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Deborah Hoffman named Regional Principal of the Year

Mrs. Deborah Hoffman

Deborah Hoffman, principal of Jacksonville Commons Elementary School and 2019-2020 OCS Wells Fargo Principal of the Year, has been named the 2020 Wells Fargo Southeast Region Principal of the Year.  

The current NC Principal of the Year, Matt Bristow-Smith, Hoffman’s family, Superintendent Barry Collins and a group of district leaders surprised Hoffman with the news at her school on Jan. 14. At the surprise event, Hoffman was also greeted by some of her students, who were eager to congratulate her. A class of kindergarteners sang her a congratulatory song, while a group of students from the school’s National Junior Honor Society took a moment to share some of their favorite inspirational quotes Hoffman has shared with them in their time at JCE.  

Mrs. Hoffman takes a photo with her some of her students

Hoffman has been an administrator in Onslow County for nine years and has spent the last four as principal of JCE, where her staff say she has created an all-new culture for the school.   

Aisha Gilchrist, a 1st grade teacher at JCE, who was named the school’s teacher of the year in 2019, said that Hoffman acts as a mentor to staff and students, always pushing them to be their best.  

“Her leadership skills are phenomenal,” she said. “She has always inspired me to work hard, and any time she saw what I was doing, she always said, ‘You know what, Aisha, you can do it.’” 

JCE Assistant Principal Donna Chadwick echoed the sentiments of Gilchrist, saying that she has been blessed to work with Hoffman for the past three years.  

“Her leadership, her mentorship, her guidance, her support is incredible,” she said. “She always has an open-door policy for staff, students and parents. It’s just such a welcoming atmosphere that she has set here at JCE.” 

After being named the OCS Principal of the Year, Hoffman went through an interview and portfolio review. She has now been selected as one of the eight principals statewide that will go on to compete for North Carolina Principal of the Year.    

Hoffman said that the opportunity to serve as regional principal of the year and compete at the state level is a wonderful opportunity for not only her, but for her community.  

“This is such a great opportunity,” she said, “to put this campus on the map and to give Onslow County a little recognition.” 

She said that she and her staff often talk about how they want to change the world, and the theme lately has been changing the narrative about the school’s students that come from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and backgrounds. 

“Whatever neighborhood they hail from, we want people to know that they bring it,” she said. “To know that they’re well-educated and that their skillset is strong because they came out of Jacksonville Commons Elementary. That’s our dream; that’s where the heart of everybody in this building lies.”