Staying on course

Published 9:51 am Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Newly named Northeast Academy Headmaster Ralph Graham greets students upon his introduction last week at an event held at the Northampton County based private school. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Newly named Northeast Academy Headmaster Ralph Graham greets students upon his introduction last week at an event held at the Northampton County based private school. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

LASKER – He fits the mold.

Over the years, the Northeast Academy Board of Directors has leaned heavily towards veteran educational administrators to serve as Headmaster at this private, Christian school located in the heart of Northampton County. The Board did not stray from that tradition when selecting a new Headmaster to replace the retiring Russell Leake.

During a “meet-and-greet” held last week, Ralph Graham was formally introduced in front of a large group of NEA parents and teachers as the next leader of the school.

“We feel very confident that Mr. Graham will do a fine job for this school,” said Phillip Ricks, Chairman of the NEA Board of Directors. “He has some of the same feelings, the same beliefs about life that I do and I feel good about that. We’re excited about the vision he has for our school.”

Graham said he and his wife, who accompanied him to last week’s event, welcome this new journey in their lives.

“We’re excited about being here; we’re excited about what the Lord has in store for Northeast Academy,” he said in his opening remarks. “I’m a firm believer that yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift…that’s why it’s called the present. I feel we need to work with what we have today and look towards tomorrow. The best years of Northeast Academy are in front of us, not behind us.”

Graham said he was fully aware of the school’s proud traditions of yesteryear.

“We’re going to take what was done in the past and build on that foundation,” he stressed.

Graham is a 1968 graduate of Decatur (Georgia) High School. He went on to receive a degree in education from Augusta (Georgia) College in 1975, and received a Masters in school administration from the University of Alaska at Anchorage in 1993. He also spent four years in the U.S. Army.

In November of 1999, he accepted a teaching job with Northampton County Public Schools, retiring in 2012. Prior to coming to Northampton, Graham taught at a private Christian school in Anchorage, the largest of its type in the state of Alaska.

“The best education I ever received was teaching the fifth grade class there,” he admitted. “It prepared me on how to teach, how to transition from one subject to another. I didn’t know then that I would have to use that transition skill again in Northampton Public Schools, but I did. I was hired as a social studies teacher, but I was required to teach English as well.”

Graham also shared with his audience his deep faith in God, saying he was saved in August of 1980 at the age of 30. That belief in God served as the platform for Graham to answer a question from an NEA parent concerning what was his vision for the school.

“Here at Northeast Academy, there’s another word in your title….Christian,” he observed. “My vision is that this will be distinctly a Christian school. My vision is that there should not be a student that graduates from Northeast Academy that is not a born again Christian. We need to reach them for Christ. If we don’t reach them, then I’ll feel like I’ve failed. Accepting Christ is the most important decision a person will ever make. If we get our kids saved then they’ll have an abundant life.”

He challenged the NEA parents to think about where they would like to see the school five years down the road. His vision for that future is to have the school as a “lighthouse in North Carolina for the Lord Jesus, for centuries to come.”

Graham also promised the parents that Northeast Academy will teach students the value that hard work leads to success.

“There’s work to be done here, and we’re going to have fun doing that because fun comes from doing your job well and doing it correctly,” he noted. “I’m going to do all I can to teach your kids how to have a good work ethic.”

As a former collegiate baseball player, Graham also believes in how athletics has a major impact on the development of young students. He was on scholarship for two years as a member of the baseball program at Augusta College.

“Baseball is my passion, but I promise I will not coach baseball here; ya’ll already have good coaches in place in all sports,” he said. “I will support our coaches and our students that play sports. If they’re playing, I’ll be there.”

One parent asked Graham how he could better prepare the NEA students for the next step up the educational ladder….college.

“I need to take a look at the curriculum here and see what can be done to strengthen it and improve it,” Graham replied. “Don’t expect major changes this coming school year. I’m not the type that makes changes just for the sake of making changes. Let me further clarify that….I will not make any changes; we will make changes….the board, the faculty, the students, we will collaborate together and we’ll make changes.”

One area of education Graham did promise to immediately implement is to teach the students, “not just to fill in circles (on a test), but rather how to think on the fly and solve problems.”

“We may tweak some other things in my first year, but there will not be any wholesale changes,” he stressed.

Graham is already “on the job” at Northeast as he works with Leake on the transition between Headmasters.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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