By Dave Russell
Blue Ridge Early College Principal Tracie Metz is taking over from Brent Speckhardt in two ways this summer. She took his office at the school, and she took on his mantle as the county’s principal of the year.
Speckhardt moved to the Central Office to take on a role as curriculum coordinator/coach. Metz comes to the Cashiers school after serving as principal at Smokey Mountain Elementary School since 2014.
Her new focus will only be slightly different from her time at SMES.
“The beautiful part about Blue Ridge Early College is that we have that early college component, which we’re really excited about,” she said. “For me, it’s a continuation of our main goal, which is to graduate students successfully from school. It’s all about preparing students to enter the workforce, or any colleges or tech programs they want to be in.”
She looks forward to seeing the skills she stressed at the elementary level come to fruition at the early college level, she said.
“At Smokey Mountain Elementary, we’re doing foundational reading and math skills,” she said. “At Blue Ridge we’re taking those foundational skills and applying them to more specific subjects and getting them to graduate high school.
“My philosophy is about providing students with access to quality education,” she said. “How that manifests has to be driven by what the students and the adults who support them need. It’s different at every school I’ve been at.”
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is important to Metz, a middle school-licensed math and science teacher. During her tenure at SMES, the school hosted a spring STEM fair, which she might bring to BREC.
“I will always be advocating for STEM wherever I am,” she said.
Metz is currently serving as chairperson for the Western Region Education Service Alliance, an organization that collaborates and shares resources to improve Western North Carolina schools. She completed the N.C. Principals’ and Assistant Principals’ Association’s Distinguished Leadership in Practice Program in March.
“Dr. Tracie Metz is an excellent leader who has a student’s success at the forefront of decisions,” Jackson County Schools Superintendent Kim Elliott said. “She is passionate about growing all people no matter their age. She is a team-oriented person and a great colleague.”
Metz lives in the Tuckasegee community with her husband and two sons, who attend Jackson County schools.
The principal of the year district achievement is the first in a series of principal of the year races. This fall, school district winners from the western region’s 18 school systems will go before an interviewer who will determine the region’s principal of the year. Regional winners will each receive $1,000 for personal use and $1,000 for their schools. After that, a winner from each of the eight regions will compete at the state level, followed by a national competition.
Metz was named principal of Smokey Mountain Elementary in 2014.
She attended Campbell University and received her doctorate from Fayetteville State University. She began her career as a middle school math and science teacher for Harnett County Schools in 1998. Metz served as a school administrator in Harnett County for six years, receiving the Assistant Principal of the Year award for her district.