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Davis ready for role as principal at two schools

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Amber Davis, shown in her office at Camden Early College on Tuesday, will be principal at both the early college and Camden County High School starting next school.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

CAMDEN — Amber Davis not only will be principal at both Camden Early College and Camden County High School this coming year. She’ll also head a group that will study ways the two schools can work together most effectively.

“I’m very excited,” Davis said. “I think it’s a good opportunity for both schools — the staff and the students.”

Having Camden Early College and Camden County High School located on the same campus affords a lot of benefits for early college students. Among them are the opportunity to participate in athletics, band and the Coast Guard Junior Leadership Program.

The school year that starts in August will be an opportunity to see how the two schools can complement each other, Davis said.

As Camden County Schools Superintendent Joe Ferrell pointed out in an interview Monday, operating both Camden Early College and Camden County High School under the leadership of one principal has been envisioned as a one-year plan. However, Davis said she believes the one-principal system for the schools could prove to be a sustainable model for the long term. She thinks Ferrell is open to seeing what works best for the two schools.

“I don’t think he’s going to lock anything down,” she said.

Davis certainly is keeping an open mind herself.

“I’ve learned you never know what is going to happen,” she said.

Seeing what works best for the schools will in fact be one of the goals of the study panel Davis will head in addition to her duties as the schools’ principal.

Part of the group’s work this year will be considering how the needs of both schools might best be accommodated in the design for a new high school. Will there be a breezeway connecting one school to the other? Will they be located on separate campuses?

One reservation about separate campuses is the loss of potential collaboration between the two schools, she said.

There aren’t too many people who know as much about Camden High School as Davis. After graduating from the school in 1997, she studied education at East Carolina University and Elizabeth City State University, and later earned a master’s degree in education from George Washington University.

Davis started her teaching career at Camden High School in 2001 and in 2014, became the principal at CamTech High School — the school that became Camden Early College in 2016.

Camden Early College has about two-fifths as many students as Camden County High School and is geared toward students earning an associate degree or career credential while still in high school. Enrollment at the early college is capped at 50 students per class, for a total of 200 students in grades 9-12 plus a number of “super seniors” who return for a fifth year to complete additional college coursework.

Projected enrollment at the early college for the coming school year is 190 while enrollment at the high school is projected to be around 460.

Although Davis will be principal of both schools for the 2018-19 school year, she will have plenty of help with her administrative tasks. The assistant principal at Camden County High School will be Cris Fields. At the early college there will be a full-time intern, Mike Reaves, who is in the state’s principal fellows program. That means each school will always have an administrator on duty regardless of where Davis might be at any given time.

The setup will require Davis to move between the two schools fairly frequently. But she said she’s looking forward to keeping up with what is going on across the campus.

Both Camden Early College and Camden County High School already have good programs in place, Davis said. Her biggest challenge, she said, will be “making sure that each program has consistency.”

Time management will also be a challenge, Davis said.

The two high schools want to collaborate for the good of students, she said, noting “there are so many programs that we already share.”

At the same time, Davis said, both schools need to maintain their distinctiveness. While Camden County High School has forged a clear identity for itself over decades, it’s a bit more of a challenge for Camden Early College since the school has only been around a few years, she said.

“That’s important to me,” Davis said of maintaining the two schools’ distinctiveness, adding “our ultimate goal is to do what is best for the students.”

Every student can benefit from collaboration between the two schools, she said.

Davis noted she and Billie Berry, who was the principal at Camden County High School before being named chief human resources officer for the school district, worked well together over the past few years. She noted that she had taught under Berry before becoming an administrator.

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