Celebrating National Principals Month: Anita Clarke, Decatur City Schools

Anita Clarke
Cedar Ridge Middle School
Decatur City Schools

Anita Clarke grew up in Sumter County, Alabama, where she graduated from Livingston High School and went on to earn her teaching degree from the University of West Alabama. After six years in the classroom, she served as a guidance counselor for more than a decade, then became assistant principal and (a year later) principal at Brookhaven Middle in Decatur City. She became principal at Cedar Ridge in 2018.

Last January Anita was named Humanitarian of the Year by the Decatur-Morgan County Minority Development Association. In 2017, the Decatur-Morgan County NAACP honored her as Educator of the Year.

How long have you been a principal?

I have served as a principal for three years (2 years – Brookhaven Middle School and 1 year – Cedar Ridge Middle School).

Briefly describe your education journey.

My passion has always been to educate children. Upon completing my undergraduate degree, I began my journey as an educator in 1997. I was hired as a special education teacher at East Lawrence High School in the Lawrence County School District where I served for eight years as a teacher and guidance counselor. After leaving Lawrence County Schools, I was blessed to continue my career at Cedar Ridge Middle School (Decatur City Schools, AL) as a guidance counselor for 10 years.

In 2015, I was fortunate to be chosen as Brookhaven Middle School’s Assistant Principal (1 year) prior to being named Principal (2 years). Brookhaven Middle School was closed as our district restructured. When the school was closed, I was announced as the new Principal of Cedar Ridge Middle School in 2018. My journey is education has been amazing. I could not have chosen a noble profession to affect change. I am blessed!

What are 2-3 insights you would share with others who want to become principal?

The three insights that I would like to share with others that aspire to be a principal is that principlas must seek to build relationships with all stakeholders (students, teachers, parents, and community members); you must always be willing to hold others accountable, particularly yourself; and you can never stop educating yourself and striving for excellence.

What keeps you up at night and what gets you out of bed in the morning?

My sleepless nights are centered on difficult choices that directly affect our students and strain our teachers’ sustainability. Each morning that I awake, I am truly THANKFUL for the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of young people.

What are 2-3 essential skills that all leaders should possess?

Successful and effective leaders who make a positive difference for children possess integrity, courage, and effective communication skills.