Typically, Dr. Carole Hicks, a Walnut Grove High School assistant principal, starts off her day with hall duty at 6:55 AM, and ends school at 2:40 PM. But this is the only thing typical about her day. Hicks is a 24-year veteran Walton County school administrator. A brief overview of her job would include, “leadership, management, and building relationships.” But there is way more to her job than this. When Hicks is not monitoring students, she is typically in her office working to make the WGHS school day positive, safer and an overall better experience.
As an administrator, her primary duty is to prepare class schedules at the school. She also handles disciplinary situations with students whose last names start with A through D. A few of these students need extra attention, which she is happy to give.
“I make a list of students who I feel that want the extra help, or need the extra attention. I make sure their grades are looking good, and I visit that list every week to make sure none of them are slipping through the cracks. Our goal is to make sure students graduate, and to ensure that students have opportunities that will prepare them to reach their potential in life,” she said.
Being in charge of disciplinary action is a tough job to handle, but it’s a role she has to fill in to provide order and safety for students. When she was asked how long she’d been in the education field, she explained how some things she never got used to even in her 24 years of experience.
“After 24 years, you learn the most effective way to handle situations. But some things never get easier. For example, when you have to address a behavior or incident for which the student’s consequence is suspension or, alternative placement. These decisions never get easier. We’re the ones who make decisions about the consequences, those phone calls and meetings and tears from the parents never become mundane or typical.”
This also connects to Hicks’ biggest challenge at Walnut Grove High School.
“My biggest challenge is when we realize that part of a student’s life is out of our control. Teenagers reach a point when the choices they make will affect the rest of their lives. The older the students gets, the more dire the consequences. It's discouraging when we realize that we have a lack of control of a situation. To watch that happen is a bad day.”
The tasks that Hicks has sounds very challenging and hard to take in sometimes. So when Hicks was asked what motivates her to work everyday, her answer gave her a good rationale of why she liked her job.
“I enjoy coming here to be with my colleagues that I work with. There's never a day when I just feel like calling in because I just don't want to go. As a team, our focus is always about how we can make this place better for the students,” she said. “It's also exciting to know a student has a drive to pursue a career. As an administrator, I question what impact I have on students. My goal is to have a positive impact on students’ future social, emotional, and financial well-being. We don't want to be the place where you just get your diploma and go home. We want to be more than that.”
With all the work she does, it’s questionable if school consumes all of her life.
“It doesn’t consume most my life. I enjoy what I do, and I don't feel it's taking from my life in any way. It’s a great work environment. I enjoy helping students, I really do. It’s gratifying when we see that students can feel safe, enjoy educational opportunities we provide, and then continue on being successful in whatever path they chose.”
Hicks’ schedule isn’t very consistent. On a regular day, she’s in the hallways between each class. She makes sure all the students walking by have a “smile on their face.” She says that two days are never alike at Walnut Grove.
“Because education is a human industry, educators learn to be flexible. With 1,400 students and over 100 staff members, each day brings new opportunities to help each other, and to learn from each other. … Scheduling classes takes up a lot of my time, but every administrator has something just as important to do.”
This is why teamwork is important for WGHS administrators. For the school to function properly, they all “respect each other’s time.”
Hicks said her favorite part about going to work was her colleagues is their humor.
“My favorite part has nothing to do with the work but my favorite part is having informal conversations with my colleagues. We’re a pretty funny group of people. We all have a great sense of humor that gets us through the tough times. We make each other laugh, and we genuinely care about each other” she said.
One of the final questions of topics that were discussed was the significance of Walnut Grove High School, and what made it different from other schools.
“From my perspective, I think our students and faculty are open to creating new opportunities that make all students feel at home here. We invite a lot of student input. That is what a lot of other schools might not have the time, people, or resources to do. Our central office (Walton County Board of Education) gives us the resources and people to do what we need to do.”
She then explained what the county’s Board of Education and staff always work toward.
“They want the Walton County Schools experience to be positive. We want to be able to listen to each other. The only way you can have an impact on the world is if you respectfully talk to each other and listen.”
Hicks seems to be very thorough with her job. She remains humble, but still effective with everything she does. As an WGHS administrator, she has roles and responsibilities that go much further than what the assistant principal’s job description can ever describe.
Terell Wright is a freshman at Walnut Grove High School.