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School system names principal of the year

John Shepard of North Henderson High School was named principal of the year. John Shepard of North Henderson High School was named principal of the year.

John Shepard, principal at North Henderson High, was named the 2019-20 Principal of the Year for Henderson County Public Schools on Friday when district administrators surprised him with the honor during a regularly scheduled Homecoming pep rally.


Shepard joined Henderson County Public Schools in 2013 as an assistant principal at North Henderson High, after transitioning from Enka High School in Buncombe County, where he started his education career as social studies teacher in 2004 after earning his Bachelor of Science in Education in Social Science from Western Carolina University. In 2014, Shepard was named principal at North Henderson and has served in that role ever since – working with teachers and staff to continually improve students’ academic growth and foster a culture of student leadership.

“Being named Principal of the Year in Henderson County is a very prestigious honor, considering the number of outstanding principals in our district,” said HCPS Chief Human Resources Officer W. Scott Rhodes. On Friday, Shepard echoed that sentiment and said, “Henderson County is full of great principals, so it’s a great honor that they chose me.”

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

“Under Dr. Shepard’s leadership, North Henderson High is one of the top performing high schools in North Carolina,” Rhodes said.

For the past four years in a row, North has exceeded growth in student academic performance expected by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, and boasted the highest growth index in HCPS for school year 2018-19. Shepard values “developing the whole student,” and promotes the collaborative learning process at North, encouraging teachers to create strategic lessons that help students build on their strengths and fill the gaps in their learning.

“Because of Dr. Shepard’s leadership, everyone who works at our school continually looks for ways to do more to serve our students, our peers, and our community,” said John McDaris, assistant principal at North. “The culture of our school is driven by Dr. Shepard’s level of dedication to all of our success.”

During Shepard’s tenure as principal, North’s school culture has also been shaped by the LEAD High School model of FranklinCovey’s Leader In Me leadership program, implemented through the Henderson County Education Foundation. Last school year, North became one of only 100 high schools nationwide and one of two in North Carolina to integrate the LEAD High School model into school curriculum and culture.

The LEAD model builds professionals-in-training by encouraging students to find their voice and develop critical skills that will help them successfully navigate college, career, and life. At North, each student weekly participates in a new “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” course. Additionally, seniors receive instruction from the “Find Your Voice” course, focused on career readiness skills like resume-building, digital citizenship, social media etiquette, and more.

“North Henderson is a great team; we have amazing assistant principals. I couldn’t have done it without them and – who I feel are – the best teachers in Henderson County,” Shepard said. “And my wife, Marie; she’s awesome. I couldn’t do it without her.”

In addition to his undergraduate degree, holds a Master’s degree in School Administration and doctorate in Educational Leadership from Gardner-Webb University.