LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Robert Craig Washington

Position: Principal
School: Southside Middle School
School District: Florence School District 1
City, State: Florence, SC

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Robert Craig Washington was nominated by his spouse, Barbarette Washington,

As a spouse and father, Mr. Washington is a loving and patient man who always puts others before himself. He takes that same level of selflessness to work each day as he mentors and provides support to students, staff, and parents. He truly is a transformational leader who inspires students to reach their fullest potential. They can always depend on him for guidance or support. His tenacity, perseverance and the overall success of his students is shown through his thoughts, words, and actions on a daily basis.

Southside Middle School is one of three middle schools in Florence School District One. Southside Middle resides on the southern side of the city of Florence, and it's comprised of only seventh and eighth grade students. In the past 10 years, school enrollment has ranged from 843-930 students. Southside’s school attendance zone includes traditional neighborhoods, rural home sites, subsidized housing, apartments, and mobile home parks. The school has historically served special needs students throughout the district and the surrounding counties through a program called Project Share. Since the school hosts the program for special needs students, Southside has maintained a special education population that ranges from 20-24.8% of the total population.

Every day, Mr. Washington's skills as an educator are put to the test. Without fail, he doesn't falter. He lives by the slogan of “Monitor and Adjust," and his staff have adopted the same outlook on challenges. Through his hard work, vision, and passion for creating successful opportunities for students, the school has thrived under his leadership.

When he was selected to become principal of Southside Middle School, the first year was met with great challenges. The school’s state assessment results indicated that the school was a failing school. The school had earned a less than desirable reputation. It had held a “Below Average” Absolute rating and an “Unsatisfactory or At-Risk” improvement rating since the inception of the school report card concept.

As he began to work towards systematic change, Mr. Washington collaborated with key stakeholders to develop modifications to enhance the overall school curriculum. Parents and teachers agreed that communication needed to be improved. They wanted improvement in the environment to promote student safety. They felt these improvements would increase the reputation of the school.

One of the first steps they took toward improving communication was to establish teams. The newly established teams consisted of four teachers; rather than eight per team. The four-member teams were designated a common planning period that allowed them to collectively meet students and parents. Teachers were able to collaborate regarding student academic progress collectively and individually. The school began hosting a parent workshop called Southside Social as a way for the staff to engage family.

Southside Socials are an opportunity for the school to engage parents and students in family-centered themes. The activities range from family game nights, art based, STEAM night, and poetry night. Mr. Washington is passionate about the socials, which are sponsored by the Exceptional Education Department. He believes that parents must be an active part of the educational process. To maintain and foster a positive partnership with parents and the community, his school is responsible for making them feel comfortable and welcome

Almost 5% of the student population was older than average for the grade in which they were currently enrolled, and it has historically been a problem for the school. Although Southside Middle was a seventh and eighth-grade school, many students were repeating grades and spending four or more years at the school. School administration was being forced to consider age appropriate placements. Mr. Washington disagreed with this concept because he felt it did not offer the students the greatest opportunity for success. He created the “Summer Bridge” program for students who are over age for their current grade. The program is now a part of the district initiative to support at-risk students across all middle schools.

Under his leadership, Southside Middle School has transformed. Although the school’s facilities are over 50 years old, the school’s staff is progressive in their instructional approach. The school is an ABC School (Arts in Basic Curriculum), Distinguished Arts School, and currently hosts an arts academy with future aspirations of becoming an arts magnet school for the district. The school has earned the Palmetto Gold and Silver Award for their academic gains. Most recently, the school achieved the status of becoming AdvancEd STEM certified. 

Southside Middle has a reputation for being a quality public school where all children can be successful. The school has received numerous awards, accolades, and acknowledgments. Southside was the first middle school to become a Healthy Schools Award Winner in the state of South Carolina. The school is also a National Healthy Schools Bronze Winner. Both of these awards were received in recognition of the school’s commitment to the health and wellness of its students, staff, and teachers. They are committed to health and wellness through food choices in the cafeteria, the school garden, and exercise opportunities for teachers, staff, and students. They believe in educating the total child. Their wellness initiatives reach students physically, so they can work mentally at their optimal level in the classroom.

