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River Park Elementary Principal named OCS Principal of the Year!

HILLSBOROUGH--Each year, Wells Fargo sponsors a fierce competition to honor the best of the best among school administrators. We are pleased to announce that Tony Widder, of River Park Elementary School, is our OCS Principal of the Year and Wells Fargo P.O.Y. nominee for 2021-2022! 

He will go on to compete for the regional title. And we have great confidence that he will advance on to the state level, and represent Orange County Schools as the top administrator, not only here, but in the whole state of North Carolina. 

Mr. Widder has been principal of River Park Elementary School for four years. He said, “It is inspiring and motivating to be a school leader in a district that is committed to educational equity and excellence for ALL students.” Mr. Widder is welcoming and visible in his school; he goes the extra mile for his staff and his students.  He has a passion for education and a commitment to working in tandem with school staff and other leaders, to ensure the best possible educational experience for every child in his building. 

Mr. Widder has more than 15 total years of experience in education, having served as an eighth grade teacher of math and science, assistant principal at the elementary and middle grades, and principal at River Park Elementary School here in Hillsborough. Part of his career was spent as a middle school principal for an International Community School in Singapore. He holds a B.S. in Education from Kent State University in Ohio and a Masters of School Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also has expertise in curriculum writing, and he is currently working on a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. He spends much of his time outside the school building reading, writing, and learning for himself. 

Mr. Widder said, “It is an honor and privilege to be the Principal at River Park Elementary School and to be named the Orange County Schools Principal of the Year.  With such great leadership within our school district, it is humbling to receive this special recognition.  It has meant so much to me to have the support of our staff, community, and district colleagues.”

Mr. Widder loves his job! He said, “There are so many favorite aspects to being the River Park Principal.  One of the best parts of being a principal is building close, trusting relationships with our students and working closely together with our teachers and families to support, challenge, and grow our children. Being active in our classrooms and learning alongside our students is a joy and privilege.  We have amazing students and it is so rewarding to watch them work together to solve problems and build their knowledge, refine their skills, and develop a love of learning.”

OCS Superintendent Dr. Monique Felder had this to say, “I am so honored to bestow this honor upon someone so deserving, to Mr. Tony Widder. He has been described by many families and staff as an excellent leader; someone who cares about staff, students and the community; he’s calm and positive; someone who puts students first; … and someone who makes you feel welcome.”

Congratulations, Mr. Widder! Thank you for your leadership and service. And we wish you the best of luck as you advance to the regional competition! It is a joy and a privilege to have you on our administrative team!


More about Mr. Widder…

What is one surprising or little-known fact about yourself?

“Prior to coming to River Park Elementary, I was a middle school principal in Singapore for two years,” Mr. Widder said. “Living in another country was such a wonderful experience for our family and we were able to travel to 11 different countries.  We even had a chance to ride elephants in Thailand on the side of a mountain overlooking the ocean -- it was very exciting (and a little bit scary)!”

What is your favorite ice cream flavor (for fun)?

“I absolutely love ice cream, and it's really hard to say what my favorite kind of ice cream is. Fresh strawberry ice cream in the summertime is probably my current favorite!”

Mr. Widder and his family live in Hillsborough. He has a wife, Lydia, and two daughters. Eliana is a 7th grade student at Orange Middle and Eden is a 3rd grade student at River Park. They enjoy going on hikes, playing soccer, and traveling as a family.