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Student body, faculty, family celebrate Principal of the Year

Confetti rains down as John McDaris walks into celebration of his honor as Principal of the Year. Confetti rains down as John McDaris walks into celebration of his honor as Principal of the Year.

Driving through a cheering crowd of students and staff at Rugby Middle School on Tuesday, John McDaris was surprised with the news that he had been named the 2023-24 Principal of the Year for Henderson County Public Schools.

Filled with anticipation, the entire school community lined the driveway, as Dr. McDaris arrived on campus with a police and fire escort. The Rugby Raider band, cheerleaders and students added to the excitement with music and cheering. As McDaris got out of his car, confetti fell from above and the crowd erupted into applause and cheering. Leading the way to greet him were his loving wife, three daughters and parents filled with joy and tears. 

“I am simply overwhelmed by this honor," he said. "I consider it a joy and privilege to serve the Rugby students, staff, and community alongside the greatest collection of educators in North Carolina. I would like to express my deepest thanks to the Rugby community, the leadership of Henderson County public schools, and all of the exceptional principals in our district who I admire and by whom I am continually inspired.”

Each school year, the school system Principal of the Year is nominated by and voted on by his or her peers — the other 22 principals in the district — giving special significance to the designation.

“Dr. McDaris is an outstanding school leader who is more than well deserving of this honor," Superintendent Mark R. Garrett said. "His commitment to students and passion for public education are evident as he leads Rugby Middle School. He has a vision for the school that is taking it to even greater heights.  We are excited to have Dr. McDaris represent Henderson County Public Schools as the Principal of the Year and know he will serve us proudly.”

McDaris joined Henderson County Public Schools in 2014 as an assistant principal at North Henderson High School, following four years as a social studies teacher in Transylvania County. He later served as assistant principal and athletic director at West Henderson High School until 2021. Since then, he has been leading Rugby Middle School. 

“Dr. McDaris inspires the students and staff to create a common vision of excellence," Assistant Principal Justin McKenzie said. "He models and facilitates this collaboration in a way that all feel valued and heard. Rugby is thankful for his passionate leadership that has created a safe, nurturing environment for all."

McDaris holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences Education and Political Science, a master’s degree in School Administration, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership, all from Western Carolina University.