"I am so proud of the family-friendly and supportive spirit of Southside," Barbarette said. "I have faith and confidence in the staff and students at Southside. My husband’s leadership made this possible. He has often said that he trusts the school staff so much that he would allow them to teach our children, and he did. Both of our daughters were students there. They have special needs and receive special education services. I feel the environment at Southside provided them with the best opportunity for success and growth by preparing them to face today’s challenges with character."

Southside has a Food and Clothing Bank that provides meals and clothing to students, their families, and even staff members who are in need of assistance. They collect funds to support individuals and families without essential living necessities such as electricity, water, or even a place to stay. They support staff members when they, or a member of their family, is hospitalized, by providing meals for the family or child care.

"Craig inspires and encourages others around him to think outside the box, envision the possibilities, strive for excellence, and to reach their fullest potential," Barbarette said. "He strives to positively touch the lives of students, teachers, staff, and parents each day through his actions and words. I am honored to nominate my husband for the 2017 National Life Group LifeChanger of the Year Award. I could not think of anyone else more deserving of this honor."

Comments (69)

Susan Knight Posted over a year ago

I am a proud parent of a Southside Middel School student. Mr. Washington is an outstanding man and well deserving of this nomination. I consider it a blessing to have such great leadership at my child's school.

Kathryn Pickett Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington is a an eaxample of an educator who truly focuses on the whole student. He mentors our students every single day. He makes his employees better because he leads by example. Every single student is treated fairly. He LISTENS which is so necessary when dealing with middle school youth. Our students as at a critical point in their lives as they learn who and what they are now and want to be in the future. Mr. Washington is key in guiding these young men and ladies into being the best they can be without negativity. He is always focused on our students. However, he is just as invested in his staff and teaching us all how to be better educators. I am grateful that he is not only my leader but the school’s leader and a community leader as well.

Pamela Owens-Beaty Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington is so deserving of this award! Keep blazing trails!!!

Sridhar Koneru Posted over a year ago

Mr.Washington is really a life changer. The way he deals with students, parents and community is really awesome. He encourages the staff in all aspects and always try to bring out the best from them. His mentoring skills are really great and the way he is mentoring me in our school is great. He creates a positive atmosphere in the campus.

Caroline T. Posted over a year ago

i really hope you get chosen! I am so happy to have you as a principle! You inspire us everyday to go for our best and be ourselfs!

Gretchen Posted over a year ago

Congrations Mr.Washington!!!

Chrystal Johnson Posted over a year ago

As a parent I am very grateful and blessed that my child attends a school where the principal is engaged in the community and inspires and leads his staff and children. Well Deserved nomination!

Janna Palliser Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington is a great leader of our school! I appreciate his vision, and his inspiring leadership at Southside.

Jessica James Posted over a year ago

An effective administrator is someone who sees your ability to delivery quality education at the highest levels possible. Throughout my teaching career, Mr. Washington has given me the tools and opportunities to serve my students with pride and advanced knowledge. He encourages innovation not just by word of mouth, but through extensive professional development and support. No other principal is more innovative than Mr. Washington and I am honored to work for him.

Martina Love Posted over a year ago

I support Mr. Washington's nomination for this award as a Life Changer in the local community. My step son attends Southside Middle School. We have appreciated Mr. Washington's role as the principal of this school and have always found him to be open, receptive, and a good communicator to parents. I believe he is certainly deserving of this honor.

Matthew Peake Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington has advocated for me since the beginning of my teaching career. In fact, he was instrumental in making things happen to help me become a teacher. He has continued to be a positive force for the past 6 years both for me and my students. I appreciate all that he has done and continues to do!

Tarra Lowery Posted over a year ago

Mr. Craig Washington is an innovative leader and is well deserving of this award. Proud to apart of his staff.

Troy Byrd Posted over a year ago

I've had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Washington a couple of times this year as my son is a new transfer to his school. Both times I've been extremely impressed with his welcoming personality and personal attention to our request. Just in those short meetings I was not surprised at all when I heard of his state level award and I full heartedly support his nomination for this national recognition. It would be great for our kids and society if all school administrators had his posture and affect at running our schools.

