HAMLET — Talk about an exciting homecoming — Jim Butler will be the ﬁrst Raider graduate to serve as Richmond Senior High School’s principal.
Effective July 1, Butler will once again walk the halls of Richmond Senior where he’s “looking to continue the good things that are going on as well as bring a few new ideas” to his alma mater.
A 1982 RSHS grad, Butler continued his educational studies, earning a bachelor’s degree from University of North Carolina at Pembroke as well as his master’s from East Carolina University.
But education wasn’t always his intended career path.
“Somebody asked if I’d be interested in teaching,” he said. “I had a degree in History and received the chance to interview at Rockingham to coach and teach Social Studies, so I thought I’d do that until I ﬁgured out what I wanted to be when I grew up.”
It was actually his ten-year class reunion that solidiﬁed his career path.
“When I showed up at the age of 28, I was glad to say I had a job, but there was a real sense of pride,” he said. “I remember going that night excited to tell people I was a teacher, and that stayed with me. Even though I had a tough ﬁrst year … I lived through it, got my feet under me and realized how much I loved doing it.”
It’s 26 years later, and Butler is still with Richmond County Schools.
For nine years he taught at Rockingham Junior High before spending an additional two years there as an assistant principal. He worked for one semester as a Richmond Senior High School assistant principal before accepting his ﬁrst principalship at Hoffman Elementary School. He was there for two years, then served as principal of Washington Street Elementary School for ﬁve years. Most recently, Butler has been Hamlet Middle School’s principal for the past eight years.
Under his watch the Red Rams have twice been named a National School to Watch, both in 2013 and 2016.
“I’m very excited to be moving to Richmond Senior, but at the same time it’s very bittersweet,” said Butler. “While at Hamlet, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside some to the best teachers and administrators.”
Butler believes one of his greatest strengths is the ability to view the district from every stakeholder’s position. Having been a student, coach, teacher, assistant principal, principal and parent, he thinks a move to the high school will further allow him to see every facet of Richmond County Schools.
“Richmond Senior High School, along with the Ninth Grade Academy, is one of only two schools within our district that’s part of the entire community,” he said. “So, I think it’s an awesome opportunity to make an impact and create a great experience for kids.”
Butler will be replacing Keith McKenzie as he retires. McKenzie served as RSHS’s principal for four years.
“Mr. McKenzie has been an excellent leader for Richmond Senior, but we’re excited to see the school continue to move forward under Mr. Butler as well,” said Richmond County Schools Superintendent Dr. Cindy Goodman. “He has an impressive background and is fully committed to the success of not only his students but the district.”
As he transitions to RSHS, Butler says one of the things he’s most looking forward to is making those personal connections with students.
“I think it’s important to try to learn about the kids and know as many as you can,” he said. “Luckily, I’ll have a bit of a head start because there will be familiar faces from students who attended Hamlet Middle School.”
When Butler’s not at school, he enjoys spending time with his family.
He is married to Debbie Butler, a guidance counselor at Washington Street Elementary School. Together they have two children. Ryan’s a recent graduate of North Carolina State University who works with the Carolina Mudcats, while Drew is a rising Senior at Campbell University who plays for the Camel’s Baseball Team.
Ashley-Michelle Thublin is public information officer for Richmond County Schools.