School leaders gathered last winter when Eastern Randolph High School received the Lighthouse Award. Pictured, left to right, are Cecil Mock, former assistant principal; Cathy Waddell, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction with the Randolph County School System; principal Susan Chappell; RCSS superintendent Stephen Gainey; math teacher Ashley Inman; and retired JROTC advisor Lt. Col. Mike Williams. (Courtesy photo)
School’s deep staff of alums helps define culture
RAMSEUR – As principal Susan Chappell of Eastern Randolph High School reflected on the school receiving a major award on a statewide level during the past school year, one thing stood out.
That’s because many people responsible for the school’s success have roots within the district.
Eastern Randolph was one of two schools statewide to receive the 2021-22 Lighthouse School Award, which was presented by the North Carolina Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Almost half of the school’s 78 staff members are Eastern Randolph alums.
In the nomination from the Randolph County School System, the memo pointed out that the school motto of “We are … ER” is so appropriate.
Among those with ties to the school is Chappell, a 1991 graduate.
“This is my home,” she said. “I grew up here.”
Chappell said that often data is used to promote accomplishments for a school, but she chose a different tactic.
“What I chose to focus on was our school culture and how we were able to navigate the pandemic,” Chappell said. “We wanted to show what makes our school special.”
The Lighthouse Award is presented to schools that have furthered student achievement in innovative and creative ways and nurtured a positive and supportive school and community climate.
Eastern Randolph has about 600 students in the high school, making it the smallest RCSS high school.
“I was pleased that people recognized there are various ways to demonstrate success,” Chappell said.
Chappell became an assistant principal at the school in 2015. For the past 2 ½ years, she has been the principal. A few months after moving to the new role, the pandemic hit.
That’s when she said Eastern Randolph was able to stand tall.
“We problem-solved and we got through it and we’re better for it,” Chappell said.
That involved taking care of staff and students.
Staff members delivered food and study materials to students. They helped establish internet hot spots in the community, particularly because of the many rural areas within the district.
But the impact extended beyond those types of services.
“Making sure we were meeting their social and emotional needs,” Chappell said. “That need is still out there. It opened our eyes to some of the things our students are dealing with.”
Through receiving the Lighthouse Award, Chappell said she hopes that school pride has flourished and that what was achieved the past couple of years can be expanded.
“ ‘We are … ER’ may be a simple motto, but its meaning has roots that run deep,” the RCSS nomination read. “Those roots will ensure the success and fulfillment of generations of Wildcats to come.”
The other Lighthouse Award recipient for the past school year was Cedar Ridge Elementary School of the Surry County Schools.