08/28/08 — Southern Wayne's principal sets sights on new attitude

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Southern Wayne's principal sets sights on new attitude

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 28, 2008 1:42 PM

DUDLEY -- Dr. John Boldt does not just want Southern Wayne High School students to achieve academically.

The new principal wants them to be proud of their school, too.

So, when the students arrived back at their classrooms Monday, they were greeted with a new attitude and a new Saints mural -- right in the hallway.

SWHS Mural

News-Argus/Bobby Williams

Dr. John Boldt, left, principal at Southern Wayne High School, looks on as Mary Ann Barwick, art teacher at the school, paints a mural on a hallway wall. The project is part of an effort to spruce up the building’s appearance for the new school year.

But sprucing up the school will not be Boldt's only goal for the new year.

He is also focused on improving student achievement. And he says he will begin by developing relationships -- between students and staff, students and their peers.

He will start by looking to his seniors.

"We're going to meet at every grade level -- seniors first, letting them know, 'This is your last year at this school. I want it to be your best, I want you to be school leaders,'" he said. "I'll be asking them to take leadership roles, to use positive peer pressure to make this school what they want it to be."

And with that responsibility will come rewards. Boldt said he would like to re-introduce senior privileges at Southern Wayne.

"I want these ninth- and tenth-graders to look up and say, 'I want to be a senior,'" he said.

He knows that capturing a teenager's interest -- and encouraging him or her to strive to be a better student -- are key factors in his future plans for Southern Wayne.

"It used to be the whole student body took the same program," he said. "Students today, they'll work for you but if it makes sense to them, they'll buy in. It's important to have that relationship, so you know that child, know what motivates that child."

Boldt's job said the sense of community is already in place at Southern Wayne -- as are generations of tradition.

Over the summer months, he has already met with teachers and staff, as well as the school's advisory council and incoming freshmen and parents. He discovered a "family-oriented atmosphere."

It also helps, he added, to have a lot of former students on staff.

"I'm very impressed. This is a great staff," he said. "There is a culture of unity and family. We can use that to help focus on things to work on."

Likewise, parents on the advisory council as well as community members he has encountered have shared a willingness to "push toward the same goal," Boldt said.

He knows there is work to be done.

"Over the last couple years, the test scores have not been at the level they should be. (Our staff) wants to repair that," he said. "They're all dedicated to doing what needs to be done to get Southern Wayne back on its feet."

The key, he said, will be the students.

"We have got to increase school spirit and student involvement in student activities," he said. "Research clearly shows that the more involved that students are in extra-curricular activities, they have higher grade point averages, less discipline problems."

In addition to the traditional high school format, there are opportunities to earn college credit, vocational programs -- the school this year will introduce diesel engine, construction and teachers' academies -- as well as a fine arts program and athletics.

And to keep quality programs at Southern Wayne, Boldt says he will need to keep good staff.

"Most teachers leave because of lack of support, not because of what goes on in the classroom," he said. "It's not student discipline. It's not the pay. It's the lack of support."

The majority of teachers enter the profession because they want to help children, Boldt said.

"Here's what I told my teachers -- 'You're the critical person at a school because you're in front of the kids every day. You need to try to reach them every day. My job is to serve you, provide you with resources to do your job as effectively as possible,'" he said. "My other job is to be a teacher of teachers -- to provide them with a positive pat on the back, help them improve."

His graduate business training has taught him leadership skills that he said he will use in his new job, but Boldt, 45, is not new to the field. He is from neighboring Lenoir County, where he has 22 years of experience in education -- including being principal at the elementary and middle school levels and as an administrator at the high school level.

He and his wife, Paula, a middle school teacher, have a 10-year-old son, Andrew.

He says he hopes to be around for a while -- it takes a few years to really have an impact, he says.

And this year, the mural is just one of the ways he hopes to amp up the Southern Wayne spirit. He hopes students will be a part of creating the school's new look.

"We're going to try to get student artwork up in the hallways, develop ways to recognize and acknowledge a wide variety of students for their achievements," he said.

And Boldt hopes that his choice to come to Wayne County will help him do justice to his personal philosophy of making a difference.

"I believe we're on this earth to make this earth a better place," he said. "When I die, I hope that the world is a better place because I have lived here. I have chosen to do that by educating children, by providing them the best education we can provide."