Cone named principal of the year by school system

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Gary Cone, principal at Paisley IB Magnet, was named WSFCS principal of the year. (Lauren Carroll/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Gary Cone is comfortable talking to anyone, about just about anything.

Cone, principal at Paisley IB Magnet School, will tell you all about his outstanding students, the projects they’ve completed and the places they’ve gone on to after leaving Paisley.

He’ll tick off the names of his hardworking teachers and staff members and what makes them special.

He’ll outline the agenda of the school’s active parent group, the projects it has funded and the ideas it has championed.

The one thing Cone doesn’t really care to talk about – himself.

“I think I do a good job of recognizing good ideas,” Cone said.

“I tried to support them. They move fast and I try to keep up.”

That’s what Cone will tell you when you ask why he was named this week as the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools’ principal of the year. Cone, who is in his seventh year at Paisley, was nominated by a group of teachers and staff members from the internationally themed magnet school for students in grades six through 10.

“Throughout this period, Dr. Cone has steadily improved the quality of our faculty and insured that technology will improve throughout the school,” English teacher Marshall Marvelli said in the nomination. “The chief benefactors are Paisley students.”

A little more than 10 years ago, Paisley had only a few hundred students. The school was being chronically “under chosen” by parents. The district received a federal grant to turn the school into a magnet and offered something new – the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme.

Designed to prepare students for the Diploma Program offered to students in the final two years of high school, the Middle Years Programme targets students in grades six through 10. Students receive the same state-mandated curriculum and standards, but their lessons are delivered in a way that focuses on making connections to the real world.

This year, more than 800 students are enrolled at Paisley. Much of that growth has taken place during Cone’s tenure.

“He’s done a great job promoting the IB component of Paisley,” said Carol Montague-Davis, assistant superintendent for secondary schools.

Under Cone’s leadership, the school has also changed the way it recruits students to stay for their ninth and 10th grade years. Instead of making students feel like they have to stay and they have to complete the IB program at Parkland High School after leaving Paisley, Cone said they show students all of their options and let families make the best decision for their situations. Not only are more students staying at Paisley, more students are choosing to finish the IB program at Parkland. About 90 percent of Paisley students now choose Parkland for high school. When Cone started at Paisley in 2007, about 40 percent chose Parkland.

Before coming to Paisley, Cone served as the principal of Yancy High School in Yanceyville, Hardin Park School in Boone, and Blowing Rock School in Boone. He also was the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Cabarrus County Schools.

Cone began his career teaching English at Chapel Hill High School. He also taught language arts in Nash and Watauga counties and in Germany for five years for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools.

Cone earned his bachelor’s degree in English from the College of William and Mary and his master’s degree and doctorate in educational leadership from Appalachian State University.

Cone will now compete to be named regional principal of the year. Seven regional principals of the year will then compete to be named N.C. Principal of the Year.

By Arika Herron/Winston-Salem Journal