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Meet the principals

Royalty, Przybyla start new school year at PTHS, CES

Posted: August 1, 2013 6:57 p.m.
Updated: August 2, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The Kershaw County School District (KCSD) has two new principals, both of whom are new to the Kershaw County community. The Chronicle-Independent sat down with both to discuss their background and what they want to focus on during their first year as principals.

Melissa Royalty is the former vice principal of Killian Elementary School and Dent Middle School administrator in Richland County School District 2 who is now the new principal at Pine Tree Hill Elementary School (PTHS) outside Camden.

Royalty previously served as a guidance counselor and received a bachelor of science from Concord University, two Master of Arts degrees from Phoenix University and an education specialist degree from Cambridge College. Royalty has temporarily halted work on a doctorate to adjust to her new duties as principal. She has previously been selected as a teacher of the year and received the Janine Stafford Administration of the Midlands Award.

Royalty is originally from West Virginia; she started her career as a fourth-grade teacher in Leesville, La. Since then, she’s lived in Georgia, Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, California and Korea with her husband -- who recently retired from the military -- and their four children. Royalty and her family have been in South Carolina for eight years. Her husband retired in May after working as the chief of staff for Ft. Jackson, she said.

Royalty said she’s been looking at an administrative role for some years, as her mother is a retired teacher and administrator.

“This position is important in supporting teachers and so that students can arrive to profound learning,” she said.

Royalty said she enjoyed working in Richland District 2. The principal at Killian allowed her to take on roles that, ultimately, would prepare her to act as principal of PTHS.

“I wanted to go to a district where the focus is on the student. This is the most student-centered, friendly county; everyone wants what’s best for the students,” she said.

A complete focus on the interests of students is what gets Royalty excited and what gets her up each and every morning, she said. Royalty said she visited Kershaw County while working at Dent Middle School and noted that if a position was ever available, that she would apply.

Since both new principals started on July 1, Royalty and new Camden Elementary School (CES) for the Creative Arts Principal Carol Przybyla said they have sat down with their staff and discussed what the school does well and where improvements need to be made.

Royalty said instruction, implementing Common Core standards, and engaging the community are her three priorities. She wants students reading on grade level and exiting each grade knowing the facts. Implementation of the Common Core standards is fresh in Royalty’s mind, as Richland School District 2 implemented the standards during the last school year, she said. Royalty has already introduced herself to members of the School Improvement Council (SIC) and Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and said everyone’s on board to reach out the PTHS’s community.

“The school and the home work together to engage a child. Our students benefit from that communication between both,” Royalty said. “I feel blessed to be at this point in my life and to be able to share it with all these wonderful bullpups.

Looking at PASS and MAP testing data can drive instruction and showed Royalty where they are doing well and where they can improve. As for her own goals, Royalty said she was to learn as much as she can from the people in Kershaw County, so that she can become more proficient for her students and teachers, she said.

Przybyla, the new CES principal, has previously been the director of federal and state programs, a curriculum specialist for the Sumter School District and assistant principal of two middle schools: Chestnut Oaks and Kingsbury Middle.

Przybyla has a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Bowling Green State University and a master of education and education specialist degree from Converse College. She started her career as a language arts teacher at Manchester Middle School in Ohio. Przybyla and her husband settled in Sumter after he retired from the Air Force. In addition to K-12 education, Przybyla has acted as an adjunct professor at both Converse College and the College of Charleston. Przybyla said she always wanted to be a teacher, but crept slowly into her administrative career. She only considered administration after a former principal told her she should consider a job that was open at the time. It wasn’t until a couple of years later, however, that Przybyla took some classes and applied for an administrative job as a middle school assistant principal.

In the Sumter school district, Przybyla was in charge of Title I and III during a school district consolidation effort. She was curriculum coordinator for a year and a half after that, but said she recognized that she wanted to be back in an administration role, as she had found her niche. Like Royalty, Przybyla said she had kept an eye on openings in KCSD.

Przybyla said she intends on re-energizing CES, as there is always room for improvement, she said. She wants to bring the creative arts back to the school and give students more hands on arts experience. Test score assessment is also a key factor when looking at ways to improve what is already a “good school,” Przybyla said.

“We are doing OK, but we aren’t at the top. I’m competitive, so with the teachers here, I think we can do it,” she said about improving CES’s scores. “Parents want to see this also.”

During the next year, Przybyla said she hopes to learn from and about the Camden community. 

The school principal selection process begins with a community meeting where teachers, parents and community members tell KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan what they would like to see in a principal. From there, the district posts an employment ad on the South Carolina Association of School Administrators and KCSD websites. Fifty applicants applied for the two positions, KCSD Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd said, including internal candidates. Two different panels comprised of teachers and community members then interviewed candidates and sent their choices to Morgan. Morgan interviewed the community’s top picks and then sent his recommendations to the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees. The board voted on the candidates after reviewing a package that included information about the candidate’s background, qualities, and resumes, Byrd said.

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