NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Todd Finn has only been a high school principal for three years, but has already seen plenty of success.
After his first year at New Hanover High School last year, the percentage of students passing their end of course tests jumped 7 percent, according statistics just released by the NC Department of Instruction. While 79 percent of students passed, Finn is confident the number will keep growing.
"Believe it or not, we're not there yet," said Finn. "We made a good step in the right direction, and we're teetering right there at 80 percent, which is a milestone for our school, but I believe we can be 90 percent."
Before becoming a principal, Finn served as a college coach and a high school teacher. He says those experiences help him be an effective principal.
"My job up here is to try to inspire and to try to motivate, as best as I possibly can," explained Finn. "But last I checked, I didn't teach one of those classes. Those teachers did all of that work."
Teachers and students think a lot of Mr. Finn and his methods. Rising senior Montrell Baldwin said football was the only thing keeping him in school before Finn came to New Hanover High. Baldwin said Finn made athletes at the school realize they are role models and should take pride in that role.
"Being around Finn is like being around a president or something," said Baldwin. "He motivates you, makes you want to come to school even more."
Fellow athlete Trevon Brown agrees and credits Finn for getting him serious about his schoolwork.
"Mr. Finn helped me get my grades up so I can go to college, so I can go play football - do whatever I want in life," said Brown.
Besides getting to know the students, Finn has changed the culture at New Hanover High School. He significantly relaxed the dress code, saying you can empower students by treating them like adults who can dress themselves.
He also got rid of the school bells, saying teachers – not electronic signals – should begin and dismiss class.
Football Coach Pay Byrd thinks so much of Finn he packed up his wife and kids to follow him to New Hanover from West Bladen High School.
"He just makes everybody want to...it kind of makes everybody feel accountable, and feel like they have to pull their weight and they have to do their job," explained Byrd. "They don't want to be the one to let him down."
While students say Finn keeps them motivated, Finn says students keep him motivated.
"When you see a kid that's a sophomore, that maybe wasn't going to be a sophomore, it motivates me to come back and do this every day," said Finn.
New Hanover's gain may be West Bladen High's loss. With Finn's departure from that school, the percentage of West Bladen students passing their EOC tests slipped by about seven percent.