By: Briana McDonald
Upon meeting Principal Scott Lyons, my initial reaction was to smile. He has a demeanor that can instantly cheer you up, and he seems to regard you as a friend, despite having never met you before. Lyons has been in education for over twenty years, serving as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal in schools across Wake County, such as Ligon Middle School, Leesville Road High School, and Enloe High School. He is a man that is dedicated to his position as principal and committed to successfully guiding Heritage High School and its students. Principal Lyons is very interested in his students, and not as numbers, but as individuals. He wants every student to succeed and to find their place.
Once I shook Principal Lyons’ hand – he has a very confident handshake – we sat down around a table in his office, and I asked him my first question: “How would you describe yourself as a leader?”
He responded: “I would say that as a leader, I have high expectations, but I like to get input from everybody in the community I am leading. I like to use collaboration, because I know that as a leader I don’t have all the answers. I think Heritage has a very nice mission and vision, where we want our students to be successful, so I like to be collaborative in my leadership so that I can get input from students, parents, and teachers when making big decisions.” I asked Lyons what goals he has and what he’d like to change at Heritage. He emphasized that there is nothing yet that he’d like to change, as he admires the school’s vision and the way that it is run. “The graduation rate and all the data is moving up,” he explained. He also discussed that there is a watch period. He prefers not to suggest changes until about 60-90 days after he’s begun his new leadership position. “Once again, I like to get input before I make any major decisions.”
“My expectations for students are to obviously follow the school rules,” Principal Lyons said when I asked what he expects from students. “Because safety is very important, as well as letting us know of anything that may be going on that we’re not aware of…Having that open line of communication between students and the adults at the school. Students should attend classes and get the most out of their classes that they can.” Principal Lyons was adamant about student involvement, explaining that he believes students should take classes that interest them and challenge them, rather than just taking the easiest available classes to fulfill requirements. “Stretch yourself, so that you can be the best that you can be.” Principal Lyons also urged students to get involved with activities outside of the classroom. “Whether it’s a club, an organization, athletics… enjoy the arts, something you like doing. Make your time here fun!” His obvious enthusiasm gives an impression that he wants students to work towards something, making their school career worthwhile and preparing them for the future.
Principal Lyons, in an interview with The Mycenaean before leaving Leesville Road High School, was asked why he chose to move from his original position as principal of Ligon Middle School to high school. He explained that he liked being a part of all the milestones that high school students experience. Today, I asked him his favorite occasion for high school students. “My favorite is obviously graduation, because it’s the end of the year. That is the end of one chapter, and you’re getting ready to start a whole new chapter. It’s great to see students as they’ve progressed. When you’ve been at a school for a while, you get to see them grow up into the person that they are now. Hopefully, Heritage High School and the people who work here and go to school here have all positively affected that.” Principal Lyons also disclosed his enthusiasm about other high school landmark events, like homecoming, spirit week, and prom.
I asked Principal Lyons if he saw any similarities between what he was like in high school and the students that he supervises now, and he reiterated the importance of activities and finding your niche. “I was a very shy kid. A less assertive kid,” he said. “So I’ve seen a few kids that are new to the school – I think that they’re starting to come out of their shells now. I was big into band, and that’s where I found a group of people that I was very comfortable with and had a common interest with, and once I had those friends, it was much easier to branch out and meet new people who had different interests.”
One of the most important things as a principal is getting to know one’s students, and so my next question look at how Principal Lyons relates to his students. “One of my favorite things to do is to attend activities – I’ve been to several soccer games, a football game, and I’m going to a volleyball game next week. And I really like to walk into classes and watch what’s going on. If it’s not disruptive, I may walk around to desks and ask students what they’re working on. If the teacher is up front, I may just stand and watch the students and the teacher interact with each other, and that helps me get to know students so that I can relate to them.”
As high school students, we all make mistakes. But Principal Lyons wants students to know that every mistake has a learning curve and can be seen as an opportunity. “We are all human beings, and at any given time in our lives we are going to experience some type of disappointment or failure. One of the biggest things I encourage is to take it as a lesson. Kind of like the saying ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ See the good in every situation, no matter how bad it may be at the moment. Know that you learned something, and then you know in the future what to do to keep that, or something similar, from happening again.”
The last question I had for Principal Lyons was what his opinion is of Heritage students so far. His initial response was the word, “Phenomenal.” He continued, “I have been very impressed with the students at Heritage. Like I said, walking into the classrooms last week, it was good to see students attentive to the activities going on in the classroom. Watching the arts programs, such as the band yesterday morning performing at Publix. It’s a very positive thing to watch them be a part of this local community. Seeing students be respectful at football and soccer games, being supportive of their fellow students, I can see that camaraderie already and it makes me very excited.”