Tough love, high expectations
Stephanie Ayscue, one of two new principals at the public high schools in Vance County, has transitioned into her role as a leader with ease.
Ayscue, principal at Southern Vance and Michael Applewhite, principal at Northern Vance, are beginning their second semester as leaders of schools with 768 students and 946 students, respectively.
With six years of prior experience as an assistant principal at Southern Vance, Ayscue’s transition to her position as principal has been rather seamless. She knows the kids, and loves them like a mom, which drives her passion to see them succeed.
“It’s like I have 800 children,” Ayscue said. “They know I love them, and I’ll take care of them, but if you’re wrong you’re wrong, and you know I love you, but you’re going home.
“I think that kind of focus has gotten through to the faculty. We’re a family.”
While Ayscue has not felt the need to drastically change routines throughout the school, she has tried to change the culture of the school by operating with a philosophy of love and high expectations.
“She listens to the concerns of students, parents, and staff,” said Desmond Thompson, assistant principal at Southern Vance. “Everybody has a voice, especially in the decision-making process.”
Thompson was hired the same year as Ayscue and has been working by her side at Southern Vance for seven years. He feels the culture she drives has created a bond within the school.
“The whole staff, all the teachers here, even the custodians, everybody, it’s like a Southern Vance family,” Thompson said. “That’s the glue that holds Southern Vance together.”
Ayscue has pushed for a heavy focus on academics this school year, implementing a new lunch and learn program where students receive tutoring during their lunch hour.
“Some of the outside community groups have come in to do some programs with the kids,” Ayscue said. “We don’t have the funds for busses for tutorials after school, so this way you’ve got a whole hour of getting tutoring. Technically it’s an extra five hours a week of makeup work, or time to get some extra help.
“It’s been beneficial.”
The program has specifically been beneficial for seniors looking to continue their educational opportunities.
“It’s been good for kids going to college because you have extra time to do clubs, which look good on resumes,” Ayscue said.
At Southern Vance there is a counselor for each grade level, a tactic being used to help ensure students graduate.
“You’ve got to get to know the kids, and I think that’s what helps a lot,” Ayscue said. “Counselors rotate with their group until they graduate, so they’ll be with them for all four years. It helps them get to know the kids and be able to address any sort of issues that come up.”
Ayscue says her biggest challenge has been keeping the school a safe and focused place on academics.
Her biggest goal is assuring students have the same educational opportunities she was afforded.
“I don’t want them to not have the kind of education I had when I was growing up,” Ayscue said. “I guess that’s my biggest hope is that they get everything they need so that they can make the choice if they use it or don’t use it.”
Seniors receiving letters of acceptance to three elite universities displayed the level of academic ability her student body is capable of.
“I have a girl going to Howard, a boy that got accepted to Embry-Riddle, and the University of Alabama,” Ayscue said. “The talent is here, Lord knows the talent is here.”
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