Stokes Early College High School has thrived in the three years it has been in existence. It began with Principal Jimmy Via at the helm, continued to grow under Principal Kim Marion and soon will be led by Principal Steve Hall.
Marion has accepted a position in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, working in a support role for STEM education. She has been at SECHS since July 2010.
Filling her position will be Hall, who is currently an assistant principal at West Stokes High School. He officially begins work at the Meadows campus on Oct. 1 but will be meeting the SECHS faculty and students Sept. 21.
“I am excited and humbled all at the same time about this great opportunity,” Hall says. “I cannot wait to get there and meet the students, staff and the community.”
Although he was not formally named as Marion’s successor until the regular school board meeting on Sept. 17, Hall already has been looking over the early college website and familiarizing himself with its initiatives. His daughter attends the ECHS in Surry County, so he says he is very familiar with the program and procedures.
Stokes County Superintendent Ronnie Mendenhall has nothing but praise for Hall: “He has done an outstanding job during his tenure at West Stokes. I believe Steve is an excellent fit for the Stokes Early College principalship.”
As Hall steps in and Marion departs, she admits that the transition is a bittersweet one: “I am very honored to have been part of Stokes Early College High School in its establishment period, watching our students learn to advocate for themselves and mature into individuals well-prepared for their next step in life — whether it be a four-year university or career opportunities. I am a very proud principal and am sad to leave these students and this important program but look forward to new opportunities and wish to extend a warm welcome to Mr. Hall. I’m sure he will continue the quality work that has only just begun for SECHS.”
Hall’s story of how he advanced to a head principal’s job is not the usual one of a young person who graduates from high school, finishes up four years of college and goes straight into teaching before moving on to administration. It started out the “normal” way as he graduated from North Surry High School in 1991 and continued his education at Surry Community College through 1992.
“When I graduated high school, I enrolled at Surry Community that fall, not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life,” Hall explains. “I dropped out after a year and went into the workforce at a local sock factory.”
Hall worked there from 1992 until 1998 when he found out that his job was going out of the country. He then applied and interviewed for a custodial position at J. Sam Gentry Middle School in Surry County. He got the job and began working not only as a custodian but also as a volunteer tutor, coach and bus driver.
“The more I was around those students, the more I fell in love with teaching and coaching,” Hall recalls. “One day my principal called me in and said he thought I should consider applying for the county’s prospective teacher scholarship, and so I did.”
A few months later, Hall received word that he had been awarded the scholarship. So in January 2000, he became a dual enrollment college student at SCC and Appalachian State University.
In May 2004, Hall graduated with his A. A. Degree from SCC. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education from ASU in December 2005. He received his Master’s Degree in School Administration from ASU in May 2008.
After graduating from ASU in 2005, Hall got a job teaching fifth grade science and social studies at Cedar Ridge Elementary School in Surry County. He finished the year out there then got a call from Tom Hemmings, his former principal at Gentry Middle. A sixth grade math and science position was open there, and Hemmings wanted Hall.
“I of course accepted and went back to where it all began,” Hall says.
He was there from 2006-2010, teaching sixth and seventh grade math and science, as well as being the assistant football coach, head girls’ basketball coach and head softball coach. It was also Hemmings who encouraged Hall to go back to school and pursue his Master’s in Administration.
In 2010, Hall applied for and was given the assistant principal’s position at WSHS where he has been ever since. Like Marion, Hall finds it somewhat sad to leave his old school.
“I love the folks here at West Stokes High School and will miss them all dearly,” he notes. “They are a big reason I am having the success that I am. They will forever hold a special place in my heart.”
Yet Hall is excited to assume his first head principal’s job. He accepts the fact that there will be challenges. “There are always challenges with change or a new position,” he elaborates. “I look forward to those and cannot wait to get started.”
His immediate goals are to continue the success at SECHS and to always push to be the best in everything they do.
And the legacy of success is certainly there at SECHS. Marion says that according to statistics, the SECHS students are outperforming all other high school students in the district in terms of test scores and academic growth, at the same time that they are transitioning into the leaders of the community in a variety of roles.
She calls the staff at SECHS, as well as the Stokes County Forsyth Tech administration, a very dedicated and hardworking staff who “are the driving force behind this tremendous program.” Twenty-seven students will be part of the first SECHS graduating class — with 25 of those graduating from high school AND earning an associate’s degree in four years.
“The early college program in North Carolina is one of the best in the nation for meeting the educational needs of first-generation college and economically disadvantaged students and is supported by the NC New Schools Project and the North Carolina General Assembly,” Marion explains. “Our students have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in five years; now that’s true economic development for Stokes County!”
And now Hall will provide the leadership needed to take the SECHS further into this second decade of the 21st century. “I want to hit the ground running and continue and build upon the many successes of the early college,” he declares.