PUMPKIN CENTER – A familiar face will take the reins at North Lincoln High School following the sudden suspension and subsequent retirement of former principal Mitch Sherrill.
Chip Cathey, a Huntersville native and long-time Lincoln County resident, is returning to Lincoln County Schools after spending the past 12 years in Catawba County, where he served as principal at River Bend Middle School since 2013 and Webb A. Murray Elementary School before that.
Cathey worked as a science teacher at East Lincoln High School from 1997-2001 during his first stint with Lincoln County Schools. He left the district to pursue a master’s degree in school administration, and then returned in 2003 as assistant principal at S. Ray Lowder Elementary School for a year before spending two years in the same role at Pumpkin Center Elementary.
“My heroes growing up were always my principals,” Cathey said of his desire to work in school administration. “Growing up in Huntersville, the principals were the pillars of our community. Great men like William H. Hough, who now has a high school named after him, and Banks Miller, who was my principal in elementary school and is actually my middle son’s namesake, were my role models growing up.”
While those men laid the groundwork for Cathey’s aspirations at a young age, it was former Rock Springs Elementary School Principal Jim Mundy, Cathey’s father-in-law, who left the most lasting impact on his career.
“My father-in-law would be so proud,” Cathey said. “He was my buddy and my mentor, and I hate that he’s not here to see this. He’s a huge part of who I am, and so I’d love to use my time at North to pay tribute to the many great things he did for this community. I certainly hope to live up to the standard that he’s set.”
Not only is Cathey familiar with Lincoln County Schools through his previous stints with the district, but he’s also particularly invested in the North Lincoln community.
“When we were looking for a place to settle, we fell in love with the North Lincoln area, and it reminded me a lot of Huntersville when that area was more rural while I was growing up,” he said.
While working in Catawba County, Cathey’s three sons were educated in Lincoln County Schools, with his oldest graduating from North Lincoln in 2018 and the other two now in the North Lincoln feeder district.
“My kids used to always ask if they could come to school with me in Catawba County,” Cathey remembered. “My answer was always, ‘No, you’re in one of the greatest school systems that exists, so you don’t get to come to school with your daddy.’”
Since it opened in 2003, North Lincoln High has always been Cathey’s primary career destination.
“I’m beyond excited to accept this position at North,” he said. “I’ve passed on numerous opportunities in Catawba County while holding out hope that the North Lincoln job would come open. Passing on those opportunities probably would have really come back to bite me, and would have been almost career suicide if I didn’t get this job at North, but it meant that much to me to be a part of this school.”
Cathey said his primary focus will be collaboration and making sure that everyone, including administrators, teachers, students and the community, are working toward the same goal.
“Synergy is so important, and I’ve seen it work in the organizations that I’ve been blessed to lead,” he said. “My definition of collaboration is everyone within the organization giving their personal best in their specific role to support the greater good, and my job is to make sure that everyone’s efforts are valued regardless of their position. If you can promote synergy, then the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.”
Cathey will officially assume his duties as principal July 23.