JCPS Announces 2023-24 Principal & Assistant Principal Of The Year

JCPS 2023-2024 Principal of the Year Paige Barnes (left), and JCPS 2023-2024 Assistant Principal of the Year Dr. Tobias Hocutt (right) stand with JCPS Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy (center). Both honorees were surprised with a ceremony at Smithfield-Selma High surrounded by their families and colleagues.

Paige Barnes, principal of West Clayton Elementary, was selected as the 2022-2023 Principal of the Year for Johnston County Public Schools (JCPS), and Dr. Tobias Hocutt, assistant principal of Four Oaks Middle, was selected as the 2023-2024 Assistant Principal of the Year for Johnston County Public Schools.

Barnes and Hocutt were surprised with the recognition in front of their families and JCPS staff on Thursday, August 3, at the district’s annual leadership conference. Both were nominated by their colleagues to receive this award.

Going into her seventh year as principal of West Clayton Elementary, Barnes is described as an incredible leader with an amazing energy and calmness about her. Her peers also stated that she is a bright light at West Clayton Elementary, is empathetic and compassionate, and she really cares about those she comes into contact with.

“I strive to lead not only with integrity, but to also make sure my staff and stakeholders feel loved and cared for,” Barnes said. “For them to feel that way about me means I’m doing my job.”

Dr. Tobias Hocutt (center), Assistant Principal at Four Oaks Middle is surrounded by his family after receiving the 2023-2024 Assistant Principal of the Year award.

This year’s theme at West Clayton Elementary is “Level Up”, and being named Principal of the Year, lets Barnes know that the efforts she, the students and staff have made to continue to move forward are effective. 

Hocutt is going into his first year as assistant principal of Four Oaks Middle. Previously he was the assistant principal at Cleveland High School. Hocutt’s career with JCPS began when he was a custodian at Corinth Holders High. In July of this year, he earned his doctorate in education from Western Carolina University. His motto is “If you can see me, you can be me”. 

With an astounding number of nominations, Hocutt is described as an outstanding relationship builder with both students and staff. He establishes a caring environment, is approachable, and yet still has clear and strong boundaries for expectations.

“It’s really fulfilling that my peers feel that way about me, and that I’m making an impact in the lives of so many students and staff in Johnston County Public Schools,” he said.

West Clayton Elementary Principal Paige Barnes (center) stands with family after being named JCPS 2023-2024 Principal of the Year. Barnes was surprised by her family at the district’s annual leadership conference.

The Amy Renfrow Leadership Principal of the Year Award is named after former Corinth-Holders Elementary principal Amy Renfrow.  The awards are given through the Johnston County Principal and Assistant Principal Association (JCPAPA) to recognize outstanding principalship.

Both Barnes and Hocutt received $500 for themselves, and Barnes received an additional $500 for West Clayton Elementary from the Johnston County Education Foundation.

“Johnston County Public Schools has some of the best principals in the education field, and Ms. Barnes and Mr. Hocutt ranks right at the top,” said Superintendent Dr. Eric C. Bracy. “These two individuals are dedicated to student and staff achievement, and the results of their hard work shows in their schools’ most recent achievement scores. I am proud to have them as leaders with the school system.”


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