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Incoming principal Robert Folk hopes to rebuild trust at Myers Park High after a turbulent year

Jodie Valade

Incoming Myers Park High School Principal Robert Folk comes from a family of educators.

"Both my mother and father were educators," Folk said. "My father worked in the district for 38 years, very dedicated to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and was actually lead of communications for most of that time."

Folk worked at Myers Park some 20 years ago as a dean of students. And before that, he was a student at Myers Park High School.

"It's a unique opportunity to be able to come back and be the principal of the high school you graduated," he said. "I don't know how often occurs, but I'm really excited about that focus."

Folk is in his waning days at Alexander Graham Middle School, where he's been principal since 2010. He'll move less than a mile away to replace former Myers Park High School Principal Mark Bosco, who was heavily criticized for his handling of sexual assault allegations that occurred at the school. Bosco was suspended and eventually reassigned to the central office.

WFAE's Sarah Delia sat down with incoming Principal Folk to discuss how he plans to heal the Myers Park High School community.

 Incoming Myers Park High School principal Robert Folk starts January 3rd.
Courtesy of Robert Folk
Incoming Myers Park High School principal Robert Folk starts January 3rd.

DELIA: Myers Park has been in the news for a good chunk of this year and not for great reasons, with past allegations of how the administrations in the past have handled sexual assaults. Predominantly, a lot of people might look at the job as principal and say, I don't want that job. You know, there's going to be a lot of attention on you. What made you want to tackle that challenge?

FOLK: So that's a great question. Actually, my skill set and my belief system will be such that I can help some of the healing that may need to be done at Myers Park and certainly the collaboration that needs to occur. My listening skills, my ability to be student-focused, my ability to bring parents into the school to be more engaged. So it's a challenge, and I would say I'm up for the challenge.

DELIA: Do you think a big part of that is going to be about rebuilding trust? And how do you rebuild trust with students, current and former, and parents?

FOLK: Yes, I do. I do feel that we have some trust that needs to be rebuilt at Myers Park High School. I think a way of doing that is being visible, being open to conversation, being open to students and parents anytime they need to have a conversation, being accountable for your work, and being accountable for student needs. I also feel that opportunity and access is something at Myers Park we can look at and increase. And I say both because it's one thing to provide opportunity. It's another thing to work on access to that opportunity.

DELIA: One of the issues I think the campus has had to face is just that its size including the wooded areas that surround Myers Park and some of the assaults that have allegedly happened there. What is your plan as far as security goes to make sure that Myers Park is moving forward and that students do feel safe, especially in those outlying areas?

FOLK: Obviously, we need to look at the monitoring and management on campus every day, utilizing our security, utilizing our teaching staff, utilizing our administrators and resource officer. And so I really do want to look at the big picture first. You know, are we spread out? Are we in key areas? Are we managing that campus well throughout the school day? So that's probably the first thing you want to make sure is in place.

DELIA: When we talk about security, I mean, do you know how many school resource officers are at Myers Park right now? Do you know how many cameras there are and where they are or are those things that you're figuring out as you enter into the job?

FOLK: I mean, a little bit of both. Certainly, there are things I want to look at and I want to figure out as I walk onto the campus because I have not worked at Myers Park in 20 years and things have changed a lot in 20 years.

Every middle and high school has a school resource officer. So I know there's one school resource officer at Myers Park and the same for every other middle and high school. Security associates vary based on size of school. We do have, you know, a certain number of people to work with though. And I mean, the more adults, the more bodies you have to help, it's not just me about supervision, it's about relationships. So a security associate does way more than stand and just supervise students when they change classes, when they come on campus, when they leave campus, et cetera. A security associate builds relationships and through relationships we mentor young people, and through those mentorships, we actually work on instilling the very best values we can.

DELIA: Title IX has been another big topic of conversation, not just at Myers Park but throughout the district this year, although there has been a lot focused on Myers Park with everything that's happened there. Are there any changes that you can foresee at Myers Park with the implementation of Title IX or any processes you want to streamline so students can have an easier time reporting something?

FOLK: I want to be open and accessible. I want students to be able to come up and have a conversation, and I want to be able to sit down, I will sit down and have conversations with students when they're concerned when things happen. I also want to make sure that students feel safe and they feel like they have a voice in their school. So a lot of that is just listening well and then actually doing something about it like, you know, acting on concerns they may have or ideas they may have. I love helping students make a change for their future, for others' future and certainly for our community at large.

DELIA: There was a lot of criticism of your predecessor, Mark Bosco. I'm not going to ask you to comment on him directly, but I wonder if you can if you have any reflections on lessons learned that you hope to do things differently in this new position.

FOLK: You know, I'm not able to comment, nor would I on Mr. Bosco. He and I are colleagues and we've worked together for many years. I would just say what the things that I want to achieve at Myers Park. I want to actually, you know, step into a school like Myers Park, my alma mater for high school, and I want to leave it a little better than it was before. And I just want to put a little mark of my own on the school.

I'm not in this for any praise or real award other than, you know, working on helping the school be better in educating and developing young people. I mean, that's why I do this. Even doing this interview is awkward because I don't like the spotlight on me.

DELIA: Why not?

FOLK: I'd say I'm pretty shy. I'm really not as extroverted as people think. And then I feel like, you know, I don't want anybody to think that I'm doing this for any kind of publicity. As true educators, we're not in this for publicity. You know, we really aren't. So I just think it's important though, people understand my views. You know, my feelings toward my role at Myers Park. And you know, I'm here to serve. And that's why I did the interview because I wanted people to know more about me and know that I'm here to serve and anything they need for their children, they just simply need to reach out.

DELIA: That's incoming. Myers Park High School principal Robert Folk. His first day on the job is January 3.

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Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.