Chenetra Mangum never imagined herself as a principal but now she is ready to take on the charge of West View Elementary.
“I’m not the stereotypical principal. I’m very adventurous, bubbly, and sometimes even loud,” Mangum said.
Mangum, 32, is one of the youngest principals in the district having graduated from Elizabeth City State University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in English. She believes her youth and background has helped her connect better with students over the course of her career.
“If you’re straight-laced, you may not understand some of these kids who have barriers or outside challenges. If we all have teachers that are in schools that look the same, act the same, and come from the same lifestyle then there are kids that we will miss out on,” Mangum said. “So I feel like, because I’m an African-American woman who was raised by a single mother and didn’t have as much as others growing up, my story may relate to someone else.”
Mangum said that when she entered the classroom in 2010 as a lateral entry teacher. She was only a few years older than the kids she was teaching. Mangum had three years to get her certification through NC Teach as a lateral entry teacher. She did it in one.
“They weren’t that far from me,” she said. “So as I’m relating to them, I understood that this is what these kids needed. They needed somebody that understood and said, ‘Hey you know I’ve been there before, I can tell you right now you don’t need to do X,Y, and Z. But they do it anyway. I’m telling you right now because I know what life is going throw at you.’”
Mangum taught English for six years at Athens Drive High School before she wanted more.
“During that six year time I felt uncomfortable and I wanted to do more. I saw education as a pathway for me and I felt very passionate about that. So I said, ‘what’s my next step?’ My next step was to try to become an assistant principal.
Mangum went to her principal and asked to intern as an AP. Her principal agreed.
However, there was a slight complication.
“Next thing you know my principal retired,” Mangum said.
Luckily for her, the new principal, Jim Hedrick, agreed to honor his predecessor’s promise. Mangum completed her internship at Athens Drive before Hedrick unexpectedly passed away in August 2016.
Mangum said she couldn’t continue on at Athens Drive after Hedrick’s death and started looking for other positions when she found JCPS.
“I did some research and I liked the ethics and principles behind Johnston County. I thought that it was a much smaller county which might help me with the transition of becoming an assistant principal,” Mangum said.
Mangum served as an AP at West Johnston for two years before moving into her current position. She thought her experience as an AP would make the transition to becoming a principal seamless. Turns out there were some hidden surprises.
“You think that being an AP will prepare you for the principal chair, but there are so many things that you don’t have any clue about until you become a principal. Things about budget, things about HR and personnel. You’re not prepared for that when you step into the seat,” she said.
Besides the initial challenge of transitioning into her new role as principal at West View, Mangum has been well received and has begun reaching out and building relationships. One thing many teachers wanted to improve on from past years was communication between themselves and the administration.
“So the biggest thing is making sure that I communicate what can be communicated,” Mangum said. “What I can tell them, making sure that it’s readily available, sending out newsletters, updating our website, and things like that. I also want to focus on rebuilding that relationship with my staff. Which will in turn rebuild the relationship with parents because if the staff knows what’s going on, parents are informed, and so are the children.”
“Greater communication helps build better leaders and that creates a better school,” Mangum said.
“If you empower people around you to become leaders, it makes you a better leader. Sometimes that means pouring into people a little bit more than what you necessarily have time for, but if you empower others around you it in turn makes you a fabulous leader and makes you raise up more leaders,” she said.
Mangum has already started to connect with the community and is planning ‘meet the principal’ and curriculum nights to better explain her goals and vision to parents and community members.
What really has excited Mangum is welcoming her thousand or so kids back to school.
“I’m excited about starting the school year. I’m thankful for the opportunity. I’m so glad that I was selected. I’m probably one of the youngest principals, which is fine with me,” Mangum said. “I’m just excited to be given the opportunity to do this. Not many people can say they’ve been given this opportunity, so I’m happy.”