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NEWS RELEASES 2002-03 :: MAY 1, 2003

Contact: Jamie Miyares


RALEIGH, N.C. - A Cumberland County principal has received the state's top honor in the 2003 Wachovia Principal of the Year competition.

Rene Corders, principal of E.E. Smith High School in Fayetteville, received the award today in Raleigh during an awards ceremony at the First Union Capital Center's Cardinal Club.

"Rene Corders leads by teaching," said Jack Clayton, Wachovia Raleigh Market President. "She has demonstrated a rare and exceptional ability to lead her school to new heights."

Corders was selected from among seven other regional finalists from across the state. Candidates were interviewed by a regional panel of educators, principals, teachers and professors from UNC-system institutions. On-site tours of schools were also conducted.

As the statewide winner, Corders receives $3,000 for personal use or professional development, and E.E. Smith High School receives $3,000 for equipment or materials.

E.E. Smith High School, an urban school located in a retirement community, currently has 1,251 students, many of whom reside in Fort Bragg. Corders is the first female principal in the history of the school.

Corders, who has more than 12 years of experience as a principal, designed and currently implements a "Friday Test" program that involves a year-long instructional calendar developed by teachers. The percentage of students achieving mastery through this program has increased from 36 to 50 percent in three years. In addition, the school has received "Exemplary" status from the state for the past three years.

Since her arrival, E.E. Smith High School has produced an Academic Governor's School Finalist, six N.C. Teaching Fellow finalists, three candidates for National Board Certification, two Developing Future Leaders Principal Program graduates and six Faculty/Staff grant recipients.

E.E. Smith High School boasts an innovative tutorial program in partnership with Fayetteville State University called "GEAR UP" (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs). The program has been successful in helping hundreds of ninth-grade students improve their performance in various subjects.

"My passion for being a principal is all-consuming," Corders said. "It has never been limited only to the school to which I currently am assigned. Over the years I have offered my energy, enthusiasm and ideas to virtually every system-wide initiative."

Now in its 21st year, the Principal of the Year program is sponsored by Wachovia and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and recognizes excellence among North Carolina's principals.

Wachovia Corporation (NYSE:WB), created through the September 1, 2001, merger of First Union and Wachovia, had assets of $348 billion and stockholders' equity of $32 billion at March 31, 2003. Wachovia is a leading provider of financial services to retail, brokerage and corporate customers throughout the East Coast and the nation. The company operates full-service banking offices under the First Union and Wachovia names in 11 East Coast states and Washington, D.C., and offers full-service brokerage with offices in 48 of the 50 states. Global services are provided through more than 30 international offices. Online banking and brokerage products and services are available through

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.