WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Former New Hanover High School principal Todd Finn is leading a new high school in Georgia, and his staff this fall will have many familiar faces.
Finn has hired six former colleagues currently teaching in New Hanover County and nearly a dozen more from North Carolina. So why are they following him to the Peach State?
Some critics say former Finn is poaching his old school, but teachers leaving North Carolina to join Finn in Georgia say that could not be farther from the truth.
“I’m not an egg, nor am I an elephant, so I can’t be poached,” New Hanover High School Science Department Chair Michelle Huffman said. “I am an adult, and I make adult decisions for my family.”
Huffman says the decision she and her husband made to follow Finn to Hampton High School in Henry County, GA, was an easy one.
“I would be making a huge mistake, and my husband would be making a huge mistake to walk away from this opportunity,” she said.
She’s one of 18 educators, including Finn, leaving the state for Hampton. Another, Jonathan Perry, who currently commutes from his home in Fayetteville to teach special ed at New Hanover High because he admired Finn after working with him before, says he does not want to leave. He says he’s being pushed out.
“My children were born in North Carolina. I really don’t want to leave North Carolina,” Perry said. “That is not what I wanted to do, but the opportunity was such that if I’m gonna do better for my family and as a man, I have to go.”
Perry says he’s an educator, and he can do simple math. Even a promotion in North Carolina would be a loss compared to teaching at Hampton.
“It’s almost a $17,000 pay increase for me to go from North Carolina to Georgia,” he said.
Money’s not the only reason. Some teachers we spoke with said they believe in Finn’s educational philosophy.
Finn says some members of the New Hanover County School Board did not like his style.
“Wilmington called me the polarizer, but down here, I’m the personalizer,” he said.
And personally he’d like to see more of his former colleagues follow his lead.
“I’ll tell you what: a year from now, I’ve got my eye on some science teachers, and I’ve got my eye on some math teachers that we really want to go up and see if we can bring them to Georgia as well,” Finn said.
Finn is also hiring two former New Hanover colleagues who now teach in Onslow County.
Before coming to Wilmington, Finn was principal at West Bladen High School, but he says he did not have any luck getting teachers to leave that school.