Luke Manuel, principal at Hendersonville Middle, was named the 2018-19 Principal of the Year for Henderson County Public Schools at a recent pep rally staged for the surprise announcement by district leadership.
After Assistant Principal Amanda Childers recognized each school athletic team in the gym, Superintendent Bo Caldwell walked to center court led Hendersonville Middle students in chanting “MVP” for Manuel, who Caldwell said was “Most Valuable Principal” of the year.
After a standing ovation from his student body and staff, Manuel said, “We have one of the very best middle schools in all of North Carolina. I am very humbled and honored to be your principal.” He said, “I am taken aback right now.”
Each school year, the Principal of the Year is nominated by and voted on by his or her peers – the other 22 principals in the Henderson County Public Schools system, giving special significance to the designation.
“This is a huge honor, considering the number of great principals we have in our district,” said Chief Human Resources Officer W. Scott Rhodes. “Mr. Manuel has done an outstanding job leading Hendersonville Middle School. He is a kind and humble leader who loves his students and staff.”
Math teacher Katy Gash echoed Rhodes’ sentiment, and described Manuel as not merely an administrator, but an empathetic leader. “He cares about you as a person,” Gash said. She added that she tacked some of Manuel’s words of wisdom on her classroom wall after a staff meeting he gave at the end of last year.
“It says, ‘Be professional – be patient – be kind. Everything is fixable,’” said Gash.
Manuel joined Henderson County Public Schools in 2000 as a social studies teacher and assistant football and baseball coach at Hendersonville High after graduating from Appalachian State University, and taught for three years before transferring to North Henderson High in 2003. Manuel taught social studies at North for five years, and coached football for a year before being named head football coach in 2004. After five years at North, Manuel became assistant principal at Hendersonville Middle in 2008, and also served as athletic director there in the 2012-13 school year. In 2013, he became assistant principal and athletic director at West Henderson High. In 2014, Manuel returned as principal to Hendersonville Middle – where he’s served ever since.
In addition to his undergraduate degree, Manuel holds a Masters degree in school administration from Gardner-Webb University.