CLOVER -- Tommy Schmolze, who started his new job as Clover High School principal in July, is excited about meeting his new students next week. A man who can't live without his iPod Shuffle on his morning jog, Schmolze says he isn't worried about fitting in with a school of more than 1,700 teenagers.
Schmolze (pronounced "shmall-zee") comes to Clover after spending three years as principal of Fort Mill Middle School. He said now that he knows where his students are coming from as tots, he'll know how to guide them as teens.
The new principal replaces Ron Wright, who was promoted to an assistant superintendent post in the district after seven years as Clover High's principal.
Schmolze, 38, taught English at Rock Hill's Northwestern High from 1993 through 1999, then became assistant principal of Fort Mill Middle until 2005, when he became principal.
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He recently chatted with the Enquirer-Herald.
Q: You've been principal at Clover High School for just a few weeks. How does it feel?
A: It's a blessing to have a great administrative staff; I'll say that to start. High schools that run like Clover operate so well because of administrative staff and teacher leaders, and it's very evident they have good staff here. They're welcoming, knowledgeable and I have yet to ask a question that someone couldn't provide an answer, some history or an explanation for.
Q: What do you think you'll miss about being a middle school principal, and what are you looking forward to most this year at Clover High?
A: Middle school in itself is a strange time for kids. I think I'll miss the developmental aspect of watching them grow so quickly from sixth to eighth grades. I don't know if it's the middle school I'll miss or the people I worked elbow-to-elbow with.
I like the action of a high school: the activities, the student involvement, the culture. You can feel the spirit of a high school when you walk through the halls.
Q: Excited about Eagle football?
A: Absolutely. Being an athlete, I'm looking forward to all kinds of sporting events, as well as the fine arts. I played volleyball, tennis and baseball and I'm really competitive.
Q: What are your goals for the 2008-2009 school year?
A: There's a couple things we'll handle upfront, but I don't have a lot of plans for immediate changes. They'res not a lot to fix. I'm going to hit instruction hard. I'm looking forward to working hand-in-hand with teachers and fine-tuning the education process in general.
Q: Any longterm goals for the school?
A: Every highschool works at improving graduation rates, upping the rigor in the classroom, having the students take classes that stretch them. Longterm also is, "Let's provide post-secondary education for every student." Our goal should be that once you walk across the stage and shake my hand, that's the beginning of education, not the end."
Q: Clover superintendent Marc Sosne said in a press release you have a "proven track record of leadership." What types of leadership positions have you held before coming to Clover?
A: (jokes) I paid him to say that.
My foundation was set up as a teacher leader, and that moved into taking on leadership roles in the school with school improvement councils. That moved to getting my administration degree and being assistant principal, developing different strategies to help kids. Targeting school culture as a principal and how we support teachers has been one of my strongpoints, and I'm big into collaborative leadersihp. I've been successful because of the people around me.
Q: Which achievements are you most proud of?
A: Foremost, probably that my bar is always going up. I'm never satisfied with status quo. It's not one program or one accolade, those are nice, but I think the overall sense that I'm capacity-building. I always wonder how can I use the strengths of people around me, combine them with my own strengths and make the school a better place. My ability to work with different sets of people and make every situation a win-win situation is my biggest achievement.
Q: Tell us a few things we may not know about you, outside the office.
A: Music is a love of mine. I play piano, guitar and drums, and when I'm out running I always have my iPod shuffle. I'm heavily involved in praise and worship. I love everything athletic, and I don't like losing, but I take it gracefully.