduation rate. That challenge sparked the analysis of trend data to identify students most at risk of dropping out, then soliciting funding for a "school after school" to extend instructional services for those students.

Chapin's graduation rate went from 82 percent to exceed 96 percent, with proficiency rates continuing to climb, including a 16-point spike in math proficiency among Black students.

Dr. Ross's mantra for the school is, "We are a thousand passions with one heartbeat," and he aims to foster an environment where students can be challenged while pursuing their own interests.

Ross holds a bachelor's degree in education from Duke University and a doctorate in education from the University of South Carolina.

He joins a prestigious list of South Carolina colleagues previously honored as NASSP National Principal of the Year: Sharon Buddin of Columbia's Ridge View High School in 2002, and Lucy Beckham of Wando High School in Charleston County in 2009.

And it all happened for him during National Principals Month.

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