J-M’s Crayton named first principal at new Seaforth High School

BY HANNAH MCCLELLAN, News + Record Staff
Posted 1/27/21

PITTSBORO — The Chatham County Schools Board of Education named Tripp Crayton as the first principal of Seaforth High School last Wednesday, effective Feb. 15.

Seaforth, set to open this fall …

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J-M’s Crayton named first principal at new Seaforth High School

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PITTSBORO — The Chatham County Schools Board of Education named Tripp Crayton as the first principal of Seaforth High School last Wednesday, effective Feb. 15.

Seaforth, set to open this fall to 9th and 10th graders, is 98% complete, according to CCS administration. The $74.8 million project is the first high school built in the district since 1972, CCS said in a release announcing the move last Wednesday, with plans to eventually support 1,200 students. The new high school is located off of U.S. Hwy. 64 near Jordan Lake, and configured its attendance zone from the existing Northwood High School attendance zone.

Crayton is the principal at Jordan-Matthews High School in Siler City, a position he’s held since 2015. Over the last 10 months, he’s headed the school’s efforts to adapt to challenges brought by remote learning — particularly the number of J-M students without reliable broadband. He was named the CCS 2020 Principal of the Year and is in his 26th year as an educator.

“After much reflection and thought, I sought the opportunity to become principal of the new high school to fulfill a goal I have desired over time,” Crayton said, quoted in the district’s release. “My experiences prior to coming to Jordan-Matthews, as well as my experiences there, will help guide me in building the foundation of the new school. It has been an honor working at Jordan-Matthews.”

Construction on the new school began about two years ago, with the design beginning another two years before that. On a tour of the nearly completed school, CCS Chief Operations Officer Chris Blice told the News + Record furniture deliveries will start happening in April or May, to open to students for the fall 2021 semester.

“I remember when it was literally just dirt,” said CCS Public Relations Coordinator John McCann on that tour.

This past fall, there was some public controversy regarding Seaforth’s attendance zone, with parents and community members worried the Scenario 3 attendance zone chosen by the CCS Board of Education clustered affluence at Seaforth The board and district have both maintained that it paid close attention to demographic balancing and income distribution when creating the new zone — something Blice emphasized on the tour as well. He stressed that while Seaforth is a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility, the district is committed to updating and investing in all of its buildings. The only feature Seaforth has that the other high schools don’t have, he said, is an auxillary gym.

“This is going to be a really good school,” he said. “We’re going to have four great schools, but we already have three, and they’re in great shape and they’re beautiful and constantly renovated ... if you looked at Northwood in 1972, and look at Northwood today, you’d swear they were two different buildings — you really would.”

As Crayton’s Feb. 15 start date approaches, he’ll begin making decisions regarding staffing and building usage, even before it’s completely finished.

On social media, several people congratulated Crayton on the move from J-M to Seaforth.

“The JM family bids a warm farewell to Principal Crayton,” the Jordan-Matthews HS account tweeted last Thursday. “Thanks for piloting us to new heights and safe landings, and we wish you all the best in your new adventure!”

“We know it’s hard for Principal Crayton to leave and just as difficult for us to say goodbye,” the J-M Arts account added. “He has been a champion of the arts and completely supportive of our work. We know he’s looking forward to the challenge of opening a new school and wish him the very best.”

The interim principal at Jordan-Matthews will be Donna Barger, an educator for 24 years, who has been one of the school’s assistant principals for the past five and a half years. That transition will take place a little more than two weeks after students return to in-person hybrid learning on Feb. 1 — stepping inside the building for a regular school day for the first time since last March. The second semester of classes began last Thursday.

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com.


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