[Photo: Dr. Thomas Benson III, new Hoke High principal (Submitted Photo)]
By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • The Hoke County High School Bucks will welcome a new principal July 1, as Dr. Thomas Benson III steps in as the new chief administrator for the county’s largest public school.
The Hoke County Board of Education announced Benson’s selection last week. Benson comes to the position from his most recent role serving as a federal programs officer for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. He has more than 26 years of experience in public education, and previously worked at Hoke High as an assistant principal.
He also served as principal at Turlington Alternative School before going to work in Cumberland County, where he was principal of Spring Lake Middle School and, later, at Westover High School.
Benson earned his bachelor’s degree from Wingate University, which he attended on a football scholarship. He went on to earn master’s degrees in education and school administration from Fayetteville State and UNC-Pembroke. He returned to Wingate University to pursue a doctoral program, and completed his Doctor of Education degree in 2013.
Benson and his wife have lived in Hoke County for about 15 years. Their son is a recent graduate of SandHoke Early College High School, and their daughter attends a local middle school.
His selection as the new high school principal is a dream come true, Benson said.
“For me coming back to Hoke County as principal is a lifelong dream. This has been home to us… for me, I’m just fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity to be principal.”
Benson said he’s looking forward to showcasing the school’s quality teachers and students, and its Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.
“I think the biggest thing that I love about going into Hoke High currently is the relationships. The culture there – the teachers are happy, it seems like there’s a lot of good things happening academically,” he said.
He also hopes to expand opportunities for students to earn college credits while in high school, and continue building the relationship between Hoke County Schools and Sandhills Community College.
Benson said his top priority is to focus on providing a safe learning environment. He wants to be proactive in making sure students and teachers are safe at school.
“For me, because I’m a parent myself, and just kind of living here in Hoke County, it’s so important for me to make sure that parents know the priority we have is to make sure that students are safe,” he said. “A lot of great things can happen in schools when students feel they’re safe.”
And, that includes pandemic safety as the high school brings students back onto campus.
“This pandemic is has been a trying time for a lot of our parents, students and teachers. We want to make sure we’re doing everything in our power to have protocols in place to curb transmission of COVID. We want our kids to feel comfortable coming on campus, we want our teachers to feel comfortable.”
Benson said he believes school administrators should be visual, vocal and out and about making sure students are held accountable for both academics and safe behavior. And at the end of the day, it’s all about the students. The county’s youth should be proud of attending Hoke High, Benson said.
“My biggest philosophy has always been we’re going to make decisions based on what’s best for students and student achievement. I’ve lived by that motto, philosophy ever since I’ve come into education. At the end of the day we’re serving kids and I want my teachers and I want people in the community to know we’re going to make the priority what’s best for students and student achievement.”
Benson will take over for former principal Dr. Adell Baldwin, who left earlier this year for an administrative job with the Scotland County school system. Associate Principal Sabrina Finkbeiner served as interim principal after Baldwin departed.