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Dr. Sonia Carrington: 34 Years of Commitment to Public Education

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21-March-2014 (RRES) - After 34-years in public education, Rocky Ridge Elementary School Principal Dr. Sonia Carrington has decided to retire.  Friday, March 21, was her last day at school with the students.  

Q: Was the decision to retire a difficult one?  Why are you leaving at this time?  Who is your replacement? 

A:  Leaving a place I love and people who have become family is extremely difficult.  Retirement (I prefer to say moving on to do something different!) is bittersweet - beginning a new adventure and yet always keeping in mind the thirty four years in the public school education profession. 

Five years ago, I officially retired and immediately entered the DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) Program.  The state legislature “dropped” DROP a couple of years ago, but those who were already participating in the program were allowed to complete the process.  I did not realize when I submitted the DROP paperwork in March 2009, along with the commitment to continue serving as Principal of Rocky Ridge for five more years, the date of leaving had been set for March 31, 2014.  The exit date was a surprise to me when I discovered this past fall that I would need to leave my school at that time or my insurance would significantly increase. 

The great news is that Dr. Dil Uswatte, our Assistant Principal for the past four years, has been named the Rocky Ridge Elementary Principal.  The transition will be seamless.  She is one of the most dynamic people with whom I have been associated.  Her leadership is respected and well-known locally, state wide, and throughout the country.  Dr. Uswatte has led Rocky Ridge in increasing our students’ math competence and teachers’ self-assurance in providing exemplary mathematics lessons.  Other schools in Hoover and other school systems have invited her to speak at new teacher orientation and to present professional development for teachers.  Her family, husband and two sons, is her top priority.  She knows how to balance home and school life.  I cannot imagine another person who is more qualified than or as exceptional as Dr. Uswatte.  Her leadership is beyond reproach.  Exciting times await our school!                    

Q:  What will you miss most about Rocky Ridge Elementary?

A:  Not a day has gone by in the past twelve years at Rocky Ridge that I have not thought about, prayed for, and/or spoken with a faculty member, student, or parent of a child at the school.  With no hesitation, I can say that I will miss everyone associated with Rocky Ridge.          

Q: What are your post-school plans?

A:  Hitting the alarm button at least three times when it screeches at 4:30 every weekday morning, scurrying to dress for the day, rushing to school, multi-tasking until sunset – all of that goes out the window for one entire week!  I have made no commitments after that except to drive to Atlanta and spend a couple of nights during the week with my daughter-in-law and our newborn grandson, Bennett, while my son works in Philadelphia for about a month.  I want to exercise regularly at the gym, take a morning Bible study class, assist my friend with her charity organization, learn to golf, begin culinary school, teach an education course at one of the local colleges, and continue to attend the Samford University Education and Professional Studies Advisory Committee meetings.  The sky is the limit and I am excited about the possibilities.  Top priority, though, is spending even more time with my family - marvelous Mondays with my five grandkids who live here, lots of beach time, and traveling, which my husband and I always find time to enjoy.                     

Q: Where all has your education career taken you?

A:  I received my Bachelor of Elementary Education Degree at the University of Houston; Masters in Early Childhood Education at the University of Alabama in Birmingham; Educational Specialist and Doctorate degrees at Samford University. 

After receiving my Bachelor’s degree, I taught in Houston, TX for four years.  We moved to Birmingham and I taught fifth grade in the Vestavia Hills School System for ten years and then third grade at Greystone Elementary in Hoover for two years.  I was Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction at Pizitz Middle School, Vestavia Hills, for six years, and was honored to have served as Principal at Rocky Ridge for the past twelve years.         

Q: Tell us about some of your many accolades and accomplishments over the years.

A:  I have received honors over my career, and to this day I feel undeserving, humble, and incredibly appreciative to have been chosen.  A few of the kudos are being named the 2009 Alabama National Distinguished Principal; Samford University Beeson School of Education and Professional Studies Golden Apple Award for Excellence – Outstanding School Administrator Who is an Alumnus of Samford University;  School of Education -University of Alabama in Birmingham – Outstanding Graduate.         

Q: What has been your most memorable moment as the Principal of Rocky Ridge Elementary?

A:  Every day brings memorable, joyous, and sometimes humorous moments -  seeing students’ progress academically makes me proud;  knowing that our students feel good about themselves and that they feel loved swells my heart; brainstorming with teachers and my friend, Dr. Uswatte, about creating programs that teach leadership skills and develop positive character traits brings hope for our kids’ futures.  The most recent memory that touched my heart happened the day after the “snowstorm slumber party.”  A Dad had finally made it to RR to check out his three little children.  They were sitting quietly on the bench in the office waiting for their Dad when I saw the kindergartener whisper something in his older sister’s ear.  I asked, “What did you say to your sister?”  The little boy just smiled and his sister answered for him, “He said that my Dad looks taller!”  Another child whispered to me when his Mom was checking him out, “Can we spend the night again sometime?”   How cute is that?              

Q: Share with us your thoughts on Hoover City Schools and the system’s delivery of quality of education.

A:  When I applied for the principalship in Hoover, I wanted to be selected for the position at Rocky Ridge so badly that I could taste it!  Being involved in education for many years had given me the opportunity to work with other educators in the area and across the state.  Hoover City Schools stood out as one of the most outstanding systems in Alabama – and the district continues to possess that prestigious reputation.    I felt blessed when the Superintendent at the time, Dr. Jack Farr, offered me the Principal’s job at Rocky Ridge. 

Providing quality, purposeful professional development remains the key to student success in Hoover City Schools. The strong support system and encouragement from the Central Office administration has made the pd feasible and withstanding.  The professional development, which is always based on students’ needs, is implemented in classrooms, on the playing fields, and outside the classroom walls.  All training includes extensive data analysis instruction and steps of “how to utilize the data effectively“ to impact student learning, and instructional strategies that hook, motivate, and inspire students to problem solve, discover varied possibilities, and gain confidence in their abilities.  From the first day I began my journey with Hoover City Schools, the professional development realm assisted my leadership proficiency that I used to grow teacher leaders at Rocky Ridge.  Because of our faculty/staff’s continuous learning cycle, Rocky Ridge students are moving upward and forward in all aspects of their lives.  Frankly, every school in Hoover feels the same way because of the concentration on delivering powerful professional development with students’ education and well-being in mind.  

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