When Tonya Kales of Ashley Park Pre-K-8 School was named the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools 2012-2013 Principal of the Year, it was a fitting recognition of a lifetime spent in CMS. Kales came to CMS as a kindergartner at Nations Ford Elementary and graduated from Olympic High School in 1987.
Ashley Park students and staff held a surprise celebration for Kales at the school on Oct. 25. In addition to being named CMS’ Principal of the Year, she was named the Project L.I.F.T. Principal of the Year earlier in the month. She received a certificate and other gifts.
"I have phenomenal teachers here at Ashley Park. Their talent makes my job very easy," said Kales. "I'm only a motivator to help them continue to push forward."
Kales earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC). She is currently working toward her doctorate at UNCC.
According to the Principal of the Year program, candidates should merit the respect and admiration of students, teachers, co-workers, and parents. They should be active, not only in their schools, but also in their communities where they distinguish themselves as leaders.
"I have a commitment to my community. They were good to me growing up and I have the desire to give back to them," said Kales.
Other CMS 2012-2013 finalists were Dr. Maureen Furr, South Mecklenburg High School; Richard Parker, East Mecklenburg High School; Patricia Sexton, Pinewood Elementary; Dr. Sheila Ijames, Hawthorne High School; and Dr. Teresa Cockerham, William A. Hough High School.
Kales began her teaching career at Allenbrook Elementary and then moved to Smithfield Elementary. She became a National Board-certified teacher while at Smithfield. In 2000, Kales was selected as a North Carolina Principal Fellow. She became an assistant principal of Smithfield Elementary and then principal at McAlpine Elementary.
She moved to Ashley Park in 2009 as part of the Strategic Staffing Initiative, which places high-performing principals and teachers in low-performing schools. Under her leadership, Ashley Park’s overall composite score went from 29.9 percent to 65.3 percent. The school has made high growth every year under her leadership.
"Kales inspres, empowers and leads by example. She cares about the children and the teachers," said Project L.I.F.T. Zone Superintendent Denise Watts. "She is committed to them and they are committed to her."
One principal from the six CMS learning zones was selected by their peers as finalists for Principal of the Year. Candidates were interviewed by a panel of six district administration and school-based employees.
Kales will compete with other award recipients from the southwest region of the state for the Regional Principal of the Year award. The 2013 State Principal of the Year will be announced in the spring at a luncheon in Raleigh.