Star Sampson shines at Eastway

By Kendra McNair-Worley
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

Walk into Star Sampson’s office and it’s almost certain that you’ll be greeted with an enormous amount of the energy and enthusiasm that she embodies for her work as principal at Eastway Elementary School in NECD.

Reading to students at Eastway Elementary is one way Principal Star Sampson shows her love for NECD’s youngest community members. Photo by Aaron Saunders.

Born in Salisbury, and raised by her mother and grandmother with deeply rooted Christian values, Sampson always knew she wanted to be an educator.

“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher from knee-high,” said Sampson. “I was the one playing with dolls and they were my students.”

Sampson also says that growing up she was surrounded by school teachers.

“Everyone in my neighborhood who seemed to be doing well in life were the teachers,” said Sampson. “They were the ones with the brick homes and the nice cars. They were my mentors.”

Sampson was the first in her family to go to college. After graduating from Salisbury High, Sampson attended North Carolina Central University.

An all-around achiever, Sampson was captain of the flag squad of the NCCU Sound Machine.  This remains one of her life long passions.

“I love marching band, that’s my thing- they bring life and energy and I guess that’s that creative side of me,” said Sampson.

Sampson became a teacher with the Durham Public schools in 1982 and has now been in the school system for 28 years.

“I never lost sight of where I came from, never will,” said Sampson. “I always try to give back, help and inspire.”

“She is the kind of person that everyone looks up to and she can relate to anyone.  She is a true leader,” said Lynnae Morris, Assistant Principal at Eastway.

Sampson said she never planned on being a principal “to me this was just something from God but I was always a leader.”

“I knew early on in our association that Star would make an excellent school principal,” said Dr. Stan Schainker, Clinical Associate Professor of Educational Leadership Coordinator, Off-Campus MSA Programs, UNC-CH School of Education.

A former principal where Sampson taught felt as though she should be a principal, but Sampson was content simply being a teacher.

Students can't help but get enthusiastic when they're around Star Sampson. (Staff photo by Aaron Sauunders)

She taught for a total of 12 years at Holt and Merrick-Moore Elementary Schools. After teaching third grade and later moving to fifth grade, she became the curriculum coordinator at Eastway Elementary for about 2 years.

The principal of Eastway at the time encouraged Sampson to go back to school to become a principal and so she did.

Sampson holds a master’s degree in school administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sampson then became the assistant principal at Eastway. Later she went on to become principal and has been so since 2004.

Sampson was named 2007-2008 principal of the year for Durham Public schools. During Sampson’s first year as principal, Eastway was deemed one of the Top 25 Most Improved Schools in North Carolina in the ABCs of Accountability report issued by the state Department of Public Instruction.

“Star’s greatest strengths are her caring for others, her passion, her dedication, and her persistence,” said Dr. Schainker.

So far the hardest part or most stressful part of being a principal are the “blocks that stop you from getting the support you need to really help children,”  said Sampson. “If I was in charge I’d have the help tomorrow- you come and you sit around the table hours, days, and nothings done, to me that’s wasting time,” said Sampson.

Sampson says Eastway is working on improving reading test scores, “we make growth but it’s just always not enough.”

“Our school improvement plan this year is specifically designed to help our teachers and our kids to get what they need so that we can make this astronomical growth.”

“She expects nothing less than the best from herself and anyone who works with her,” says Morris.

“The children can’t help what’s holding them back you know, family life is tough sometimes but I have parents who really work with me as well,” says Sampson.

Not that Sampson is ever completely off duty from her job as principal, but in her spare time “relaxing at home with a good movie and spending time with my husband and my children who are all away at college,” is ideal for Sampson.

One thing Sampson’s students and colleagues might not know about her is that she has a sensitive side. “I’ve worked on that over the years. I am a very sensitive person because of my compassion,” said Sampson. “I mean what I say, I usually do what I say and live what I say,” says Sampson.

“Before I retire, I want Eastway to be a school where people can say it’s being done because it’s supposed to be that way,” says Sampson.

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