Chris Black honed his math skills as a young boy, adding up costs and making change for customers at his grandfather’s general store. If he was wrong, Black recalls, his grandad “Punk” Black would make him bag ice.
Chris Black was named the new principal of the 1,400-student York Comprehensive High School last month. He officially begins work in the role this week, and said he gained a lot of skills working on his family farm and roadside produce market, Black’s Peaches.
“I think that’s where I got my people skills – from being there and greeting people and getting to know the community,” said Black, 38, the oldest of three children of Arthur Black and Debbie Hammond Black. Black said he worked in the fields hauling hay and other crops, and he sold produce.
His father, Arthur Black, said his eldest son displayed an analytical mind from a young age. Chris Black easily made change for customers at the age of 6 or 7, the elder Black said.
During his years at York Comprehensive High School, where he graduated in 1993, Chris Black was active in athletics. He played football and basketball, as well as tennis and baseball.
Black said he loved math. Working with numbers came easily to him, and he planned to study accounting when he headed off to Clemson University. He had no plans for a career in education.
But those plans changed. “I came back home for the Christmas holidays, and I helped my old basketball coach with the basketball team,” he said. “And I said, ‘Hey, I kind of like this coaching gig.’ ”
After discussing the matter with his coach, Black changed his major to education.
Black earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with a concentration in mathematics in 1997. He later earned a master of science from the U.S. Sports Academy and a master’s degree of secondary administration from the University of South Carolina.
“I had never even considered being a teacher,” Black said. “But life and God kind of work in weird ways. And I know that this is the best place for me. I love teaching; I love coaching; I love every facet of the educational system – I love being around the kids.”
Black began his career teaching math at York Comprehensive. He moved to the former York Junior High School, where he became an assistant principal, before he moved back to the high school.
As an assistant principal at YCHS, Black was charged with coordinating the activities of ninth-grade students. But he said he tried to take on as many other responsibilities as he could to prepare him for a broader future role. He helped coach Cougars football and basketball as a varsity assistant, and helped with other sports, too, including golf and tennis.
Good mentors like Howard Snelling, principal of York Middle, and Nat Davis, who has since retired as director of student services in the district office, helped prepare him for his new position, Black said.
“I honestly didn’t expect to be a principal at 38, but I was gearing myself to that.”
Black said he aims to be an involved and visible school leader.
“I’m not a sit behind the desk person a lot,” Black said. “I get around the school; I get out there with the kids, and I visit with the kids. I’m fair to them, I encourage them. But I’m going to hold the accountable for what they need to do to be better.”
Black said his immediate goal is to gain a grasp of his new, broader responsibilities. He also will be working toward the implementation of the common core system, a consistent standard for what students are expected to learn in each area, which is to be implemented statewide.
He also said he wants to encouraged students to be involved.
“One of my philosophies for the students and faculty is, there’s so many things we can involve them in,” Black said. “If they’re active in them, it brings them closer to where we’re going. We’ve got something for everybody, and we’ve got to make sure students find their fit.”