Sunny View Elementary Principal Howell leaves legacy of learning

Published 1:16 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It is by this belief that he worked to better the lives of his students and, in the long term, their community. Under his leadership, Principal Howell&squo;s students and schools flourished, moving from struggling performances on accountability tests to ranking among the highest performing schools in the state and nation. Throughout his career he helped transition schools during mergers and worked with his board of education and staff members to update resources to best address the students&squo; needs.

In his 2007 Principal of the Year portfolio, Mr. Howell said, &dquo;At Sunny View we believe that every student learns differently and has different needs. Therefore, it is a constant goal to tailor instruction to meet the needs of the individual student.&dquo;

&dquo;Mr. Howell was always looking for some way to keep the students motivated and challenged,&dquo; says first grade teacher Genie Phipps, who was hired by Mr. Howell when she began her career at Mill Spring School in 1991. &dquo;We gave away bikes for perfect attendance, pizza parties for reading challenges, we had &39;Splash Mr. Howell&39; events for reading goals, &squo;I READ with my child,&squo; buttons to encourage parental involvement with reading. Mr. Howell took time to read individually with students and he met with each student individually to discuss EOG goals.

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&dquo;He was a special person and he was great to have as a principal,&dquo; she adds. &dquo;He was approachable, understanding and supportive. He will be missed, but the positive learning experiences and qualities he instilled in our students will continue on throughout their lives.&dquo;

Whether reaching his students effectively required special technology, a modified learning situation, increased parental involvement or simply some one-on-one attention for struggling students, Howell and his staff worked to meet these needs creatively. He often met with a small group of struggling readers in his office to read novels with them to generate interest and enthusiasm for literacy. He was a champion for literacy and believed whole-heartedly in encouraging and involving the community and families in the successful education of their students. He opened the school&squo;s doors to family-centered events and community-focused projects and extended the school&squo;s library hours to be open during summer break.

Working in Polk County Schools since the late 1970s when he began his teaching career at Mill Spring Accelerated School, Mr. Howell touched many lives, be they his students, his students&squo; parents or both when he taught adult education classes for Isothermal Community College. He said he enjoyed the challenges of filling in for his principal as a young teacher and after completing his degree in education administration he became the principal of Mill Spring Accelerated School in 1986. He served as principal there until its closure in 1992, when he became assistant principal at Polk Central School. He remained at Polk Central until 1999 when he became principal of Sunny View Elementary, where he remained until his retirement in early 2009.

Mr. Howell was a first-generation college graduate for his family and an All-American collegiate athlete. He graduated cum laude with a B.A. in social studies from Gardner Webb College in 1976, then graduated cum laude with a master&squo;s degree in elementary education from Converse College in 1980. He completed his educational administration degree, again with cum laude honors, at Converse College in 1986.

During his career, Howell was Polk County Schools&squo; Wachovia Principal of the Year in 2002 and in 2007. During his tenure, his schools received numerous commendations and awards, including the following most recently for Sunny View: School of Exemplary Growth, School of Distinction by N.C. Dept of Public Instruction (DPI) (2000), Top 25 Most Improved Schools from NCDPI (2001), Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) State Champion School (2003), N.C. Safe School Award (2003), National Blue Ribbon School from the U.S. Dept. of Education (2004), Special Recognition by N.C. State School Board; Educational Leadership Award from the National Elementary Principal&squo;s Association, School of Excellence by NCDPI (2002-04), N.C. Honor School of Excellence by NCDPI (2005-06), N.C. Real DEAL School Semifinalist (2006), Title I Distinguished School Nominee (2007), Title I Distinguished School Finalist (2008), N.C. Governor&squo;s Real DEAL School Finalist (2008).

In addition to his school family, Howell is survived by his wife, Susan, a guidance counselor at Polk Central School, and his son Jeffrey, a fifth grade teacher at Saluda Elementary School, his daughter-in-law, Myra, a second grade teacher at Polk Central Elementary School, and his younger son, Josh, business administration and trust management master&39;s graduate from Campbell University. Mr. Howell enjoyed his family, traveling and learning about other cultures. A person of faith, he also enjoyed his spiritual family at Lake Bowen Baptist Church.

&dquo;Perhaps Rick&squo;s greatest legacy was his day-to-day perseverance in motivating students, teachers, and parents to set high goals and work hard to help students attain those goals,&dquo; said Susan Howell. &dquo;Being an educator was a &39;calling&39; for him and not simply a job. Because he knew the value postsecondary education would play in creating more career choices and successes in his students&squo; lives, Rick discussed the &39;seed&39; idea, thinking it would to be a tangible way to inspire students and parents to set financial goals toward attaining a postsecondary education.&dquo;Memorial gifts to

Rick Howell Seeds for Education

Rick Howell Seeds for Education is a fund designed to give a $50 savings bond to each graduating fifth grade student from Sunny View School. During Mr. Howell&squo;s 32 years in elementary education, he inspired students to strive toward educational excellence. An important part of that excellence is postsecondary educational preparation to become more successful in today&39;s challenging and changing world. He wanted to inspire and encourage all students to work hard and set individual educational goals. He hoped the savings bond would be a tangible reminder of his encouragement to each student.&bsp;&bsp;&bsp;&bsp;

Fifth grade students will be challenged to cultivate their seeds of education to grow during the middle school and high school years. For example, a student might cultivate his/her seed in sixth grade by earning money to match the value of the initial savings bond and placing that money in a savings account earmarked for postsecondary educational training. Hopefully, this experience will inspire students, as well as their parents, to set goals and save toward postsecondary education.&bsp;

Memorials to the Rick Howell Seeds for Education fund are an investment, and the fund will continue to grow as fifth grade students are inspired to cultivate their seeds through creative ideas and hard work.

Memorials may be made to the Rick Howell Seeds of Education Fund, c/o Polk County Schools, 125 E. Mills St., Columbus, N.C. 28722.&bsp;