Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune


Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune

"Home of Expeditionary Forces in Readiness"

New school year starts with two new principals

By Ms. Heather Owens | | December 18, 2008

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While students around Camp Lejeune are busy selecting their new notebooks and pencils for back-to-school time, two educators are preparing for life at the helm of two different base schools.

Last month, Dewanda Starling Sholar was named principal of Brewster Middle School and Wyonia Butler Chevis was named principal of Lejeune High School. Both are long-time Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools educators.

Meet Dewanda Starling Sholar

Sholar has been a teacher and administrator at Camp Lejeune schools for 19 years. She started teaching at Lejeune High School, then taught at Brewster Middle School for eight years. Later she was assistant principal at Russell Elementary School. At the time she was selected as the principal of Brewster Middle School, she was an assistant principal there.

“Mrs. Sholar is well respected by the staff and community and is a true advocate for children,” said Elizabeth Thomas, North Carolina assistant superintendent in a DDESS press release. “She brings a positive energy and enthusiasm and will continue to stay the strong course that Brewster enjoys.”

Originally from Raleigh, N.C., Sholar earned her bachelor of science in health education, her masters of education in health education and her education specialist degree in education leadership focusing on administration, supervision and curriculum, all from East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. Sholar and her husband have two children.

Seeing children learn makes Sholar excited to be an educator. “A lot of times you really can see the light-bulbs turn on when students have the ‘ah-ha’ moments. When you work with children who are already achieving and see them achieve even more, it’s wonderful because you know that they’re growing and they’re continuing to learn. Then it’s also wonderful when you see children who have had a hard time learning and they’re being successful and they’re having the light-bulbs come on,” said Sholar in a recent interview.

Sholar enjoys working with middle school youngsters because of the special qualities they possess at this stage of their lives. “I like middle school children. Middle school children are truly in the middle. They’re definitely not elementary children. They’re definitely not high school students. They’re trying to learn to develop themselves. They’re funny. They’re awkward. They are still sponges in the educational environment. They will challenge you in that they still have that edge where they are inquisitive,” she said.

According to Sholar, living in a military community and having parents who deploy are just some of the situations that make the military child unique. Military children help each other through these life issues. She and her staff, as they are specially trained in the issues relevant to military children, do the same. “I think that children who are military dependents become even more independent ... or independent in a different way. They have a lot of coping techniques because they have to. With adults in their life to support them with that, that can be a positive thing. Another thing about being a military child; it allows them the opportunity to live in a lot of different cultures and see a lot of things and learn, not only in school, but learn in society about the different cultures and to make new friends,” said Sholar.

DDESS teachers are also uniquely equipped to support the military child, said Sholar. She cited a lot of DDESS teachers have been dependents of military parents, in the military themselves or married to a service member. “We focus specifically on the military child and supporting military families. What’s really important is to have the partnership, not just with the child, but with the parent and the community. And if we have those partnerships, it allows us to help make those children successful,” said Sholar.

As for the upcoming school year, Sholar has many goals and aspirations. She cites high student achievement as an important goal. Sholar said Brewster Middle school has an “awesome faculty” dedicated to students. According to Sholar, building strong relationships with students and parents tends to raise student achievement. Thus, she and her faculty will continue to build positive relationships with students and parents. Additionally, they will continue to help parents and students who have a family member who is deployed.

Sholar said students at Brewster Middle School can expect a quality education. “Children should expect to want to come to school. We have a positive learning environment at Brewster. I believe that our school is very inviting for students. It’s a safe school. We pride ourselves on the quality education that we provide to the students. Students and parents should also expect the support for education to increase their child’s achievement in school,” said Sholar.

Meet Wyonia Butler Chevis

Chevis is the 15th principal of LHS. After teaching for a year with the Escambia County schools in Florida, Chevis came to the Camp Lejeune area schools in 1977. She has taught at Stone Street Elementary, Russell Elementary and Brewster Middle schools. She also served as assistant principal at both Russell and Tarawa Terrace II Elementary schools and, most recently, at LHS.

“Lejeune High School is fortunate to have an administrator with the leadership skills and abitlies that Mrs. Chevis possess,” said Dr. Tom Hager, North Carolina district superintendent in a DDESS press release. “She has a wonderful passion for the teaching and learning process and a great love for the students and their families.”

Originally from Church Point, La., Chevis earned her bachelor of art degree in elementary education from Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. She earned her master’s degree in education administration and supervision from Our Lady of Holy Cross College, in New Orleans, La. Chevis and her husband, retired Marine Lt. Col. Leroy Chevis, have five children.

Chevis said she is excited when former students check in via e-mail, phone call or in person to share their accomplishments and show their gratitude. She enjoys being an educator for so many reasons. “What makes me excited about being an educator is that I am working with and surrounded by a group of educators day in and day out who live and breathe wanting to make a difference and wanting to see students successful.

Through a variety of strategies, techniques, research, collaboration, meetings and planning there is evidence that student has the opportunity to be challenged, become risk takers, be successful, but most of all be strong leaders in society,” said Chevis.

Military youth are unique because they face a great variety of experiences and learn to support one-another through them. “The military dependents living on base are consistently exposed to military life on a day-to-day basis. Most of the students adapt to moving from stateside to overseas giving them a wide range of experiences. Most military students know how to face hardship. It doesn’t take them long to adjust to new situations or to make friends. They learn to appreciate and respect what their sponsors do in the military. They are unique as they are willing to support their family and each other,” said Chevis.

Chevis said that she enjoys working with all age groups of children as they are all unique in their own way. Of high school students, she said, “The high school students’ aspirations and goals are more defined and as they challenge themselves to their new world after high school. You [as the educator] get to witness strong leadership roles at work right before your eyes.”

Increasing student achievement is Chevis’ main goals for the year. “One of my focuses is to create and sustain a unified, cohesive unit which will increase higher achievement levels and encourage empowerment and autonomy of the staff and students. LHS will continue the tradition of taking pride in the students, parents, community, staff and administrators. My hope is to encourage students that failure is not an option. As a community, we want students to excel to their highest potentials and enjoy their high school years,” said Chevis.

Coming to a new school can be a little daunting if the student doesn’t know what to expect. Chevis said that new students to LHS can expect a safe learning environment. “New students can expect a safe environment, to be treated fairly, and feel comfortable amongst their peer group because they share similar experiences and background. But most of all they can expect a positive atmosphere at LHS. There are no perfect students, no perfect parents, and no perfect educators but we will strive to make school life better and rewarding for all. I recently read an article titled, “Failure is not an Option” that reinforced my professional goals to help all students reach their highest potentials,” said Chevis.

Invoking the school mascot, the Devilpup, Chevis said that, “I would like to salute the principals, staff, students, parents, community, alumni and superintendents [of LHS] from 1944 to present for their efforts, dreams and strong determination. They created traditions in order for LHS families to be proud to be a Devilpup.”

During these last weeks of summer vacation while students busy themselves with leisure activities as well as preparing to go back to school, both Sholar and Chevis are preparing Brewster Middle School and Lejeune High School to welcome them back in the fall.