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New Matthews Charter Academy Principal Named to Region’s 100 Most Powerful Women List for 2023

Certain leaders prefer to do their work in the background and let their staff shine. That’s who Matthews Charter Academy Principal Brittany Houston is. Not one for recognition or accolades, Houston is in her first year as principal and was recently named to the Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly’s 100 Most Powerful Women list.
 
“I don't really do well with recognition,” Houston said. “I'm a little thrown back on having to talk about how it feels and all that. I like to do things behind the scenes and stay in the shadows a little bit. When Christy decided to step away as principal, and thrust me into the limelight, it's just a little bit different for me.”
 
Matthew’s founding principal Christy Spurrier, who is now a board relations representative for National Heritage Academies, said that’s predictable from Houston, but also endearing, as she’s apt to put her staff and students before herself in the workplace.

Matthews Principal Brittany Houston poses for a photo with deans Lisa Mangum and Deon Childs.
Matthews Principal Brittany Houston, far right, poses for a photo with deans Lisa Mangum and Deon Childs.

 “She’s a relationship driven person,” Spurrier said. “She goes in and builds relationships with her teams, with families, with the kids; they all know or love her. She would start from day one when the little rising kinders would come in for screening and she was in there, rolling up her sleeves and being very hands-on, getting to know kids, getting to know the parents. If she's got something on her list, she wants to do it and check it off, but that never gets in the way of her building relationships.”
 
Houston noted the importance of the honor for the school, and how it’s likely related to the increase in female leadership in the area. Having strong female leadership at Matthews is also a nice tradition to uphold, along with the school outperforming the local district for the past five years.
 
“It's an honor to get our school’s name out there, that's really exciting because some people still don't know our school is here,” she said. “One of the things that I really focus on is building relationships with my staff members, scholars, and parents as well. Once you build that relationship, it makes everything else so much easier and more enjoyable. It makes having conversations with people easier, whether it's good or bad. That is one of the things that I pride myself on and hope to continue in this role where I have a much wider platform than I did as a dean.”
 
While Houston has big shoes to fill, the school is in good hands. Spurrier said Houston is the kind of person to dig in and find out everything there is to know about a task and do all she can to succeed.
Brittany Houston poses with teacher and student. Matthews Principal Brittany Houston, center.
 
“If you give her something new, she is going to go and figure out everything she needs to know about it,” Spurrier said. “When she was the K-2 dean, we said ‘why don't you also take on intervention?’ She was like, ‘I don't know anything about this,’ but she dug in and learned. And then we said, ‘why don't you take on the English language program?’”
 
After taking on Matthews’ English Language program, she oversaw the Special Education program as well, relinquishing leadership of the previous program each time she added a new challenge.
 
“She’s very detail oriented. She’s very into knowing everything she needs to about something, and I really feel that's the way she's going into the principal role as well. She really has done a phenomenal job.”
Matthews principal Brittany Houston. 
Houston’s start at Matthews was busy. The school opened in 2016 and she was one of the founding deans after starting her career as a teacher. She was also starting a family.
 
“My first year here was interesting because I was stepping into a new role, the school was not built yet and then I found out I was having my first baby. So, it was a whirlwind that first year and just learning from Christy was amazing. She has such a calm demeanor, which is nice to see because this job can really stress you out.”
 
One significant lesson that still stands out to her relates to the annual Glint survey, in which staff provides information about their leaders and the job they do. Spurrier was quick to teach Houston the difference between trends and the need to vent.
 
“When we got our first Glint survey, that was very stressful as a first-time leader,” Houston said. “I’m seeing all the things that teachers want to vent about and that was so hard that first year. Christy taught me to look for trends. If there are trends, then that's something to take notice of and adjust. If it’s not a trend and it's one person venting, that's just venting, and you have to move on because you really need some thick skin in this job.
 
“Just watching how she approaches things like that, she doesn't let things get to her and I have been able to adapt and do that over the years. That was great for her to model that for me because I feel like that is something that I am now better at and now have to teach my own deans, because they get emotionally attached too. It’s natural.”
 
Houston said she and Spurrier still talk, email, or text every day.
 
“I think it will probably be like that for a long time. We really developed a genuine friendship, we’re very close, and I’ve enjoyed that. So, it’s easy to go to her and that has always made me better at my job.”
 
Spurrier feels the same way and is excited to see the positive impact Houston continues to have on Matthews scholars and parents. As part of her new role, Spurrier is still connected to her former school as the board rep for Matthews.
 
“The parents who really know her were just so excited that she was going to be the new principal,” she said. “The staff said, ‘we want Houston.’ Anybody who knows her and has ever worked with her, they know she's got it.”
 
Congratulations on the honor, Brittany!

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About Matthews Charter Academy:
 
Matthews Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Matthews, North Carolina, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes over 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.

Visit Matthews Charter Academy's blog to read more stories like this.