CARY, N.C. — Dr. Patrick Greene, principal of Greene Central High School in Greene County, was named the 2022 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year at an awards luncheon Friday in Cary.

During his nine years leading the small, rural high school in eastern North Carolina, Greene has helped the school shed its status as one of the state’s lowest-performing schools to achieve high growth in the two years prior to the COVID pandemic, which forced the suspension of school accountability measures.

Greene says his approach to leading the school to improved performance is based on empowering others – teachers and students – to transform the school’s culture to focus relentlessly on a vision where all students “graduate prepared for college, the workforce and life as global citizens.”

That shift from low performance to strong gains, he said, has been the result of “changes in instructional practice, constant data monitoring and revision and the support of a dedicated staff of teachers that refused to accept anything less.”

Greene said in his submission as a candidate for Principal of the Year that he leads Greene Central High School by helping others lead.

“I once had a mentor tell me that is things my school fell apart when I was gone, I was not doing my part to grow leaders,” he said. “I’m proud to say that today, our students and staff do an amazing job of leading with me and are perfectly fine when I’m not right beside them.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said Greene stands out as a school leader for his willingness and ability to trust others to do their part in building and supporting the best school possible.

“Patrick trusts student leaders to set an example for their peers to improve their school, and they, in turn, trust him to hear them out and respond genuinely and effectively,” Truitt said. “He trusts his teachers to work hard and give students everything they need to grow and succeed. And for their part, teachers trust him to work just as hard – maybe even harder – to provide and protect the kind of learning environment they need to achieve powerful teaching and learning in their classrooms.”

Mike Golden, regional banking director for Wells Fargo in eastern North Carolina, announced Greene as 2022 North Carolina Principal of the Year.

“Congratulations to Dr. Greene and Greene Central High School on this well-deserved honor,” added Juan Austin, social impact and sustainability senior manager for Wells Fargo. “At Wells Fargo, we believe we’re responsible for promoting the long-term economic prosperity and quality of life for everyone in our communities. If they prosper, so do we. Every child in North Carolina deserves a quality education and extraordinary educators like Dr. Greene make that possible. We are proud to continue our support for the Principal of the Year program and to celebrate the men and women who serve as leaders and role models for all of us. They inspire us through their tireless commitment to their schools, students and communities.”

Greene’s leadership approach has paid off with strong staff morale, said Greene County Schools Superintendent Patrick Miller.

“The staff at Greene Central High School have also thrived during Dr. Greene’s tenure as principal,” Miller said. “While this claim is strictly anecdotal, staff morale at the school improved significantly when Dr. Greene arrived, and he has been able to maintain higher levels of staff morale over time.”

As a school serving a rural and diverse community, Greene Central High School is an important resource for which parents often have deep connections as former students themselves, Greene said.

“Most recently, we have targeted our Latinx community through a program called Juntos that works to educate Spanish-speaking families about school, student achievement and college planning,” Greene said. “Latinx families make up almost one third of our school, so this engagement is essential to our continued growth.”

Greene is especially passionate about ensuring access to higher education for undocumented Latinx students, a focus that he developed after becoming a principal in Greene County, starting at Greene County Early College High School, where he was principal for a year before moving to Greene Central.

He wrote his dissertation for a doctoral degree in education, which he earned last year from East Carolina University, on that very challenge facing undocumented students. In his office, Greene said, he keeps as a “reminder of why I do what I do” photos of students who overcame the odds to continue their education past high school.

“These former students are now nurses, political activists, business owners and future doctors,” he said. Greene has also presented his work on the topic at national conferences and has worked with state universities to open greater access to undocumented students, who cannot apply for financial aid and must pay out-of-state tuition to attend a college or university.

Greene started his education career in 2004 as a high school social studies teacher and AVID teacher and coordinator at Farmville Central High School in Pitt County, where he taught for four years before serving three years an assistant principal at J.H. Rose High School, also in Pitt County. 

Greene also actively works closely with principal colleagues in the state to support continuing professional growth and school improvement through the NC Alliance for School Leadership Development and the NC Principals and Assistant Principal’s Association. He’s currently facilitating a group of principals as they navigate the challenges of leading schools in the post-COVID era and helping to support students, staff and their communities.

The other regional finalists for the 2022 award are:

  • Northeast: Alison Covington, South Greenville Elementary (Pitt County Schools)
  • North Central: Keith Richardson, Knightdale High (Wake County Public Schools)
  • Sandhills: Antonio Covington, East Hoke Middle (Hoke County Schools)   
  • Piedmont-Triad: KaTrinka Brown, Jackson Middle (Guilford County Schools)         
  • Southwest: Larenda Denien, Idlewild Elementary (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools)     
  • Northwest: Dr. Heather Melton Freeman, North Wilkes Middle (Wilkes County Schools)  
  • Western: Dr. Marsha S. Justice, Edneyville Elementary (Henderson County Public Schools)
  • Charter Schools: Maria Mills, Carolina Charter Academy (Angier)

The North Carolina Principal of the Year will spend the next school year traveling the state as an ambassador for the profession as supported by Wells Fargo and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

This year’s Wells Fargo Principal of the Year receives $3,000 for personal use and $3,000 for his school. The winner and a guest or two educators of his choosing, also receives professional development by attending the Global Education Symposium in Boston in 2022, thanks to Education First, an engraved vase, a custom-made NC Principal of the Year signet ring from Jostens, and resources to help combat child hunger from No Kid Hungry NC.