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Meadowcreek principal not slowed by long days

NORCROSS - At 3:30 a.m., Angela Pringle wakes up and starts her day. The wee hours of the morning are the only time she has to get things done around the house and look over her meeting schedule before she gets to work at 6:15.

It's no surprise the Meadowcreek High School principal needs three cups of coffees and three Mountain Dews to make it through her completely packed day. When she is lucky, she gets to bed by 11 p.m. - nearly 17 hours after she gets to school.

Her workday begins with bus and breakfast duty. Then she observes classes, teaches a 90-minute math class, meets with parents, visits several extracurricular activities, goes to professional planning meetings and answers more than 200 e-mails.

And even then, Pringle chooses to stay at school rather than resting at home. She heads over to cheer at whichever tennis, football or basketball game is scheduled that night.

Her faculty and staff members say she is one of the hardest working principals in Gwinnett, filled with energy and enthusiasm. Pringle herself remains modest.

"The nights run long, and the days start early, but if you love what you do, it'll give you so much energy," Pringle said. "I'm so passionate about supporting the parents and students of Meadowcreek that the time just zooms by."

Getting involved

When she moved to Georgia from her home state of Virginia, Pringle was suddenly part of a school system and a cluster that had significant language barriers and cultural differences. Having observed the different educational systems in China, Italy and Mexico, she knew she had to help immigrant students and parents adjust to the United States.

Pringle decided to create a welcome DVD in five languages for new international students. It included information about school rules, programs and expectations, answering many of the questions posed by new students and parents. Now almost all Gwinnett public high schools have similar DVDs.

She also has a permanent "open door" policy for parents. Whether or not they have an appointment, she fits them into her extremely busy schedule. Pringle said while immigrant parents want to be involved in their children's educations, they often don't know how.

Another way Pringle gets input is simply by interacting with as many parents as possible after school. Four nights a week, she stays late to attend as many PTSA meetings, ballgames, plays and concerts as possible.

"I find out more what's going on at Meadowcreek when I sit at those games, choral concerts and band concerts, about the perceptions of the school, than I do at any other time during the day," Pringle said.

'She never goes home.'

There is no shortage of praise for Pringle's drive, support for her staff and constant, genuine smile.

Athletic director Darlene Werhnyak said Pringle is the athletic department's No. 1 fan. She credits the principal with increasing the level of school spirit at Meadowcreek, making kids proud to wear letter jackets and other paraphernalia. In her 32 years in school athletics, Werhnyak said she has never worked under a better administrator.

"She is just an honest, hard-working lady who has no agenda," Werhnyak said. "The No. 1 question she always asks is: 'What can we do to make things better for the kids?'"

Boys basketball coach Billy Davis said Pringle is partially responsible for the team having a stellar season this past season. In addition to advancing to the state quarterfinals, the Mustangs were honored Tuesday with the Bob Eskew award from the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

Davis joked his team couldn't fail when he had three great women behind him: his wife, Werhnyak and Pringle.

"She's the best administrator I've ever served under. She is flexible, lets you do your job, supports you 100 percent. And she's here from sunup to sundown. It looks like she never goes home," Davis said.

As she walks through the hallways, Pringle greets all the students and staff members she passes. By giving them a friendly "Hello" she is emulating the style of her former college's president. She always admired how someone with so much power and respect always acknowledged his students, as if he knew them all.

"So I thought: I want to walk through the halls and say, 'Good morning, how are you?' to all of them, even if they're grumpy and grouchy and don't want to talk," Pringle said.

Pringle is always trying to improve herself and Meadowcreek. Every week, she reads a book about education or leadership. She continues to push herself, going to many meetings and events, talking to everyone she can in the Meadowcreek community.

And when she finally gets to sleep late at night, Pringle knows she has to be up in four hours, energized and ready to face another day at school.