By Gene Galin
Pittsboro, NC – I got the opportunity to get a tour of the new Seaforth High School today. Principal Tripp Crayton was my host for the tour.
I grabbed about an hour’s worth of video clips to share with the Chatham County community. During the tour I had the opportunity to ask questions that several Chatham Chatlist members had passed along. Due to the amount of material we covered, we’ll be presenting the information in several parts over several days.
Links to the video clips on YouTube will be embedded in my articles and we’ll also have these video clips available for viewing and sharing on the Chatham Journal FaceBook page. (If you find the information useful, please do us a favor and like and follow our page.) Feel free to share all the information provided with your family and friends in the community.
We started the conversation outdoors in front of the main entrance socially distanced and spaced apart by more than six feet.
When he was offered the position as the principal of the new Seaforth High School, Mr. Crayton noted that “I was extremely excited to have the opportunity of opening new school, especially the newest high school that hadn’t been built in Chatham County since 1972.”
The last new high school in Chatham County was built two years before he was born.
Mr. Clayton has worked in the Chatham County School system for the past six years. “I’ll start at Jordan Matthews in July 2015. I was in Wake County before then; principal at Wakefield High School. I met my wife here in Chatham County, which is what brought me this direction.”
Mr. Clayton has over two dozen years of education experience. “I just started my 26th year in education. Started that in January. Started out as a social studies teacher in Durham, Riverside High School; did that for five and a half years. And then from there was an administration, assistant principal, and assistant principal for a while and then moved to principalship jobs. I was a principal at Wakeville Middle School for three years. And then I’ve been a principal at high school level for more than eleven years. Twenty-one out of my twenty-five years have been in high school doing something; either teaching, assistant principal or principal. So I have a lot of experience.”
Over the years Mr. Clayton has shown a preference for high school. “My comfort zone, by far, is high school. I just feel like the kids are more easy to work with. Additionally, our high school students, of course, are leaning towards graduation. I felt like I’ve had more of an impact on our high school students and especially towards the graduation. My wife is a middle school teacher. So I hear about her positives and negatives about middle school. She loves it. That’s all she wants to do. But for me, high school is where it’s at. And that’s where I’ve always been and I hope to finish my career in high school.”
In 2020, you were a principal of the Year for Chatham County. What do you have to do to win that award?
Principal Crayton’s response: “It’s not what I had to do. It’s what my staff did at Jordan-Matthews. And what the students have done. As I tell people all the time, my job is just to lead people in the right direction. And they’re the ones to make it happen. So just the outstanding staff that I had put together; many of the great things they have done as far as building that culture of positive culture. Also, pretty decent results that we get from their graduation rate. Not too bad. Of course, we could always improve. But nonetheless, just a positive experience and again because of the strong team there. That gave me this opportunity.”
What are you looking forward to here at the new Seaforth high school?
“What is there not to look forward to. The feeling is we’re going to offer anything and everything that our students are interested in. So any sports that are at Northwood, the plan is to offer them at here at Seaforth. Same sports at Jordan-Matthews we would offer here. As far as art programs, we hope to eventually have the same programs that are at Northwood. Of course this being the first year, in smaller numbers, it’s going to take time to build that. We’re going to look at what student interest is, as they’re registering for courses, or what kind of programming we’re going to have. The thing at Seaforth, the thing about Seaforth is we’re building everything from the ground up. From the athletics, to the art program, to just various academic programs we’re going to have. And that’s what makes it so exciting. Although I’m the leader of the place, I’m looking forward to having the input from our community, from our students. What are some things they wish to see within the building, beyond extracurricular activities as far as the arts or athletics, but other clubs they might like to start here. Just a variety of things that we can make Seaforth unique and different from the other schools, while at the same time ensuring that we have some of the same programming that you see throughout Chatham County.”
Gameplan for the first year is you’re going to start with how many grades?
“We’ll start with 9th and 10th grade. Approximately, on paper, showing 460 students and then the following year, we’ll bring in the 11th graders and that will bring us up to around 650. And then the following year, we’ll have seniors and have a full group and should be around 900 students.
The building is build to handle 1200 students with the ability to expand the facility to handle an additional 200 students for a total of 1,400 students.