Riverside’s newest principal vows to increase student achievement, create a welcoming community, and enforce safety.
Every single morning, Dr. Gloria Woods-Weeks cheerily greets students as they march into the building with waves and elbow bumps.
This is part of Riverside’s newest principal’s plan to create a welcoming environment in the wake of former principal Leslie Kinard’s resignation eight weeks into the school year.
She was appointed principal by DPS superintendent Pascal Mubenga on October 28. She moves to Riverside from J.D. Clement Early College High School, where she served as principal for ten years. Under her leadership, Early College earned a National Blue Ribbon Award for academic excellence by the US Department of Education.
“Riverside High School has been through a period of leadership transition, and it is time for stability,” said Superintendent Pascal Mubenga in an announcement sent out to DPS families on October 22. “[Dr. Woods-Weeks] is an experienced principal who understands Durham, a strong community builder and communicator, and an advocate for equity.”
Woods-Weeks believes the first step in building a great school is creating a culture that is inviting and fosters a sense of belonging.
“I want to ensure a welcoming, safe school environment,” she said.
Above all else, student achievement is her primary concern.
“Every decision I make is what is in the best interest of students,” she said. “I want all students to reach their full potential.”
Woods-Weeks has served in education for 27 years as both a teacher and an administrator. She’s worked in small schools, traditional schools, charter schools, and career and technology schools.
“I’m a public servant, and I can’t imagine doing anything as rewarding as what I do now,” she said. “I love the work that I do. Why? Because I truly believe that every student can succeed at the highest level. I want to be the person that makes a difference in your lives. I am a first generation college completer, and I can remember all of my teachers from kindergarten to twelfth grade.”
A Durham native, she graduated from Northern High School.
“High school is a phase of life we all go through, and it is my duty to help the kids in the same community that I grew up in,” she said. “This is my home town, so I don’t live too far away, and the commute won’t be an issue.”
Woods-Weeks said that she is committed to Riverside long-term, and she will break the cycle of frequent principal turnover.
“I do not intend to go anywhere until I decide I want to retire,” she said. “When I heard about the instability at Riverside, my heart just went out. No one deserves that kind of instability. All students deserve great faculty. I want to make a difference.”
Woods-Weeks is determined to keep communication lines open with students and faculty.
“I believe in visibility,” she explained. “My first week [Nov 1-5] felt like a marathon. I like to be a presence on campus, so I’ve been in class with students, and meeting individually with as many people as possible.”
After things settle down, Woods-Weeks hopes that students and faculty alike will feel comfortable approaching her with their concerns.
“My door is open to suggestions,” she said. “As I always say, ‘an unvoiced concern is an unheard concern.’ We are a family, and families resolve issues together.”