Carter: ‘A desire to be … the change agent’

Editor’s note: October is National Principals Month. The Pee Dee Post will publish profiles on each of the county’s school principals during the month.
Jamie Greene
Yvonne Gilmer
Ellen Mabe
Joyce McRae
Hal Shuler
Angela Watkins
Dawn Terry
Pam Patterson
Andy Reeder

By Mallory Brown
Richmond County Schools

All for each and each for all.

Students at Rockingham Middle School can read the words each day as they take the stairwell back and forth class. But to Principal Julian Carter, they aren’t just words — they’re a way of life.

The middle school principal is known not only for his enthusiastic leadership, but for his love of his students and staff.

“Intensity is something that people will tell you I have a whole lot of,” Carter said, “but I love what I do.”

Julian Carter

Julian Carter

According to the fifth-year principal, it was a trait he developed at an early age. Born and raised in small-town Ellerbe, Carter is the son of Richard “Hill” Carter and Mary Ellen Carter. A strong work ethic, he added, came from the model of his parents.

“I grew up on a farm,” Carter said. “My dad worked me for 16, 18 hours in the summer and sometimes longer than that. I got an understanding that the job was finished when you were done — not when the time said you were done.

“That’s really carried over into what I do as a principal,” he added. “When I feel like all of the fires are put out — that everything’s in good shape and we’re ready to start the next day clean, then I’m ready to go home. Otherwise you may see me here Saturday, Sunday — whatever it takes to stay ahead.”

Carter graduated from Richmond Senior High School in 1989, a year he rated among the finest statistically due to the amount of state championship victories and academic accolades. He attended Appalachian State University in pursuit of his bachelor’s degree and began his career as an educator right at home in Richmond County.

“John Frye was a printing instructor I had in high school,” he remembered. “I had a degree in technology and he asked me to teach his class for a couple of months while he was out with a sickness. I really, really liked it and then Dr. John Langley gave me my first chance at teaching.”

Carter said Langley and consecutive principal Linwood Huffman had a lot to do with the path that would lead him to school administration.

“I think that (Huffman) saw a lot of things in me as a teacher while I was here,” Carter said of his early years at Rockingham Middle. “A desire to always want to be in the know and to be the change agent — not just the person who carries it out. He encouraged me to go back to school. I think every step I’ve taken along the way, there have been wonderful people who have encouraged me.”

Carter mentioned names like Frye, Debbie Wrenn, Steve Lear and Marcia Lambeth as models of support.

He later received his master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke as part of a dual program with East Carolina University. As a result, Carter was a member the first graduating class in administrative leadership.

“I like firsts,” he concluded.

In 2005, Carter received the opportunity to serve as the assistant principal at the middle school. Three years later, he transferred to L.J. Bell Elementary where he worked for two more years before receiving a very important phone call.

“I’ll never forget the day (former superintendent) Dr. (George) Norris called me,” he said. “I was 10 miles out on the ocean fishing. It was in June. I got a call that I needed to come in — so I cut off my fishing trip early and he told me I was going to be principal. That was the most life-changing day I’ve ever had.”

Life changed for Carter as he transitioned into a principalship at Fairview Heights Elementary School before eventually leading him in a full circle to accept a position as principal at Rockingham Middle School.

Since then, he said his experiences at the school have been highly successful — which he credits largely to his staff.

“I have an absolutely magnificent staff of people who care for and love children,” he said.

Carter said there is a lot more to be proud of. From the well-kept grounds and athletic fields — which he attributes to the regular maintenance through a partnership with the city of Rockingham’s Parks and Rec — to the smiles on the faces of the secretaries in the front office, Carter said Rockingham Middle School strives to go above and beyond for its community.

In fact, he was able to sum up the school’s atmosphere in one word:


“There are so many things going on,” he said. “We have wonderful athletics … where the kids know how to act and they do the right thing. We have extracurricular activities — and we’re making great strides in our scores.”

Carter expressed his overwhelming pride in the teachers for their dedication to the students of Rockingham Middle.

“My teachers are here all the time,” he said. “My doors are open almost all day, every day, Monday through Sunday … The dedication is great and the kids are accepting the challenges that we’re giving them. We started our student government and it’s becoming active. We’ve got our morning video announcements that go out to everyone — so kids are very involved. They’ve got a voice here at school.”

Students, Carter added, are told at the beginning of the year that the school belongs to them — that what happens there is because they accepted the opportunity.

“I tell teachers all the time,” he said, “wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whoever you’re talking to, make them feel good. Make sure your full attention is on them because everybody needs to be heard. We are servants of our community and we are here to try to help and make it better.”

As for his own success, Carter was quick to mention his wife.

“She really has been so supportive of me,” he said, explaining that he met her during a time when his path was taking a more vocational route. “When I married her, our love of academics was shared and it rekindled that for me. Meeting her was probably the biggest determinate of where I ended up.”

Carter is married to wife Charlotte — a science teacher at the Ninth Grade Academy — and has two children, Jackson, a sophomore at Richmond Senior High, and Maren, a fourth-grader at L.J. Bell Elementary.

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