Ingram: ‘I just want to serve the kids’

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
Julian Carter
Susan Brigman
Michael Chapman
Keith McKenzie

By Mallory Brown
Richmond County Schools

Words like hyper and energetic are sometimes used to describe Melvin Ingram’s leadership style at Ellerbe Middle School. According to the ninth-year principal, it’s just a part of his personality.

“I like to get into what the students are doing,” he said. “I like to be up and down the hallways, to have a relationship with them. I consider myself a compassionate person and I just want to serve the kids.”

Melvin Ingram

Melvin Ingram

The second-generation educator grew up in Rockingham, where his mother taught for thirty years at Fairview Heights Elementary. After graduating in 1993 from Richmond Senior High School, Ingram attended North Carolina Central on a Teaching Fellows scholarship.

“I worked in Durham Public Schools and taught the first grade for three years,” he said about his time after college. “Then I decided to come back home. All my family is here.”

Ingram was given a position at West Rockingham Elementary School as a first grade teacher before moving to second grade—then fifth.

“My second year in fifth grade is when I applied for an assistant principal position with Mr. Butler at Washington Street,” he continued. “It was very different—that level of responsibility. Just making the adjustment from being a teacher to dealing with the day to day operations of a school.”

Helping to ease the transition, Ingram said, was his ability to work with people.

“I think I’m a people person,” he said. “I enjoy talking with the parents and working with the teachers, and especially my relationship with the young people. I want to help people—to serve and to give back.

“That’s always been something that’s motivated me,” Ingram continued. “I’ve been influenced by a lot of educators in Richmond County growing up. I was around a lot of educators and they always helped me—just spending extra time with me to make sure I was going to be successful.”

He said it was former principal Shirley Fuller who encouraged him to return to school and pursue his master’s in administration, rather than teaching.

It wouldn’t be long before former superintendent Larry Weatherly approached Ingram and asked if he was applying for an open position at Hoffman Elementary.

“I took it as a sign,” Ingram said. “It was a small community school. It gave me my start in being involved with the greater community outside of school walls. I was able to go to churches there and interact with the town council. I really felt a lot of ownership with the community outside of Hoffman. My heart is there in that community because that’s where I started out.”

When Hoffman closed four years later, Ingram said he was assigned to a principalship at Ellerbe Middle School.

“Some of the kids I was with at Hoffman in Pre-K,” he added, “they’re with me now. We migrated over here together. They told me I was the only principal they knew—so I hope I did a good job! It’s been an interesting experience just watching them grow up.”

Ingram said he has enjoyed his time at Ellerbe and has high hopes for the students there.

“I want them to miss us and remember fondly their time here because we’re a small school,” he said. “We’re able to do things a bigger school probably couldn’t do. Instead of looking at it as a disadvantage, I look at it as an advantage for other opportunities. Academic clubs are strong here, we have intermural clubs I’m very proud of. We can just reach them in a deeper, more meaningful way and see them as individuals. That definitely works to our advantage.”

On a daily basis, Ingram said he is motivated by a combination of staff, parents and students.

“I work better as part of a team,” he said. “What keeps me coming is the team we have here at Ellerbe Middle School and being able to work with a great group of professionals. I really do appreciate them … They are willing to work with me and buy into all of the programs we have in place to support these kids. They really want the best for our students.”

He also expressed his appreciation to the parents he has worked with over the years, citing several wonderful relationships and positive impacts on the school.

“The community has been a big deal for me,” Ingram said. “I had a community of support that was behind my brother and me. They helped us to get where we are, and that’s one thing about Richmond County. The churches, the community organizations—they all get behind you to push you forward. I feel like I was blessed.”

Finally, he recognizes his students as motivators for his career path.

“I feel like we’re a family,” he said. “They’ve always inspired me … When I see a kid sing or present a lesson or make the AB honor roll, those kinds of things motivate me and really excite me. When I see them out and they want to talk with me and share what they’ve done with their life—that’s the payback you get for the work you put into this job.”

During his career as both a teacher and administrator, Ingram mentioned two individuals that helped him find success along the way.

“Ms. Fuller has been a very important person in my life,” he said. “She is a warm, bright light—one of those people who just brings you in and influences you in a positive way. I definitely learned a lot from her. Mr. (Jim) Butler has also been a positive influence. He is so smart and I think a lot of him. He’s taught me a lot about communicating and talking with parents and establishing a rapport. Those are two people I really do follow after in administration.”

As far as Ellerbe Middle School is concerned, Ingram said reflection has been a key focus for improvement.

“I think it’s a very powerful tool,” he said. “We look at Schools to Watch data, we look at anything we’re doing here and ask ourselves some questions about how we can improve—how can we learn from anything we experience. Whether it’s something good or a growth opportunity, we’re able to look back on it and become better, and I think that’s what gives you new life. That reflection process allows you to reinvent yourself every year.”

He said he hopes the middle school will be named a School to Watch, a national program that identifies high-performing middle-grade schools that meet the criteria of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades. Neighboring school Hamlet Middle was recognized two years ago as a School to Watch, and Ingram said he believes Ellerbe Middle will be next.

In his limited free time, Ingram also serves as the pastor of Sneed Grove AME Zion Church in Ellerbe, which he says has been a wonderful addition to his life. He credits his family for encouraging him and his brothers to meet with success.


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