ROSE HILL — With the beginning of school coming soon, Principal Julie Hunter spent a portion of her Friday morning meeting with new teachers to go over important information for their new journey at Union High School.
It’s just one of many leadership duties, she’ll have to do before, during and after the academic year. She was recently honored by her colleagues as the 2016-2017 Principal of the Year for Sampson County Schools. The announcement was made during the district’s principal retreat in early August and was humbled by it.
“It was shocking and very surprising,” Hunter said. “There are so many who are deserving of the honor.”
With more than 20 years of experience in education, Hunter stepped out of the classroom to try something new.
“I like challenges an after being in the classroom for 19 years, I was getting a little burned out and I needed a new challenge,” Hunter said. “I felt like administration was the next step. So here I am.”
She’s been at Union High since 1992. Before then, she spent a couple of year at Clear Run Middle School and Union Elementary School.
“The community feels like home,” Hunter said. “There are some great people here that I have come to feel like they are a part of my family. The students, the teachers and the community in this district are just great people.”
The Sampson County native grew up in Sampson County and graduated from Hobbton High School in 1985, before attending the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) where she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She earned her Master of School Administration from UNCW in 2013.
After earning her degrees, she returned to the district which gave her a foundation to be successful at a young age.
“I like that it’s a small system which allows us to network together, share ideas and collaborate,” she said. “It’s just a great place to be and a great place to work.”
In addition to her current principal duties, she served as Union High School’s athletic director and history department chair. She also contributed to the School Improvement Team, UNCW Professional Development System Partnership and coached girls basketball. The team won a State 1A Championship in 1998.
Currently, she plans to stay at Union High School and be the best principal she can be for the school, students and staff.
“You never know when an opportunity presents itself, but right now my plans are to remain in Sampson County as long as they’ll have me,” Hunter said.
In the upcoming months, Hunter will compete on a regional level for Principal of the Year. The process includes submitting a portfolio and going through an interview. The top principal in the region will be announced in January.
Wendy Cabral, assistant superintendent for personnel services for Sampson County Schools, believes Hunter is a top-notch principal.
“She gets things done and does them while having a great rapport with all stakeholders,” Cabral said. “Most importantly, students are at the heart of her decisions. She wants them to be successful and will do whatever it takes to make that happen. She is a tremendous asset to Sampson County Schools.”
Hunter is a benefit to county schools and like many professionals in education, that comes with wearing many hats.
“As a principal, you’re not only an instructional leader for a teacher. You’re also sometimes a nurse or a social worker for a student,” Hunter said. “You advocate any way you can to help teachers and students. I feel like my primary job is to help any way I can to make sure people are successful in whatever they do.”
It’s not easy, but Hunter likes challenges. It’s the reason she’s the leader of Union High School.
“It’s long hours and you’re constantly getting emails and calls,” Hunter said about the role which is not the typical 9-to-5 job. “You definitely got to have a passion for it. Otherwise you’ll get burned out.
“The passion is there for sure.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.