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Broughton Magnet High Principal Elena Ashburn Named NC Principal of the Year!

Elena Ashburn speaking

May 24, 2021


We could not be more proud of Dr. Elena Ashburn, principal of Broughton Magnet High, who was named the 2021 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year on May 21!


Dr. Ashburn is the first WCPSS principal to receive this honor since the award's inception in 1984. Our heartfelt congratulations to her!


Broughton students and faculty, along with Superintendent Cathy Moore and members of her leadership team, celebrated Dr. Ashburn at an event held at the school on May 24.


The following is an excerpt from a North Carolina Department of Public Instruction news release:


Since joining Broughton in the top leadership role in 2017, Ashburn has helped chart a decisive and ambitious course for a high school of more than 2,100 students by empowering the school’s 180-plus staff members and building a culture of trust and mutual respect. During her four-year tenure, the school’s graduation rate reached a historic high of 89.33%, the 9th grade retention rate was cut by half and student performance improved on end-of-course exams in English and biology.


Kids with signsThe former Teach for America English teacher credits her staff with the school’s gains and says that their efforts and those of the larger school community have helped sharpen the school’s focus and mission.


“I have always viewed the principalship as the collective work of an entire community of people,” Ashburn said in her submission for Principal of the Year. “This vantage point is particularly necessary in the high school principalship, where the sheer number of students, staff, parents and community members in our school community far exceeds the availability of one individual.”


Ashburn said she took a collaborative approach from essentially her first day at the school. She met individually with all 180 staff members within her first 60 days as principal and also visited every English class to meet with students and hear from them first-hand. She said she asked students the same two questions she had posed to staff members: “What is great about Broughton?” and “What can we do better?”


The responses, both from staff and students, led to a deliberate focus on address equity concerns in the school, Ashburn said, through the creation of a Staff and Student Culture Committee.


“While many students spoke about Broughton school traditions being a strength of our school community, students overwhelmingly shared that many of the valued traditions and available opportunities at Broughton were not inclusive of or accessible to the entire student body,” she said. “Over the course of a year, [the committee] created the “Why, What and How” of their work, establishing their purpose to “confront prejudices and biases in order to ensure that every student and staff member feels engaged, included and valued.”


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt cited Ashburn’s strategic and caring leadership approach as a model for others to follow.


“Elena exemplifies the best qualities of a strong and effective principal,” Truitt said. “She empowers teachers and staff and creates opportunities for them to grow and learn. She has enlisted the entire school community in defining a clear mission and purpose and been collaborative and intentional since day one. She embodies the level of support and guidance our educators, and students, deserve.”


Broughton CheerFor her part, Ashburn said she’s able to do what she loves.


“Being principal of Broughton is my dream job,” she said. “The opportunity to work with hilarious teenagers each day, watching them grow and learn is one of the greatest joys of my life. While the principalship is challenging, helping parents raise great kids by ensuring they receive an excellent education is a tremendous privilege.


“Each day I learn more from our awesome kids than anything I can teach them.”


While continuing to lead her school for the next year, Wells Fargo will furnish Ashburn with a stipend to travel across the state serving as an ambassador for education. She will serve as an advisor to the State Board of Education and also to the board of directors for the Public School Forum of North Carolina. She will also compete for national recognition through the N.C. Principals and Assistant Principals Association and will serve on the 2022 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year selection committee.


Ashburn also receives $3,000 for personal use and $3,000 for her school. In addition, she receives professional development and resources supporting global awareness in the curriculum for their staff, thanks to Education First, a custom-made NC Principal of the Year signet ring and resources to help combat child hunger from No Kid Hungry NC.