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Ms. Khaalid named South Carolina's Principal of the Year

Oakdale STEAM Elementary School Principal Named South Carolina’s 2021 Elementary Principal of the Year


Oakdale STEAM Elementary School Principal Denise Khaalid has been selected as South Carolina’s 2021 Elementary Principal of the Year by South Carolina Association of School Administrators. In a surprise ceremony on December 10th, Superintendent Dr. Bill Cook announced the good news in front of a small, masked crowd gathered outside at Oakdale STEAM Elementary School.

“Ms. Khaalid is one of the most dedicated and involved leaders with her students that I have ever worked with or witnessed,” said Dr. Bill Cook, “She knows each one of them by name and can be seen in the hallways, classrooms, cafeteria and other areas of the building engaging with them on a variety of their needs. Ms. Khaalid is an amazing principal and embodies our school district motto of One Team on One Mission for One Rock Hill.”

Earlier this year, Khaalid was named the first-ever District Principal of the Year in Rock Hill. Along with the honor, Khaalid was submitted to the state level recognition program managed by the South Carolina Association of School Administrators.  Today was full circle, as she received the title of South Carolina’s Elementary Principal of the Year.  Khaalid is the 4th person since 1998 to win both Assistant Principal of the Year and the Principal of the Year honors.

With a limited gathering, it was special that Khaalid’s sister, LaChanda Canty, and niece, Laila Canty, along with her daughter, Dara Khaalid were able to share in the moment. “Growing up education was first,” Dara spoke about her mother, “She is definitely the reason I love writing and reading and education as a whole. Seeing her nurture other students and other teachers, it really has been a blessing. Watching her do what she loves everyday has been really inspirational for me.”

As South Carolina’s 2021 Elementary Principal of the Year, Khaalid will represent the state of South Carolina. “When I think about the enormity of it, it is definitely humbling,” she said, “I know the work principals do, we put in countless hours of work on a lot of things. We care about the staff, our kids, our families, so to be able to represent the other elementary principals of South Carolina during the year of Covid, and beyond, is definitely an honor. Knowing all that we had to do since March 2020 makes it even more special to me.”

For the past 7 years, Khaalid has served as Principal of Oakdale STEAM Elementary School, and she has worked in the Rock Hill school district since 1995. She is a strong believer in teamwork, “I love the students, I love the staff, and the families and I know they deserve the best possible education. But it is definitely a team effort. So I could never, ever take all the credit for everything. I am very glad to work here and to represent my district and my family.”

Khaalid’s commitment and deep-rooted connection to the community is supplemented by her caring spirit to the students, families, faculty, and staff. Walking down the hallways, Khaalid can be found interacting and giving high-fives (pre-Covid) to the students as they head to their classrooms. She wants each and every student to feel welcomed and valued… and that isn’t done behind a desk!  

“I need every child to be noticed,” Khaalid said, “For me, I want every one of my kids to be noticed, to be greeted. Standing at the door in the mornings, I can tell if someone is upset. We can work on that right then. If they are super excited, that makes me happy to experience that with them too.”

Those that know Khaalid can agree she is the biggest advocate for all children, often speaking up for the student’s best interests. “Every child brings something to the table,” Khaalid said, “For us to step back and really take the time to learn and understand our kids and what they bring to the table in terms of the things they can do, what are their needs and how we can collectively work together to meet those.”

Previously, Khaalid was named the South Carolina Assistant Principal of the Year by the South Carolina Association of School Administrators and the 2012 National Assistant Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Both honors were during her time as Assistant Principal at Rock Hill’s South Pointe High School.

Prior to moving into administration, Khaalid was an English/Language Arts teacher at Sullivan Middle School and Saluda Trail Middle School. She is a graduate of Winthrop University holding a B.A. degree in English and a Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Supervision. Currently, she is pursuing her doctorate in educational leadership from Gardner-Webb University.