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Wake leader named first NC Charter School Principal of the Year winner

Maria Mills, the director of Carolina Charter Academy, has been named the 2022 Wells Fargo North Carolina Charter School Principal of the Year.

Maria Mills, the director of Carolina Charter Academy, has been named the 2022 Wells Fargo North Carolina Charter School Principal of the Year.

A Wake County educator has been named North Carolina’s first Charter School Principal of the Year winner and will compete against leaders of traditional public schools for the state title.

The board of directors of Carolina Charter Academy in southern Wake County announced Thursday that Maria Mills, the school’s director, was named the 2022 Wells Fargo North Carolina Charter School Principal of the Year. Mills has led the school, located in Wake County near the border with Harnett County, since July 2020.

“This is a well-deserved recognition of Ms. Mills’ leadership skills,” Nolan Perry, the chairman of the school’s board of directors, said in a news release. “In the past two years she has overseen the addition of seventh and eighth grades, directed staff and students through an unprecedented pandemic and navigated a successful bond issue to purchase the school’s facilities.

“The CCA board of directors is incredibly proud of her accomplishments on behalf of our public charter school.”

Carolina Charter serves 650 elementary and middle school students predominantly from southern Wake, Harnett and Johnston counties.

Charter schools are taxpayer funded schools that are exempt from some of the rules traditional public schools must follow.

State Superintendent Catherine Truitt, a Republican, announced in June that the state Principal of the Year program would be expanded to include charter school leaders. The expansion announcement coincided with the 25th anniversary of the law creating charter schools in North Carolina.

The 2022 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year will be announced in the spring from among nine finalists: Mills and eight leaders of traditional public schools.

One of the statewide finalists is Keith Richardson, principal of Knightdale High School in Wake County.

Former New York educator

Mills started her education career as a math teacher in the New York City Teaching Fellows program. She later served as co-founder of Liberty Avenue Middle School in Brooklyn.

She relocated to North Carolina in 2017 to become an assistant principal at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh.

This story was originally published January 13, 2022 12:54 PM.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.



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