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Principal honored as NC School Hero

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OXFORD Michael Allen, the principal of Joe Toler-Oak Hill Elementary, was awarded $10,000 by the N.C. Education Lottery for his unselfishness and his love for his students and school as a N.C. School Hero on May 31.

The North Carolina Education Lottery created the N.C. School Heroes program to showcase the positive impacts teachers, principals, and other school workers have in public schools every day. From 6,000 nominations, 10 heroes were chosen with each receiving a $10,000 award and $10,000 for their school.

“There are thousands of heroes like Michael Allen doing amazing work in our public schools,” said Mark Michalko, executive director of the N.C. Education Lottery. “Teachers, cafeteria workers, custodians, school resource officers, all make a big difference for our students every day. We’re glad our School Heroes program shines a spotlight on their great work.”

Early on school mornings, Allen can be found greeting students as they arrive every day either in the drop-off area or by bus. High fives, fist bumps or the occasional hug starts the morning right for many of the students.

“It has taken some time for some of the students to talk with me,” Allen admits. “I am talking with their siblings, the older and younger children, even the babies in the car seats, so they all know who I am. It makes it easier when they come to school.”

Antoinette Comer, a member of Allen’s staff, said he was just an all-around good guy. Comer said Allen doesn’t mind pulling up his sleeves and doing whatever needs to be done, including helping out in the kitchen if they are short-staffed.

“This award is long overdue for him,” Comer said. “He has been in the system over 20 years and there is nothing he will not do. We could not ask for a better principal at Joe Toler-Oak Hill.”

Shirley Daniels, a substitute teacher, added, “He is a wonderful person and I love to substitute here at Joe Toler.”

Money raised by the lottery assists many School Heroes, like Allen, including $386 million this year that supports the work of school support staff such as office assistants and custodians. Additional money will help build and repair schools, support the N.C. Pre-K program for “at-risk” 4-year-olds, provide college scholarships and grants based on financial need, and help meet school transportation needs.

“Mr. Allen is an outstanding N.C. School Hero,” said Trina Vaughan, a parent at the school who nominated Allen for the award. “He is an unselfish, compassionate individual who cares very deeply about the youth in our community.”

Vaughan went on to say that Allen is a compassionate individual who cares deeply for the welfare of each student.

“He has gone to great lengths to help our children feel nurtured, special and safe. My daughter thinks of him as a big teddy bear.”

During his youth, Allen attended Joe Toler for a couple of years and his mother and aunt attended and graduated from the school. His uncle helped build the gym.

“This is a community school and you can tell that when so many community members came in for the presentation,” Allen said.

During the May 31 ceremony, Allen humbly accepted the check amid wild applause from students and staff and said, “We have to make school the best for the kids. We have our education and we have to make it fun for the kids. We have to start from here at the young age. Joe Toler is a small community school, it is home to these students and you are not going to get this anywhere else.”