Written by Robin Koppen
JCPS Communication Specialist
Wilson’s Mills Elementary’s new principal, Dondi Pate, is one of the latest additions to Johnston County Public Schools (JCPS) for the 2022-23 school year, and it’s no accident that she is here.
A 25- year veteran in education, Pate has spent the last 18 years in Sampson County. Looking for a new challenge, personally and professionally, she immediately sought out a position with JCPS because she felt the school system has a lot to offer.
“I think JCPS is on the fringe of the latest, up and coming practices in education,” she said. “It’s a very supportive work environment.”
During her time with Sampson County Schools, Pate was a teacher, an instructional coach, an assistant principal, and for the last five years she was a principal. During part of that time, she worked with now JCPS Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy, so she was familiar with his style.
Pate did some additional research that came from watching JCPS Board of Education meetings to gain insight into how the district does things, and how that could potentially be put in place for Sampson County. “I’ve been very impressed with the processes within JCPS,” said Pate. “JCPS leads their schools in a way that always seeks out the best practices for its students.”
Her vision for Wilson’s Mills Elementary is basic, yet vast, and that is to build on the successes from last year, and for all of the students of Wilson’s Mills Elementary to succeed, not just academically, but socially and emotionally as well.
As a goal-oriented leader, Pate plans to meet students where they are academically, and then set goals. She likes to celebrate students’ successes, and then continue to move ahead with more goals.
She chose a career in education because she loves children and wanted to see more children become successful. Pate believes the path to success in education begins with reading. “I enjoy seeing students learn how to read,” she said with a smile.
Pate knows that reading is essential in education because it opens so many doors and opportunities for students. “Reading is my bag,” she remarked.
That love of reading was sparked by her first grade teacher, Miss Dupree. “I remember learning to read with her,” Pate recalled. “She made you feel special and she loved each and every one of us.”
Her favorite subject in school was history because she loved learning about government and its workings. Pate had the opportunity to go on field trips to meet certain government officials and was even able to attend a presidential inauguration.
Pate earned her undergraduate degree from Meredith College in Raleigh, NC, and loved being an Avenging Angel. She said, “I would love to relive my time at Meredith.” She then went on to earn a master’s degree in school administration from Campbell University.
For fun, she likes to spend time with her family, going to the beach, or shopping. Pate also enjoys a good girls’ night out.
She is heavily involved with her church, playing piano every Sunday and helping with youth events such as vacation bible school each summer. Her deep faith is what keeps her motivated.
Pate’s hero is her mom. She said her mother sacrificed a lot to be able to allow her brother and herself to go to college. Her mom told her, “Get all the education you can, because no one can take that away from you.”
That instilled in Pate the importance of education not only for herself, but for everyone. “I enjoy learning and that’s a pursuit I don’t think anyone should stop,” Pate remarked.
Her love of education is why she is passionate about teaching children. “The base of our society is trying to build productive citizens in our country,” she said.
She is excited about meeting all of the staff at Wilson’s Mills. “I enjoy seeing the excitement on their faces as they build their classrooms,” she said.
Pate connects with students and staff by being visible with a “hello” and high fives. She also makes herself available during the school day to chat with students at lunch. You can also find her on the playground during recesses building relationships with students.
“The future of Wilson’s Mills Elementary is bright!” she exclaimed. The community has a deep history of many generations passing through its halls.
“Students will come into bright shiny classrooms and build on the successes from last year.” Pate aspires for Wilson’s Mills Elementary to be a hub as the best learning environment for students and staff.
One thing Pate wants people to know about her is that she is a listener. “I listen to both sides in any situation,” she remarked.
She wants students, staff, and families of Wilson’s Mills Elementary to know that they can come to her with any concerns. “I want to be approachable so that they can have a listening ear,” she said, “and for me to do the best job that I can do in any situation that comes up.”