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Forty eight years later, assistant principal ready to “lee-ve” school

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Forty eight years later, assistant principal ready to “lee-ve” school

Dylan Berry, Editor In Chief

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Change is inevitable. After 16 years in Manteo, and 48 in education, assistant principal Meldine Lee is ready for a change. Her retirement from administrative work marks an end of an era at the school. On Jan. 1, 2018, Lee will retire.

Lee grew up in Wake Forest, N.C., but at the age of 10 she and her family moved to Winston-Salem, NC. Along with them came Wake Forest University. This is when Lee’s connection to the college started.

At the old Wake Forest, her father was the assistant athletic director. In Winston Salem, her father was the superintendent of the grounds for the university. Lee lived on campus with her family on the notable Faculty Drive.

“As a child I played on every inch of the grounds, I know it like the back of my hand,” Lee said. “It is a wonderful place for a child to grow up”.    

As a teenager, she attended R.J. Reynolds High School. After finishing high school, she attended Wake Forest University and majored in health and physical education and minored in science.

Her first teaching experience was in a self-contained eighth grade classroom at Harnett County High School. From there, she went to South Hill, Va., where she became a health education teacher. She taught in South Hill for two years before beginning a career in Norfolk. Lee spent 30 years in education in Norfolk, teaching both physical education and science.

While teaching in Norfolk, she attended Old Dominion University to gain her licensure in administration. Upon completing the program, Lee went on to be an assistant principal, a dean of students and a principal in Norfolk.

From Virginia, Lee headed back to North Carolina working at a Hanns Middle School in Winston Salem for nine months before beginning her tenure at Manteo High School in August 2001.

The Outer Banks became a special place to Lee and her family long before they moved here since they frequently vacationed in the area. As a young girl, she visited with her family. While all her other friends would visit Myrtle Beach because it was closer, she and her family headed to the Outer Banks. To her dad, this was their beach.

“Once the job opportunity became available, I took it because the community is so kind and welcoming,” Lee said. “When I am having a bad day I go and sit by the ocean and smell the salt air and it makes everything better”.

As the school’s assistant principal, Lee handles the majority of the discipline issues.

“Ms. Lee has been in education for 48 years and has been at Manteo High School since before most of you were born,” principal John Luciano said. “During the past 16 years at MHS, she has always tried to direct students down the right path. The job for assistant principal is generally a thankless job since most of the day is consumed with making decisions that usually leaves someone unhappy. Ms. Lee will be missed and I hope all her future days are happy ones.”

Lee likes watching the students grow and learn, but sometimes discipline is needed. When disciplining, Lee tries to get students to realize their mistakes and correct them on their own.

“Our students are kind and it’s not like that in other places,” Lee said. “They are so wonderful, but they are still kids and they do what kids do. Everyone is accepting and it is a true blessing that we are like this.”

She also works closely with the faculty, observing teachers in the classroom environment, assisting with school level professional development and working closely with new teachers and their mentors. .

“Ms. Lee has been a great resource to me as a new teacher,” CTE teacher Stephanie McKoy said. “She has shown me the Manteo way, and stressed the importance of keeping students safe through consistent routines and policy follow through. She models proper procedures not only for the students, but for the teachers as well.”

When teachers have issues with students, they often go to Lee to problem solve. Her office is also always open to teachers when they need to get something off of their mind or they are having a hard day. Over the last 16 and a half years, Lee has always been there for the staff, both in and out of school.

“She reached out to me on several occasions when I had devastating losses; my house, my mom, my best friend. She was so compassionate with me; her being in the hospital with me. She was like family,” theater teacher Connie Rose said. “She was the one who had the idea for me to be theater teacher at Manteo. She and Mr. Luciano worked on getting me commissioned. She was more than a colleague. I’ve had a revolving door of principals, but she’s been here…she’s always been here.”

In her time here, her main priority has been helping keep the school running smoothly and keeping the students as safe as possible. She heads up the school’s crisis team, keeping teachers prepared for the unexpected and ensuring the safety of students.

“Ms. Lee’s number one priority is the safety of the students and staff at MHS,” guidance secretary Jessica Everett said. “She has put a great deal of time into implementing safety protocols for our school and training staff in the event of an emergency. I am thankful to work in an environment where I know our students are safe and I feel safe.”

From greeting the incoming freshmen on their first day of high school to calling out their names as they cross the stage at graduation, Lee has been an important part of each student’s time at the school.

“She is always nearby and she always has her door open so when there is something you want to get off your mind, she is always there to listen,” senior James Craddock said.

After retirement, Lee will be moving back to her hometown of Winston Salem. Here, she will be closer to her sister and one of her daughters. During retirement, she plans to revel in the simple things she has had to skip the last 48 years.

“You can never really go home, it changes over time,” Lee said. “I am fortunate to be able to get closer to my sister where we can sit and laugh together. I will be closer to my daughters, that way we can spend more time together. Overall, I plan to sit back and drink a second cup of coffee and watch the rest of Good Morning America.”

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Forty eight years later, assistant principal ready to “lee-ve” school