Wells Elementary School Principal Wendy Sullivan, center, hugs students on the last day of school Thursday.
Drew C. Wilson | Times
Wells Elementary School Principal Wendy Sullivan, center, and Assistant Principal Eliabeth Reel celebrate the last day of school during a Thursday morning broadcast with students Claire Woodard, left, Kamorie Wells and Julianna Moss.
Drew C. Wilson | Times
By Drew C. Wilson
Times Staff Writer
It was the last day of school and Principal Wendy Sullivan was still giving encouragement for students at Wells Elementary School Thursday.
“Have a great last day,” the veteran educator told the children. “Be good leaders today.”
Sullivan said the role of the principal is to be a leader, an encourager and a cheerleader.
“The teachers have a very hard job every day to educate the children and make sure that they are learning all they can,” Sullivan said. “The role of the principal is to make sure that the resources are in place and that the community knows that the school is a safe haven for students and a place that they are going to come to learn, not only academically, but try to educate the whole child so they can be productive citizens.”
It was a last day of sorts for Sullivan too, as she is departing as the principal at Wells, where she has been for the last six years. She will be the new principal at Toisnot Middle School for the 2017-18 school year.
Sullivan has been an educator for he last 24 years.
“This is very bittersweet because our fifth-graders will be going with me to Toisnot, most of them, so at least I get to take part of my families with me, but, of course, leaving the other ones behind is never easy. I love all of the children and all of the families here. I love being a part of this community.
Toisnot is right down the street from Wells, so many of the children who attend the elementary school will also attend the middle school.
Somehow, Sullivan manages to call the names of many of the 540 students walking in the door, some of them carrying flowers for their teachers.
Wells has 60 staff members.
“Wells is the only leadership school in Wilson,” Sullivan said. We are a ‘Leader in Me’ school and we teach our students the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. We have the students say the habits and try to live the habits every day. We talk about leadership every single day and being in control of yourself and that you have the power no matter how small you are, you have the power to be a leader in our school and in your life and in our community.”
Sullivan said the hardest thing about leaving is the relationships she has formed with people.
“It is an amazing faculty here and they will do amazing things, I am sure,” Sullivan said. “I told the faculty at our last meeting here that I knew that they were prepared, that they will do fine without me here and that they will continue to do the work that we have done for six years.
“They are amazing. They love children. They don’t only look at test scores,” Sullivan said of the faculty. “We have clubs. The clubs are in order for children to chose something that they enjoy doing, because if you can’t be the absolute top academically, then we want to encourage you to try other avenues of things, so we have lots of different clubs that the children can chose from so that they get to experience success.”
Fifth-graders left Sullivan sticky notes covering the wall and door to her office that offered kind words for the departing principal.
They said things like “No. 1 Principal” and “You are the bomb” and “You’re cool.”
Sharon Huneycutt, who is currently principal at Swift Creek Elementary School in Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, will be taking over as the new principal of Wells Elementary. Huneycutt is leaving Swift Creek, where she has worked for four years.
Sullivan said she would simply advise Huneycutt to love these children and continue to be an encourager.
Sullivan said she has enjoyed getting to know the families and the children individually, finding out what their areas of strength and their areas of need are and just having constant communication with them every day.
“Wells has always encouraged children to do anything they wanted to try to do and to be supportive of them,” Sullivan said. “I think most of the families really have a love of this school and it’s just a very community-oriented place and that’s hard to leave.”