MATTHEWS – One year after a fatal shooting at Butler High School, Principal John LeGrand has seen his students and staff transform the school into a kinder, friendlier place. LeGrand hopes that continues as he moves on to a new role within Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in December.
LeGrand was recently promoted to executive director for the Central 2 Learning Community, where he will work with the area superintendent to oversee the leadership at 29 CMS schools. He will also provide assistance, support and advice for the schools, as well as help evaluate principals.
LeGrand never saw himself in a role like this when he first started in education. He has enjoyed being a principal and working at Butler High for the last five and a half years.
“It’s been the best job of any job I’ve ever had,” LeGrand said. “But recently, as I continued to gain experience as a principal, I did start to gain an interest in how I can make my impact even bigger and help influence multiple schools as opposed to the one school I was in charge of as a principal.”
He wants to continue developing leaders across the district, especially principals and assistant principals.
LeGrand said he feels his experience in education has prepared him for this role. LeGrand believes he can bring new perspectives to principals, as well as learn from their ideas. He hopes to create better systems and processes to lead to the best outcomes at the schools he will oversee.
Since he started teaching and working as a principal, LeGrand has been around students every day, which he has thoroughly enjoyed. Not being around his students and staff on a constant basis will be a bittersweet change for him.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with other leaders in our district and other principals,” LeGrand said. “I’m excited about the ability to have a more far-reaching impact through my influence as a leader in the district … I’ve made a lot of connections and I consider Butler students and staff as my family and leaving that makes me really nervous because that’s something I’ve enjoyed so much.”
LeGrand said after the shooting happened, he told the community the best way to honor the victim’s memory was to come together and be stronger. He said they have done just that.
He has seen the community at the school become much closer. Butler High School brought in an initiative called Sources of Strength, which encouraged students and staff to be supportive and respectful of one another, regardless of their differences.
“School is about learning and school is about academic achievement, but it’s also a people profession,” LeGrand said. “It’s about treating each other as people and respecting each other as people because in that type of environment, that’s where we see young people and staff members thrive.”
Though leaving the school will be difficult, he hopes his initiatives have made a significant impact at Butler for years to come.
“That’s what I want my legacy to be, someone who was able to promote that and was able to take something that was unthinkable and horrible and just the biggest negative you can think of, and work with our staff and our students to make a commitment to each other that we’re going to make something positive out of this and we’re going to exhibit the behaviors to prevent something like this from ever happening again on our campus,” LeGrand said.
A new principal for Butler has not been selected yet, but LeGrand said he feels confident that whoever is chosen will continue to work with staff and students to make the school the best it can be. He also hopes the new principal will bring in new ideas that will make Butler even better.
Even though he is leaving, he is positive that the strength at Butler will remain the same. He said while he could sit and take credit for all of the things happening at Butler, that is not the case. He attributes the school’s success to its staff.
“Handing it off to [a new principal] is just a matter of continuing to lead the staff,” LeGrand said. “The staff isn’t leaving and the phenomenal students we have aren’t leaving, so I don’t think it’s going to stop any progress that they’re making because they’re the ones that are committed to doing what needs to be done and taking a positive step forward as a school.”
LeGrand’s last day as Butler High School’s principal will be Dec. 13. He will start his new role with CMS on Dec. 16. He is grateful to the community of students, staff and parents at Butler who have supported him throughout his time there. He admires their daily commitment to the school.
“I’ll always be a bulldog,” LeGrand said. “Butler High has been a really special place to me. It’s a place that will always have a special place in my heart. It’s something that I’ll have fond memories of, and I plan on returning from time to time just to be part of that community that is so special to me.”