Chapin High School Principal Akil Ross was saluted Friday as the best in his profession in America, touching off a celebration among students and teachers.
Ross, principal at the school for seven years, was named National Principal of the Year at an assembly. He thought the gathering was to celebrate another award for his school’s performance.
Instead, it was to announce that he had been honored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
He plans to display the award at the 1,300-student school to show that winning it was a team effort, Ross said.
“This award is not for me,” he told the gathering. “It belongs to Chapin High School, it belongs to the Eagle family.”
The association praised Ross, 38, for significant improvement in graduation rates and academic proficiency. That improvements happened after he helped raise money to provide extra instruction for struggling students to reduce dropouts, the group said.
He pushes for social as well as academic development among students, encouraging volunteer efforts that improve the Lexington County community and areas around it. “This profession is a ministry,” he said.
Ross is known for what he calls the six Rs: “Ready to learn, Respectful to others, Responsible to ourselves, Rigor in teaching, Relevance in learning and meaningful Relationships among students, faculty and staff.”
His message to students and staff is: “We are a thousand passions with one heartbeat.” It’s a motto that he says will foster an environment where students are challenged academically while pursuing interests.
“It did not take long to recognize that Dr. Ross is an agent of infectious change,” said Susanne Thompson, a member of the selection panel for the award.
The national award caps a series of milestones for Ross.
The school has earned numerous other honors in recent years, including Athletic Program of the Year by The State newspaper, three state band championships and Best Student Section in the Nation Award from Varsity Brands.
State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman applauded Ross for inspiring not only educators locally but principals across South Carolina.
Lexington-Richland 5 Superintendent Stephen Hefner called Ross “a great visionary” who will have a national stage for his ideas that the award provides.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483