Cuthbertson Middle welcomes new principal

Scott Sofsian steps up from assistant administrator to take over school

by Josh Whitener

WAXHAW – Scott Sofsian has been a public educator for nearly two decades, but the new Cuthbertson Middle School principal’s favorite education-related memory dates back to when he was 6 years old.

Sofsian, who comes from a family of educators, was traveling with his dad, a varsity football coach, when he began observing the players learning and growing from practice to practice and game to game.

“From a young age, I was realizing how important teachers, educators and coaches are in the lives of kids, and I think that molded my views of education,” Sofsian said. “You can have a positive impact on kids’ lives and there’s nothing more satisfying than that.”

Becoming a principal was always a goal for Sofsian, but it wasn’t something he wanted to rush. Sofsian has spent the last three years as an assistant administrator at Cuthbertson Middle, and when the school’s former principal left the school last month to become the director of middle school education at the county’s central office, things fell into place.

“It wasn’t something that I predicted would happen this year, but it was something I always wanted to do, and the timing just worked out for me perfectly,” Sofsian said.

Sofsian has a long history of working with middle school students. He began his career in education in the early 1990s as a middle school teacher and coach. Since the beginning, Sofsian has had a true connection with the middle school age – a group of students some educators tend to avoid.

“I can’t really pinpoint why, but since Day 1 of coaching (middle school students) in 1993, I’ve enjoyed, and I’ve never wanted to deviate from it,” Sofsian said.

In 2000, he began his first stint in administration as the athletic administrator for the Kyrene school district in Arizona, where he remained until 2009. Wanting to escape the hot weather and move back to the East Coast, where his family lives, Sofsian took a job as an assistant principal at Cuthbertson Middle and helped open the school. After three years helping run the school, Sofsian believes he has the experience necessary to take over as head of the institution.

“It’s great, being from Cuthbertson (since) Day 1,” he said. “If I went to another school in the county, it would take some time to understand what’s happening at that school. Being here from the get-go at Cuthbertson, I know the students and teachers and the areas where we can get better.”

One of the things Sofsian feels he brings to the table, other than experience, is the willingness to become involved with the students, parents and staff, and to listen to their voices and concerns.

“Leadership wise, I really get along well with people, whether it be staff, students or parents,” he said. “I feel like that’s a trait that really helps, being personable and willing to listen to all those groups… and being able to support (the children). That’s what it’s all about; it’s about the kids.”

Sofsian’s goals for Cuthbertson are simply to continue improving upon a school that’s already performing at a high academic level. Cuthbertson Middle finished seventh in the state for evaluated middle school test scores for the 2011-12 school year and Sofsian desires to keep up the good work.

“Our school is already high-performing in many ways,” he said. “I don’t intend to come in and change everything, but would like to just do some fine-tuning and tweaking.”

One of the main areas Sofsian would like to improve upon is the community-school relationship, inviting parents to become more involved in their child’s education, and fostering three-way relationships between the parents, students and teachers. “That’s an area we could get better at, embracing parental community support, inviting them into our doors and letting them see for themselves the great things going on at our school,” Sofsian said.

During the summer, Sofsian is spending his first weeks in office doing something he feels is one of his most important roles as principal – hiring the best teachers he can find. Because the middle school era can be awkward for many students, Sofsian believes hiring the right teachers is crucial to making the students’ education the best it can be during those challenging years.

“One of the most important things I do as a principal is hiring the very best teachers and support staff – secretaries and coaches and assistant teachers – that can really have the impact we want,” Sofsian said. “So that’s an important part I play right now over the summer – to make sure we have the most highly qualified (staff) we can find.”

Settling in as principal has gone pretty smoothly, Sofsian said, although budget cuts have reduced the number of staff members working during the summer. “That’s been tough at times; it’s been busy,” Sofsian said. But in spite of those minor setbacks, Sofsian feels “ready for the position and the challenge. It’s been great so far, and I really look forward to the school year.”

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