Patrick Holmes ’12MSA Named 2022-2023 Person County Schools Principal of the Year
After college, Patrick Holmes ’12MSA was unsure of his next career move. With teaching jobs in his native New York hard to come by, Holmes was working for a nonprofit that supported at-risk children when his future wife, Tara, attended a career fair where she met recruiters for teaching jobs in North Carolina.
“Next thing I know, we’re on the road to North Carolina and coming to Person County for the interview process,” Holmes said.
Twenty years later, not only does the couple still work for Person County Schools, but in September, Patrick Holmes was named Person County Schools Principal of the Year for a second time. Tara, now Person County Schools’ director of testing and accountability, was with him at the district’s leadership meeting when he was surprised by the award. Holmes was later honored in a separate celebration at an upcoming school board meeting, where his three children, who all attend Person County schools, were in attendance.
“We’ve made this home,” Holmes said.
When Holmes was first named principal at South Elementary School in Roxboro, it was a small, low-performing Title 1 school. A few years after he took over, that began to change.
“We focused on improving culture, and then also promoting student growth,” Holmes said. “That became the primary focus in the early years. And we found that we started getting to where we were meeting or exceeding growth every year.”
Holmes was named Person County Schools Principal of the Year for the first time in 2018. But he knew there was more to be done. That same year, spearheaded by Person County Schools Superintendent Rodney Peterson and in partnership with Participate Learning, South Elementary School launched an immersive dual-language program.
“I had already expressed interest in bringing a language program to our school,” Holmes said. “So when [Superintendent Rodney Peterson] came in and wanted to do it, I was very excited.”
Through the program, Holmes hired international teachers who were native Spanish speakers. Starting in kindergarten, it gave elementary students at the school the opportunity to become bilingual.
“My youngest son went through the program, which was a great way for me to also promote it, because I was seeing the results with my own child,” Holmes said. “It’s an amazing program. My son is now in the fifth grade, and he’s pretty much bilingual and biliterate.”
In addition to the dual-language program, Holmes also implemented a global approach to learning throughout the school. During the year, the school hosted cultural nights, where students had the opportunity to learn more about the international teachers’ home countries and interact with members of the local Native American and Latin* communities.
Holmes’ success in implementing these programs, along with his focus on student growth and well-being, is what led to him being named Principal of the Year a second time. However, he describes the honor more as a reflection of the time and effort put in by the entire South Elementary School community.
“The kids felt like everybody was invested in helping them grow, and that they were surrounded by adults who cared about them,” Holmes said. “People just poured themselves into the work we were doing there.”
Holmes was prepared to foster that sense of community as a school leader due to the training he received through the NC State College of Education’s principal preparation program. In addition to classes on finance, legal issues and human resources, Holmes said what he appreciated most were courses that focused on stakeholder investment and community relations.
“Everything we did in that program was relevant to work we were going into,” Holmes said.
Holmes also valued the interactions he had with both his professors and fellow students.
“The classes were really engaging and it wasn’t just that information was being shared,” Holmes said. “We were thinking of scenarios in which it would apply and bouncing ideas off of each other. And so I think that that engagement, that interaction and the relationships we had is what really made that a good experience.”
Before Holmes even graduated the program, he had a job lined up as an assistant principal in Helena Elementary School in Person County, where he stayed for a year before taking over at South Elementary in 2013.
“I felt really well prepared,” Holmes said.
Now, Holmes is preparing for a new challenge. This is his first year as principal at Southern Middle School, which is located just across the street from South Elementary School. Next year, he will oversee the implementation of the dual language program there, too.
“My role is going to be helping the transition of those fifth graders who will be coming into the middle school next year, who will continue with the dual language program, and that’ll be the first year of it being in existence at this school,” Holmes said.
As Holmes adjusts to his new role, he will continue to use the skills he developed in the NC State College of Education to make an impact in Person County, where he calls home.