GREENSBORO — Page High principal Erik Naglee was named the Piedmont-Triad Region Principal of the Year in a surprise ceremony Tuesday at Simkins Elementary School with state and local education leaders.
Naglee said he thought he was coming to Simkins to work on reopening plans with other Guilford County Schools staff.
"They pulled a good trick on me and there were multiple people involved in that," he said after the announcement.
"It's just another great recognition again to all the things that go on at Page, but also all the things that go on in GCS, because there are lots of people that support each of us in the schools to be able to make things happen for our students," said Naglee, who is in his third year as principal at Page.
Naglee and seven other regional finalists from across the state will go on to compete for North Carolina Principal of the Year later this year.
Superintendent Sharon Contreras called Naglee a “dynamic" and "beloved" leader when the district named him Principal of the Year in October. He was a finalist for the district award twice before, in 2017 as the principal at Northwest Middle, and in 2019 at Page.
Last school year, he came up with the idea to interview seniors at their homes about their high school experiences and plans for the future as a way to honor them after schools had to close to in-person instruction because of the pandemic. Seniors missed out on a normal graduation that year.
Like other Guilford County Schools middle and high schools, Page High School has been offering instruction remotely since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the district's high school students, only select groups of students with various special needs have returned to in-person classes.
At the time of the awards ceremony, the district was still set to begin bringing back high school students for in-person instruction on Jan. 21. The school board was expected to discuss the reentry plan at its meeting later Tuesday.
"I know all of our staff are excited and some nervous at the same time about what this looks like, but I think we are well prepared and our district is well prepared if we proceed with opening up very soon," Naglee said in an interview after the ceremony.
He said probably the biggest challenge for reopening has been making sure that plans are in place to emphasize and enforce the "three W's" — wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, and wash hands.
As a way to cut down on any crowding in hallways during class transitions, the school has set up hallways and stairwells as one way only. As in past years, teachers will stand outside their doors to greet students, and those teachers will help keep students moving along, he said.
Scheduling, he said, has also provided some challenges. Students who choose to attend in-person will be divided into two groups based on alphabetical order, with the first half of students expected to attend school in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other half to attend on Thursdays and Fridays.
This plan is meant to cut down on crowding and allow for distancing within classrooms. However, Naglee said, even though overall the groups are expected to be roughly equally sized, some individual classes have turned out to be lopsided, with more of the students who've signed up for the class in one half of the alphabet than the other.
To deal with this, he said, they've had to move some classes. So a teacher who teaches most of their classes in their own room might then need to teach another class in a bigger space, like the cafeteria, to allow for socially distanced seating.
He said the school is planning for teachers to use web cameras or similar equipment to share the in-person lessons in the classroom with students learning from home on their remote learning days.
Thus far, it looks like the majority of Page students would be taking part in the return to school.
Of the school's roughly 1,800 students, about 400 have indicated they want to do remote learning for second semester without returning for in-person classes. That number could change, Naglee said, because the deadline for families to let Page know is Thursday.
Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.