Superintendent: School employees work for the right reasons

Published 2:44 pm Monday, March 25, 2024

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By Karen Jarvis

Davie County Schools

A fist bump or shared laughs with students over questions about where his hair went, or who’s the boss, always puts a smile on Jeff Wallace’s face.

For Wallace, superintendent of Davie County Schools, roaming the halls, visiting classrooms, and engaging with students in any of the district’s 13 schools is his way of recharging.

“Those kids are why we do what we do,” he said. “When I tell them ‘I work for you’ their eyes get big and say ‘you do?’ That response is priceless.”

In fact, more than 900 Davie County Schools teammates are working for the kids. From teachers, bus drivers, and custodians, to maintenance, transportation and admin teams, all play a role in engaging, equipping, and empowering students.

“We could have all the latest technology or the most promising program, but that doesn’t matter unless we have the people working for the right reason and building relationships with our students,” said Wallace. “We must never lose sight of our purpose, learning.

“You have to be willing to build relationships with these kids because if they don’t feel safe, if they don’t feel loved, if they don’t feel cared for, they are not going to come to learn,” said Danielle Hargrave, Mocksville Elementary exceptional children’s teacher. “My kids will tell you I’m weird, I’m silly, I hold them to high standards, and give them far too much work to do, but at the end of the day, if I have to cancel a group they are bummed. They love to come here because I spend a lot of time on the front end building those relationships.”

Under the leadership of Wallace, Davie County Schools has implemented the High Reliability Schools (HRS) system, a data-driven, strategic planning framework designed to enhance the quality of education and create a safe, supportive, and effective learning environment for all learners.

Davie County Schools is committed to continuous improvement, fostering relationships, and ensuring all DCS staff are aligned towards achieving the system’s strategic goals of a 90 percent graduation rate and meet or exceed growth in all schools, Wallace said.

William R. Davie custodian Brad Sharpe, or ‘Mr. B’ to some kids, knows the importance of his role from the moment he steps on campus at 6 a.m.

“I open up the school, turn the lights on, if a bus driver needs help, I’m there,” said Sharpe. “We’re here for the kids. I have a passion for the children, keeping the school clean and safe for them.”

Sharpe also sees his role as a mentor. “A student wanted to help sweep, so I ‘hired’ him,” he recalls. “Makes them feel good to help and they have a good day at school listening to the teacher.”

Mentoring, support, and collaboration are expected and commonplace among staff throughout Davie County Schools.

“These things don’t just happen,” said Wallace. “They are cultivated through a shared team commitment to excellence and a culture of continuous growth among our team and students. Many teachers and other staff who may have started in another district, move here, and say there is no comparison.”

“I get all the love and support here from teachers, as well as the students,” said Jason McRae, exceptional children’s collaborative teacher, Davie County High School. “It makes my job easy. This is fun for me. This isn’t work. Being able to support students and learn from teachers, I love doing it. I get up every day knowing that I’m going to make a difference throughout the day, that’s the most important part.”