Schanell Montgomery Posted over a year ago

I have had the pleasure and opportunity to have Mr. Craig Washington as my principal for the past ten years. To effectively describe him, I would use words as motivator, disciplined, goal-oriented, compassionate, passionate, and innovator. Mr. Washington strives on a daily basis to create an environment that is conducive to learning and an environment that has productive changes occurring that promotes measurable success for all students. He truly believes in giving all students an opportunity to learn. Mr. Washington promotes an environment for team work, collaboration, and pleasantness among staff members. With these traits and drive to see better among all he comes in contact with, Southside Middle School has been elevated to greatness. Mr. Craig Washington has made a commitment to his students, his staff, his parents, and to his community to promote excellence at its finest.

Crystal Flowers Posted over a year ago

I have found Mr. Washington to be honest and sincere. I believe he wants to advance children no matter who they are, where they come from or where they are going. My son is an 8th grader and I see a difference in his last 2 years compared to my oldest son who attended Southside several years ago. Good Job Mr. Washington!

Kim Poston Posted over a year ago

Mr. Craig Washington is an innovative, supportive, passionate leader! He exemplifies educators who are life changers!

G. Eaddy Posted over a year ago

We’re always proud of Mr. Washington and his team at Southside. He makes a difference in our community daily! Congratulations on your nomination!

Ben Johnson Posted over a year ago

I am grateful for Mr. Washington's consistent support and leadership. Beginning a second career as a teacher has been challenging, but working with a leader who is constantly encouraging and supportive, encourages his staff to try new ideas, and always has an open ear when I have questions or concerns has made it easier. I could not ask for a better building to work in, and the credit for that starts at the top. Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition!

Mrs. TABITHA Posted over a year ago

CONGRATULATIONS Mr. Washington .You are a great inspiration to all of us . I feel great working under this great person who is an inspiration to so many of us.

Jacqueline Trieu Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington is well deserving. Met him only a few times but leaves a lasting impression.

Shasta Partee (Naeem and Nae'Mya Mom) Posted over a year ago

My children attend South Side Middle School, and I believe that a great school has to have great leadership. Mr. Washington is a profound leader. He takes pride in building relationships with students, staff, and parents. He uses wisdom to execute his plan of action whether discipline or praise. He's passionate about the success of each and every student..I know that he has changed the life of my children. I have been there for some of the encouraging words, and wisdom that he has shared. He has even inspired me as a parent. As the quote says "If you change the life of one child you can change the world." Craig Washington deserves the Life Changer Award because he is changing the world one child at a time.

Dexter and Kerterial Fulmore Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington is a great leader, and is truly deserving of this award.

Holly Rabon Posted over a year ago

I have nothing but respect and a heart full of admiration and pride for this man. His dedication and love for all of our kids and his zero tolerance of bullying shows his understanding and compassion for this younger generation and you can always trust that he will handle things appropriately and fair. He is the ultimate role model and such an inspiration to us all.

Constance Robbins Posted over a year ago

Way to go nothing better than having a good roll model in these day we are experiencing so thanks for changing lives in our society

Anna Caroline Stone Posted over a year ago

Can't think of anyone better for this award!

Selena Johnson Posted over a year ago

I hope you get chosen! My and all of my friends will be rooting for you!

Matthew L. Floyd Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington is very a very inspiring person and has helped me through my year and still is. He well-deserves this award.

Robin H. Horne Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington is a true inspiration! He leads with caring and compassion, while providing well-defined expectations. I am proud to be a member of his staff and a thrilled for this opportunity for him. Mr. Washington is truly deserving!

Mary V. Hendrix Posted over a year ago

The national LifeChanger of the Year program recognizes and rewards excellence and leadership. Excellence and leadership inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more. Mr. Washington is a Life Changer for the students, faculty, staff, parents and guardians of Southside Middle School. Moreover, Mr. Washington is a Life Changer for our community.

Ann Purvis Posted over a year ago

Craig Washington is a very dedicated Educator. His upmost concern is for the students and staff. His commitment to the field of Education has brought him to the forefront of our district and earned recognition that is well deserved. He is definitely a Life Changer in his field and deserves this recognition.

