Rankin Elementary changes principals after more than two decades

by Christopher Lux

Kristen Kiser took over the reigns of Rankin Elementary School from former principal Ron Faulk at the beginning of the school year. Kiser is only the school’s third principal since opening in 1972. (Courtesy of Christopher Lux)

MOUNT HOLLY – Kristen Kiser remembers her first day as principal at Ida B. Rankin Elementary in Mount Holly as “awkward.” Not because she didn’t feel welcomed, but because she was replacing longtime principal Ron Foulk, and on her first day, she had to move into the office of her mentor. “It was very hard the first day,” said Kiser, who will be the school’s third principal since opening in 1972. “I totally respect this man and it took me a long time to unpack my things (in the office). He wasn’t here, it wasn’t like he was standing here looking at me. I just felt really awkward doing that. And for a long time I didn’t sit in his chair. I couldn’t!” After serving as the school’s principal for more than 20 years, Foulk retired at the end of the last school year. “He was very well liked and respected in the school and community,” said school secretary Melanie Rhyne. “We will miss him.” When Foulk first told Rhyne of his plan to retire, she said she felt considerably concerned about the school’s future. “My first thought,” she said, “was ‘who is going to fill his shoes?’ I was saddened when Mr. Foulk left. I cried. But when I found out (Kiser) was coming here I was relieved. We were blessed to get her because she’s just good. Everyone liked her when she was here. I really admire her.” Kiser was known in the school because of her two-year stint as Foulk’s assistant principal. She was well-liked then, and the faculty and staff seem very happy with the decision to make her the new principal. Kiser and Foulk also have a long history of working together. “I’ve known him all my life,” Kiser said. “I grew up in the neighborhood that he lived in, and his wife actually helped me with my first classroom when I became a teacher.” She served as Foulk’s assistant principal eight years ago, but when she left, she knew she could continue to call on him for help and advice. “When I left here, I worked as an assistant principal at Southpoint High (in Belmont), then I went and got my first principal position at Bessemer City Primary School,” Kiser said. “But all the while he was always there. It’s kind of like he’s been my mentor all this time.” Kiser taught elementary school for six years before taking an administration position in the district office of Chesterfield County Schools in South Carolina. “I was the federal programs person. I just wanted to see what it was like on the other side,” Kiser said. “You know, working in the district office as opposed to working in the school.” After working in the district office for a year, she realized she was “ready to come back to the schools because I found out that the most favorite part of my job (at the district office) was being able to go out to the schools and be near the children. So I knew that what I was doing wasn’t what I really needed to be doing.” Kiser now prepares herself “to fill big shoes.” The faculty and staff will miss their beloved Principal Foulk, but according to Kiser, “The transition has been very smooth.” “The staff has embraced me, and (Foulk) had things in very good order, so it’s been very smooth. I credit that to the staff and culture that he’s established here which is very family-oriented and child-centered, Kiser said. “They’re very caring and kind toward one another. They’re very close-knit, which excites me to be part of the staff.” q

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