That passion fueled careers working for both the North Carolina school system and the state health department, and ultimately led her to serve at two of Union County Public Schools’ special purpose schools. The most recent of those is Wolfe School, where she took over as principal in June.
Wolfe School serves predominantly middle and high school students with moderate to severe cognitive impairments or multiple disabilities, according to its mission statement. Vague took over at Wolfe School after former Principal Mary Jo Breckenridge announced her retirement.
“I know that (Breckenridge) was very well loved,” Vague said. “What I want to do here is really continue that work but also increase reach, increase communication into the county, into the community, so we can support the families, so they can find the support they need.”
This is the first head principal position for Vague, who previously served as assistant principal for East Union and Parkwood middle schools and South Providence School. Vague taught science at J.T. Williams and Crestdale middle schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools district prior to her career in administration.
Though education has been an important aspect of Vague’s life, she hasn’t spent her entire career in the school system. Vague graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a major in biology and a minor in sports medicine and secondary education.
“I worked on a sports medicine program (and) never really planned on teaching,” Vague said. “… Then, I met my future husband, and things changed.”
Vague taught in the CMS district for several years before taking a break after her daughter was born. She then worked as an epidemiologist for the state health department, primarily taking on cases of adults with sexually transmitted diseases. Her work with these clients ignited her passion for speaking up for those who needed an advocate.
“I tried to help (clients) find out the source (of their disease) and who they could have spread it to and help them try to get through the whole process of advocacy,” she said. “My world of advocacy started really young … for me, advocacy is huge, helping people find the right things that they need.”
Vague re-entered the school system after about four years with the health department. She decided to pursue a career in administration out of a desire to help more students, eventually earning a master’s in school administration from Gardner-Webb University and a doctorate in education leadership from Wingate University.
Vague’s career path eventually led her to South Providence School last year, one of UCPS’s three special purpose schools. The school offers an alternative learning environment for students, particularly those at risk of long-term suspension.
“Once I look back on my whole career, advocacy is where it comes to – finding the voice for those who can’t speak,” she said. “Being in two of the three (UCPS) special purpose schools, what I try to bring to the table is learning how to empower people to help others.”
Vague had no idea where she would be placed when she interviewed for a principal position with UCPS and was initially surprised that the county assigned her to Wolfe School. However, she said it’s been the perfect fit and has come at the right time. She’s spent the past two months getting to know the about 35 staff members and the school’s about 75 students, who returned to school earlier this month.
“I want to see Wolfe become the premiere standard that all other schools like ours are measured (against),” she said.