Fannie Mcfadden Mcallister Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington has shown outstanding excellence at South Side Middle School. Job well done. Continue on this journey of excellence.

LaFaith Miller Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington is well-deserving of this award!!

Chimere McRae Posted over a year ago

Well deserved!

Pat Gibson-Hye Moore Posted over a year ago

I can't think of anyone who deserve this honor more than Mr. Craig Washingon.

Kira Ocampo Posted over a year ago

Craig is a person that goes above and beyond the title of principal. He is a tranformational leader, who cares for all his staff and encourages them to be their best. He is personable with all his students and is a mentor for the youth. A parent knows that when they send their child to Southside, Mr. Washington will ensure their child is well educated in academics and demonstrates positive character. #LCOY

Matrell Sturkey Posted over a year ago

Innovative leader!

Krista Poston Posted over a year ago

Craig is a very distinguished gentlemen who always puts others first. He has dedicated his life to the children of South Carolina. He is so deserving of this award.

Lula Davis Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington is an awesome role model for young people!! He works hard and has done awesome things at Southside Middle!!

Debbie Hyler Posted over a year ago

Craig Washington is the epitome of a great leader. His work as principal of Southside Middle School has been profound. He is caring, loving and most importantly a visionary leader. I highly recommend him for this honor to be named a life changer. His students know that he changes their lives.

Gloria Turner Posted over a year ago

I support Mr. Washington for this honor. He is truly a transformational leader. He wants all children to succeed and challenges teachers to be creative in ensuring this success.

Malean Blow Posted over a year ago

You deserve it..Job well done..God bless you..

Wendy McClain Posted over a year ago

Congratulations on your nomination and it’s well deserving.

Melvin Capers Posted over a year ago

Mr. Craig Washington is well deserving of this honor. He is a hard worker, a trailblazer, a lover of people, especially young people. A man with so many distinguish qualities and he shares those qualities with his family, his school, his church and his community. As I stated, he is deserving of this honor and we pray that he will continue to be blessed throughout his life.

Adrienne Allen Posted over a year ago

It is an honor to serve under Mr Washingtons leadership for the past 5years. He is one of the most compassionate leaders I’ve ever worked with. He is very deserving of this award.

Naomi Hanna Posted over a year ago

Craig is committed to helping others reach their potential.

Ken Anderson Posted over a year ago

Mr Craig Washington is a man of integrity and honor.

Marlena Hanna-Lownsberry Posted over a year ago

Craig Washington is such a wonderful example for many. He sees every student in his school as an individual and goes above and beyond to understand, encourage, support and help each one. This is the same for each parent he encounters. He represents what we need to see in all of us and what we teach those around us. Craig embraces challenges and strives to make each one an opportunity.

Marlene S Williams Posted over a year ago

I worked with Mr. Washington in his current district. He allowed Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Epsilon Chi Omega Chapter to provide a STEM activity at Southside. Providing positive educational experiences for the students has always been a focus! Great and suitable nominee for this recognition!

Robin T. Young Posted over a year ago

It is an honor working for Craig Washington! Proud to call him Boss!

Dr. Johnelle Sherald Posted over a year ago

Craig Washington is a change agent and a servant leader who puts students first. He is very deserving of this honor. His leadership accomplishments speaks for who he is. I am proud to endorse him for the life changer of the year award.

Dena S. Posted over a year ago

Craig is selfless. He looks beyond himself in helping others. I appreciate being under his tutelage. His guidance has helped me tremendously.

Pamela Owens-Beaty Posted over a year ago

Mr. Craig Washington goes above and beyond to serve his school, church, and community. As an educator and fraternity member, he has touched and continues to touch numerous lives on a daily basis. If you look up the term "trailblazer" in the dictionary, you would find the name Craig Washington.

Janey Christabel Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington is highly capable to receive it. He deserves it .

Kelsey mcginty Posted over a year ago

Best boss! Very deserving!

