by Lisa Tome
Tony Evans can sum up his first few weeks as a middle school principal in one word.
"People are taking vacations and there's a lot going on," said Evans.
He's the new principal on the block and will have three assistants - Holly Spangler, Travis Benner, and Matt Wharton. Spangler has been assigned to the school for several years. Benner was transferred in from Rising Sun Middle. Wharton taught at Leeds and Bay View elementary schools, and worked at Bo Manor Middle before being assigned to North East this year.
This is the first principal job for Evans, who graduated from Perryville High School. He earned a history and social sciences degree from Towson University before getting his masters in educational leadership. He taught at Joppatowne High for three years before returning to Cecil. His first teaching job locally was at Bo Manor Middle. "I liked teaching. My classroom overlooked a horse farm," he said.
He was hired by CCPS by Dr. Joe Buckley who had been one of Evans' teachers. "I wanted to give back to the community that helped me," said Evans. After teaching, he spent four years as assistant principal at Perryville High, six years at Elkton High, and a year at Bo Manor High before being promoted.
"You gain different experiences working with different people in different communities. It makes you a better person," said Evans. "I'm excited to be principal. You try to do the best that you can in a job. I applied a couple times to be principal and this was the next logical step."
North East Middle has approximately 300 incoming sixth graders this year. That, combined with the seventh and eighth grades, means that the school has a larger population than two of the county's high schools. "That's a big challenge," he said. He also said the school has about 80 teachers and staff.
The school receives Maryland Meals for Achievement meaning that the entire school population gets free breakfast every day. NEMS has 55 percent of students receiving free and reduced meals.
"I don't have a perspective yet. I'm still trying to meet the community. It's not real until the kids get here," said Evans. "I live in North East so some of them I know. And my wife has taught in North East for 16 years so I know some of the kids."
He's been learning about middle school life. The trip to North Bay for sixth graders and the day-to-day middle school schedule are challenges for Evans because they are new.
He has also focused some on sprucing up the building. New carpet, paint, and new signage have been or are being installed.
He said that is all designed to make the building more welcoming. He wants to instill school pride in the students and staff. School logos and lots of blue paint are now in the school. "This building was built in 1932 and renovated in 1973. I want to build pride in the school and the community," he said.
He's also been focused on staff.
"The staff that I've met are full of ideas and they're eager to get started. New ideas are always good," he said.
"We're in the home stretch with hiring. We get random out of nowhere (resignations). The supply isn't like it used to be with teachers," he said. He also said new teachers at the school are a diverse group. While some are the traditional, fresh out of college 23-year-olds, others have been hired who have been out of teaching for a while or who have taken up education as a second career.
"We have a diverse dynamic of new teachers," he said.