Member Spotlight: Nicole Carter

Chelsey Martinez's picture

We want to share good news about education! MASSP is turning the spotlight on members who are making an impact in their school, district and community. Spotlighted members exemplify the mission of the MASSP: To advance learning through educational leadership.

Nicole Carter, Principal, Novi High School

How long have you worked in education?
19 years

How long have you been an administrator?
4 years

Give us a few personal details.
I thoroughly enjoy exercising, reading and organizing. I've been blessed with two amazing children, Avery and Nicksyn and my biggest cheerleader is my husband Nigea. I come from a family of educators. My grandfather was a principal for 40 years, my parents, Gene and Shirley Nuckolls dedicated a combined 77 years to public education. They blazed the leadership trail for me to follow and I will be forever grateful!

What do you find most challenging about your job?
The most challenging aspect is allocation of time. It is critical to identify your "first things" and to put those first in your daily practices. I cannot physically be all things to all people; even though I strive to do that!

What is most rewarding about your job?
The ability to serve the students, staff, parents/guardians and Novi Community. Every day that I have breathe, I am eager and excited for my commute to 24062 Taft Road where I am confident that I can make a difference due to the people I am able to lead/learn beside.

Tell us about a program/initiative at your school that you are proud of.
I am extremely proud of our MTSS program that was started last school year to support our bottom 30% of students. With the unwavering support of our Assistant Superintendent of Academics, Dr. RJ Webber and the vision of 2 remarkable teachers, Hattie Maguire and Michael Ziegler we were allowed to be innovative in our approach. We have a 5 member support team consisting of 2 ELA teachers, 2 Math teachers and 1 Support Coach. The 4 teachers teach part-time and coach the other portion of the school day. They help students and share instructional strategies with our staff that help them to reach all learners. The differentiation that I have observed is uncanny. The universal designs for learning helps to level the playing field and all students benefit. This team's intentional approach has helped students to experience success academically, behaviorally, socially and emotionally. This year I am launching a Mental Health Committee comprised of teachers, support staff, parents and students. We are working with the University of Michigan School of Social Work as a resource to provide professional learning to our staff around what is mental health, what are the signs and symptoms we need to be cognizant of, the challenges our students face and what we can do proactively as a learning community to promote awareness and acceptance. We plan to incorporate mindfulness practices, yoga and art therapy session after school to support developing the whole child.

What advice would you have for those who are new to the Principalship?
During your first year, I would encourage you to "take a view from the balcony" as Heifetz ad Linsky describe in their book "Leadership on the Line; Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading. Take time to concentrate on building strong relationships with your entire staff ( custodians, bus drivers, secretaries, counselors, social workers, teachers, auditorium manager, media specialists, etc.) Meet with your staff regularly with a clear purpose. Express appreciation and gratitude regularly with a handwritten note or stop by an office or classroom. For example, this year I have incorporated "high five Friday's" where I have recruited my assistant principals to join me in walking around the building during passing time with the goal of giving a high five to as many staff members as possible (Affirm your people!). Leadership is about developing a great team! This simple gesture is enhancing our positive school culture and helps to enhance staff morale. Be open and receptive to candid feedback. Don't sweat the small stuff. During your first year you are bound to make a mistake from time the time. The key is to exercise humility, own the mistake, learn from it and move forward. Prioritize time on a monthly basis to invite parents/guardians into your school. These meetings build your leadership capacity and are beneficial in keeping them abreast of what is going on in your school. You don't have to have all the answers in this setting. It is important that you listen and acknowledge them. Be visible and have a relentless follow through by doing what you say. Hold people accountable through clear, modeled expectations. Be sure to reiterate your vision as frequently as possible so it becomes a part of the common language and culture at your school. Identify your guiding principle and lead with it in mind. Build a cohesive team that is respectful, trusting, open and honest. Be a student-centered leader who ignites, empowers and fosters teacher leadership. Be optimistic, persistent, collaborative and loyal to your organization. You have been entrusted with the awesome responsibility of leading a school. Students and staff need you to be their champion. It is important that you take time for yourself during that first year to reflect on your learning. I kept a weekly journal that I still reference to this day. Try to build the stamina necessary to lead by exercising regularly, meditating and eating as well as possible with such a hectic schedule. Implement the 5 p's in your leadership: Prioritize, plan, prepare, practice and perform (execute) Never lose sight that you earned this position for a reason and that you can do it. Lean In and Lead like a Champion!

What is something you are working on or hoping to implement in the near future?
Another committee this year is a purposeful homework committee. We want to ensure that homework that is assigned is meaningful and purposeful. We want our students live a balanced life which means they should not be up until the wee hours of the morning doing homework when they should be getting adequate rest. We also want to promote healthy family relationships which means honoring family dinner time and various activities such as going shopping or to the movies from time to time.

Tell us about a training or book you've read recently that you found to be beneficial.
The best professional learning opportunity of my educational career transpired when I attend the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Enhancing Teacher Effectiveness in High Schools training. It was a week-long training that was cognitively challenging and extremely beneficial to my leadership development. My favorite book on leadership is "Leadership on the Line Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading" by Heifetz and Linsky. Two books that I read over the summer that have been very insightful are untangled- Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood by Lisa Damour, Ph.D and The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros. Lastly, I find great value in participating in Advanced school and district reviews. I would highly recommend those to a new principal!

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Questions? Please contact Chelsey Martinez at