Michael Tucker hopes to use the platform he’s been given as Cumberland County’s principal of the year to share the challenges faced by public education in 2018. Tucker, principal at Stoney Point Elementary School and an educator in the county school system since 1999, was named winner of the annual honor as county’s principal of the year late last month.
A native of Harnett County and a 1993 graduate of Triton High School, Tucker earned his college degree, teaching credentials and a master’s in school administration from Fayetteville State University.
He served as a classroom teacher at various county schools before moving into administration in 2009.
He took over at Stoney Point in July.
One thing Tucker isn’t sure the public is aware of is the level of responsibility the principal has for everything that goes on at the school.
“If you’re in a large school or small school, you’re responsible for just about everything that takes place in that building,’’ he said. “You’re going to get the praise if it’s successful or the criticism if it’s unsuccessful.
“There are so many layers with this job.’’
One of the biggest challenges is making the education experience the best it can be for both students and teachers but drawing the line when it comes to deciding what may be a good thing to do in the classroom and what’s going too far.
“Teachers want to do things that are fun and creative,’’ he said. “We sometimes have to be the bearer of bad news and say this might not be appropriate or we can’t use these kinds of resources in the classroom.’’
Tucker said he hopes his recognition as principal of the year in the county will provide him opportunities to speak out not about the challenges in his job, but the difficulties faced by the teaching profession as a whole in North Carolina.
He said he’s supervised teachers in schools both large and small and there’s been a common thread wherever he’s worked.
“There are many teachers who teach as a fulltime job but they have another job outside of teaching,’’ he said. “They may be waiting tables. They may be working in retail. They might be doing something else.’’
He said all are doing it for the same reason: to supplement the income they are getting as teachers.
“It’s disappointing they have a full-time job with 24/7 responsibility but they have to supplement their income by having a second job,’’ he said. “That’s something I don’t think a lot of people are aware of.’’
Students also face shortages in the classroom because of budget shortfalls, Tucker said. Many schools are shifting from costlier printed textbooks to cheaper digital options, but Tucker said sometimes the shift isn’t as smooth or seamless as it should be.
“There may be gaps between the resources teachers have to actually provide that instruction,’’ he said. “They might not have access to laptops or digital tools.’’
But Tucker said the story he wants to share isn’t a total tale of woe when it comes to public schools. “There’s a lot of good things going on in public education in North Carolina and around the country,’’ he said. “I think we are trying to trend in the right direction, but there are a lot of areas that need to be brought to public awareness so we can try to affect a change.’’
Photo: Michael Tucker