K. Matthews-Robinson Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington utilizes his leadership as an opportunity to inspire and advocate for his students and teachers. He ensures that both students and teachers have the necessary tools for success by igniting passions that can aid in the advancement of education. Additionally, he is sure to provide consistent encouragement and current resources to guarantee success. Mr. Washington does this with compassion for others and a with a humble heart. Very deserving of this award!

Barbara Black Posted over a year ago

Since I have known Mr. Washington, he has always put other first. He truly have a servant's heart. To know him, is to love him. There is no one more deserving of the Lifechanger of The Year Award Honor.

Dawn Gray Posted over a year ago

I have worked as one of Mr Washington’s teachers since he arrived at our school. He has a true heart to do what is best for children and wants to ensure that he provides the best learning environment for students. He is willing to try innovative things and take risks in the name of achievement and progress. As a teacher he respects my professional decisions and allows me the freedom to try new things and take chances. I believe our school offers students every opportunity to succeed and achieve a future of their choosing.

TANYSHA WILSON Posted over a year ago

Robert Craig Washington truly is deserving of such an award. He cares for each of his students as if their his own. He goes beyond the title of Principal. He has changed the life of both of my teenage sons while attending his school. It is with great honor I recommend him for this prestigious award.

Deborah Posted over a year ago

Well deserving for a caring, well loved individual. He walks solfly but carries a big stick. All ways seeking to improve himself while helping others. Best wishes and congratulations being nominated.

Melissa Waites Posted over a year ago

Craig is well respected by his students, faculty, and staff at Southside Middle School. He has brought soo much positive change throughout the school and continues to do so!! He will represent this award well.

Frizeal Mcknight Posted over a year ago

Good luck keep up the good work !

Tiffany LB Douglas Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington is an Awesome leader. He also does his best to encourage others to do better. He finds the leader in any and everyone. He continuously shows that he care for his students as well as all the members of his staff. His personality is great and he doesn’t mind keeping it real. He definitely deserves this award!

Tyrone Wright Posted over a year ago

Congratulation Mr. Washington. Can't think of no one more deserving....As long as I knew you, you have help people become better....Thanks

Kierra Carter Posted over a year ago

Craig Washington is beyond deserving !!!

Jannette Posted over a year ago

Mr Washington has been and continues to be an inspiration to my family. He encouraged both of our child to study hard and aim high while they attended Southside School. Thanks to Mr. Washington our daughter, Jessica Green is now teaching in Columbia SC, while working on her EDS. Our son, Derrick Green graduated this past spring with his Engineering Degree and just completed his first semester towards his Master Degree in Transportion. Mr. Washington continues to encourage and support Jessica and Derrick. My family and I feel that Mr. Washington well deserves the 2017 National Life Group LifeChanger of the year Award.

Jannette Posted over a year ago

Mr Washington has been and continues to be an inspiration to my family. He encouraged both of our child to study hard and aim high while they attended Southside School. Thanks to Mr. Washington our daughter, Jessica Green is now teaching in Columbia SC, while working on her EDS. Our son, Derrick Green graduated this past spring with his Engineering Degree and just completed his first semester towards his Master Degree in Transportion. Mr. Washington continues to encourage and support Jessica and Derrick. My family and I feel that Mr. Washington well deserves the 2017 National Life Group LifeChanger of the year Award.

SHaronda Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington is a great man of integrity and passion for educating and encouraging the youth! I have had the honor of knowing him fifteen plus years and from my meeting him he has poured support and success into my future! I can truly say his mentorship has pushed me to double major in undergrad and pursue my masters. I am truly proud to say I have earn three degrees and he stills pushes my greatness from his lifestyle and example. He is a man that loves people and is an example of joy! This award would be a great acknowledgement of who he is and his attributes surpass any parameters for him to be a recipient!

Marcellina Fugate-Guinyard Posted over a year ago

Mr. Washington continuously displays true dedication and commitment to his family, students and staff at Southside Middle School, and his community. He consistently has a positive impact on the lives of others he comes in contact with. Mr. Craig Washington is absolutely deserving of this honor.

Barbarette Washington Posted over a year ago

Here is an article about Craig's work with his students at Southside Middle School. We all here in Florence are so very proud of you. Southside principal named Florence District One Principal of the Year