New Ashley principal has plan to boost teacher, parent morale

PortCityDaily.com is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Ashley High School's new principal, Patrick McCarty, talks with a teacher Tuesday. McCarty plans to improve relations with staff, parents and students by spending more time in the hallways than his office. Photos by Hilary Snow.
Ashley High School’s new principal, Patrick McCarty, left, talks with a teacher Tuesday. McCarty plans to improve relations with staff, parents and students by spending more time in the hallways than his office. Photos by Hilary Snow.

Principal Patrick McCarty doesn’t plan on being in his new office much at Ashley High School, but when he is, his blinds will be up and his door will stay open.

It’s part of an overall strategy McCarty–former principal of neighboring Murray Middle–has for improving student and staff relations at the beleaguered high school.

McCarty took over at Ashley earlier this summer, replacing Jackson Norvell, who was transferred to Wrightsville Beach Elementary School.

In an effort to show transparency and a push for positive change, McCarty called a press conference Tuesday to address concerns about teacher morale and discontent among parents.
In an effort to show transparency and a push for positive change, McCarty called a press conference Tuesday to address concerns about teacher morale and discontent among parents.

Ashley has been a revolving door, of sorts, for administrators, with several changeovers occurring over the last five years. Recent teacher working condition surveys also showed discontent among educators when it came to feeling heard and respected by the school’s leadership, although scores did jump up somewhat in that area in this year’s questionnaire.

And the decision last year to fire newly hired varsity basketball coach David Rutledge after just one season raised some ire from parents.

Acknowledging all this, McCarty said during a press conference Tuesday he wanted to “change the conversation about Ashley.”

“I want people to understand that Ashley is a great school,” he said.

But he also wants his staff to know they have voices.

“It is important that I hear what they’re saying, that they have some input in the decision-making,” McCarty noted. “It is going to be a process to develop trust. Anytime you have someone new come in, it takes awhile to establish that trust.”

One of McCarty’s advantages is his tenure at Murray Middle, the Veterans Park area school that feeds into Ashley High.

“I know most of the students that are here already. I know many of the parents already,” he said.

And McCarty believes all involved in the Ashley family need to know who he is as a leader. To accomplish that, he plans to spend more time in the hallways and classrooms–and working directly with the Parent Teacher Association–than behind closed doors.

“I’ve always had an open door policy with staff, parents and students,” he said. “But part of that is about not being in the office.”

The first day of the new school year is Monday, Aug. 24. Ashley hosted its open house for incoming freshmen and returning students on Tuesday night.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.