Rayford Williams is starting his first year as principal at Leeds High School. After three years as assistant principal and eight years in Leeds schools, he has slid into the position nicely. Some kids still call him “coach” from his years of coaching basketball. He also taught history. Williams replaces Brent Shaw, who left to lead a school in Mozambique, Africa.
What is one of the biggest concerns you have for your students today? The suicide rate; we’re really worried about that. One reason is social media and technology and the way we do things now. Students have to deal with so much more than we did. They can’t turn it off. Even at home. If they make a mistake, it’s always around. It’s in posts and gets shown around. They can’t get away from the gossip. Suicide attempts and the rate is too high (across the country) due to bullying and cyberbullying.
How are you working to address these problems in Leeds? What we try to do here is talk to the kids about how to handle situations, like conflict resolution and telling them not to use social media to air out their problems. If they’ve had a rough day, we encourage them to find someone to talk to. Teachers can be a resource. We have a role in this. We see them more than parents see them, with after school things and the regular school day. We try to develop a relationship with them so they feel comfortable sharing. We teach them how to cope and deal with things in school and out of school.
Why do you like working with high schoolers? I like this age group. You can bring a kid in who’s in 10th grade and have an adult-like conversation. We talk about making good decisions and what they want in life. We send them out into the world and it’s interesting to see what they end up doing.
What do you like about being principal? The day is fast-paced and moves along quickly. The biggest adjustment from being an assistant principal is now everything stops with me.
What are the goals you have for LHS? We have a good culture, so I want to maintain that. And I want to look at the overall academics and improve things like the graduation rate and our AP scores. I want to make sure we’re giving the students what they need to succeed.
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