MINT HILL – John LeGrand didn’t know what he was walking into when his secretary pulled him out of a teacher’s meeting to tend to a need in the school’s cafeteria.
Little did he know, there was no need at all, but instead a room full of people waiting to celebrate in his honor.
LeGrand was recently voted by principals in the East Learning Community to be the community’s Principal of the Year. He’ll go on later this year to participate in the district’s competition as a candidate for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Principal of the Year.
“There are some awesome principals in the East Learning Community,” LeGrand said. “I’m honored to be elected by that group of 20 or so principals. Having your peers elect you is about the biggest compliment you can get.”
LeGrand, who was surprised but excited to receive the honor, has been the principal at Bain Elementary School for the past three and a half years, he said. But the 36-year-old Mint Hill resident never expected administration would become his passion.
Starting out in Lancaster County, S.C., as a teacher, LeGrand moved to CMS when he took a job at Mint Hill Middle School. From an early age, LeGrand said, he knew working with kids was his calling, and of course, coming from a family of educators also gave him the push to choose education as a career path.
“I got into education because I’ve always enjoyed working with kids. It’s always been something I was very passionate about,” he said, adding sports and coaching was his second passion. “But coincidently, if someone would have told me as a kid I would be a principal in 20 years, I would have gone into a deep depression.”
But after a push from one of his own principals, LeGrand decided there was no harm in getting the education and degree for administration. And when an assistant principal position at J. M. Alexander Middle in Huntersville opened up, LeGrand felt it was an opportunity he couldn’t refuse – even though the decision came in the middle of basketball season at Mint Hill Middle.
So he took the position, soon becoming assistant principal at Independence High School and then Bain, where he eventually took over as principal – helping to lead the school in the midst of planning and construction of its new facility that opened just last month. He says the award, which is an honor at any age, is a team effort – from the cooperation of his wife, Beth, and kids, Frannie, 7, and Michael, 5, to the hard work and team effort of his staff, parents and students at the school.
“This is an individual honor, but it’s not an individual accomplishment,” LeGrand said. “It’s the staff and the students and the parents that are supporting me along the way. There are 80 other staff members that contributed to this.”
Both of Legrand’s kids attend Bain Elementary, as well. That’s why he says working in his neighborhood school has been such an advantage in creating relationships and open ing lines of communication in the community.
LeGrand’s situation is unique, he said, with not only a professional obligation to see kids at Bain succeed, but also a personal obligation.
His young family falls in the same phase of life as most other families at Bain, he said, and he frequently encounters Bain families outside of school.
“It’s been rewarding for me to be around these kids – not only at school, but also in the community,” he said. “It’s been really neat for me to not only be a principal in this school, but a parent and a citizen in the area that it serves,” adding not many principals can say the same.
“I try to view every student just like they’re mine, and I make decisions based on what I would want done if the child were going home with me that night. It puts things in perspective for me.”
LeGrand said he’s not sure why other principals felt he was deserving of the award, but he hopes it’s because they see he is always working to do what’s best for the school, and makes decisions based on the needs of the students.