OUR MANAGING DIRECTOR
Leslie Paynter is the founding Managing Director of Alamance Community School. She has over eleven years experience as a school administrator and previous experience in starting and opening charter schools. Leslie has a BA in Elementary Education (K-6), an M.Ed. in Special Education (K-12) from UNC-Charlotte and an Education Administration and Supervision add-on license from North Carolina Central University. In her thirty years as an educator, she has been a regular classroom teacher, a special education teacher, an EC facilitator, a founding board member of a charter school, and a school administrator.
Fifteen years ago, Leslie was introduced to Responsive Classroom and read the book, Teaching Children to Care by Ruth Sidney Charney. As a special educator and a behaviorist, this was life changing for her, not only as an educator, but also as a parent. Therefore, her philosophy of behavior management and education significantly shifted to a more constructivist approach. She began to focus on student questions and interests, teaching students to care for themselves, each other, and their environment, building on their prior knowledge, and having students work collaboratively. In the world of high stakes testing, as an administrator and an educator, Leslie believes that our students' social-emotional health is just as important as their academic health. She knows that student achievement increases when her students feel safe and valued.
In the spring of 2021, ten finalists were selected for the Charter One North Carolina Charter Schools Principal of the Year. Out of the 201 North Carolina Charter School leaders across the state, Managing Director/Principal Leslie Hall Paynter was one of the ten finalists. Leslie considered this a great honor and was humbled to be selected.
This year, Leslie and her husband celebrated their 30th anniversary! They have two sons that are ECU Pirates. Her eldest son, Sam, graduated from East Carolina University in 2018 and is a local realtor with Berkshire Hathaway in Durham. Her youngest son, John, graduated from ECU in May with a degree in Finance and is getting his MBA. Leslie is also a former voice major and loves all kinds of music from bluegrass to opera. She is thankful that both of her boys sing well, since singing off key is one of her “pet peeves”.
Leslie is thrilled to be the Managing Director of Alamance Community School and knows that we are truly creating and building something wonderful that will have a long-lasting positive impact for our students and our community. One of her favorite quotes is by Sir Winston Churchill. He said, “Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb."
OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Elena Schoonmaker-Gates, Board Chair
Elena is originally from Seattle, Washington, but has lived in Indiana, Canada, and Spain. A decade ago, she and her husband settled in Burlington, North Carolina, and they now have two children, Diego and Isabel, who currently attend Alamance Community School. Elena always knew she wanted to teach and holds a PhD from Indiana University (IU-B) in Hispanic Linguistics with a concentration in Second Language Acquisition. She is an Associate Professor of Spanish at Elon University, where she has taught all levels of Spanish since 2012. In her professional life, Elena is passionate about teaching, pedagogy, Spanish, and her students! At Elon she has held multiple administrative roles too, including Adjunct Liaison, Spanish Major Coordinator, and currently Associate Chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures. She has been teaching in higher education for 18 years, but her journey began much earlier, when she taught piano at the age of 17 and volunteered as a literacy coach for elementary-aged students in college.
Elena met her husband, Juanma, while spending her junior year of high school abroad in Spain, a transformative experience that led her to want to help all students achieve high levels of proficiency in a second language and to examine their own cultural norms and biases by learning about and experiencing other cultures. Juanma is a native Spanish speaker who has worked as a translator/interpreter/jack-of-all-trades at Audrey Garrett Elementary in Mebane since 2014. Elena, Juanma, Diego, and Isabel enjoy spending time together hiking, reading, walking their dog Toby, playing soccer, cooking, watching movies, playing board games, building with Legos, and making art!
As a parent, Elena is passionate about her kids and their learning, growth, and well-being! She is excited to be a member of the ACS Board because she believes firmly in the power of elementary and middle school education to have a positive and lasting effect on students’ lives, and believes everyone should have access to transformational educational experiences from an early age.
Clay Smith, Vice Chair
A lifelong resident of Alamance County, Clay brings a decade of experience in teacher education and educator preparation to the Alamance Community School Board. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in History Education from East Carolina University where he served as the Special Populations Coordinator. In this role, Clay directed residency-licensed teachers in their pursuit of state certification. He also earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. There, Clay's research explored the experience of military veterans as postsecondary students, namely their beliefs about belonging and the role of the academic degree program. He currently serves as the Assistant Director of Educator Preparation and Laboratory Schools within the Division of Strategy and Policy at the University of North Carolina System Office. In this role, he provides program and policy guidance to deans and leadership teams at the state's 15 public colleges of education within the UNC System. Additionally, he provides operational leadership to and oversight of the state's 8 laboratory schools affiliated with the UNC System.
Outside of work, Clay enjoys spending time with family. His wife, Jordan, is also an Alamance County native. Their two boys, Owen and Cameron, love being outside to enjoy the spaces of nature Alamance County has to offer. You can often find them paddling down the Haw, playing at one of the local parks, or exploring downtown Graham or Saxapahaw. At home, Clay and family are often cooking, listening to music, or reading.
Clay is honored to serve on the Alamance Community School Board, especially as ACS positions itself to lead and thrive within his home county. Clay is specifically excited to see learning come alive for ACS students through Project-Based Learning as they own, lead, and construct within the learning process.
Wendy De Campos, Secretary
Originally from Greenville, NC, Wendy De Campos relocated back to NC from South Florida, where she and her family had lived for 8 years. She also lived in Washington D.C. for a number of years and Sydney Australia before deciding that the Tar Heel State still held a special place in her heart.
Wendy holds her B.S. in Public Health from UNC-Chapel Hill and Masters in International Public Health from the University of Sydney, Australia. Wendy currently works for ADP, as an HR Business Partner helping her clients optimize HR and technology solutions to help them achieve their strategic business goals. Prior to HR, Wendy worked in Public Relations for a number of years with the Federal government, non-profits, and pharmaceutical giants.
On weekends, Wendy can be found at Home Depot picking up more native plants or paint colors. Wendy also loves spending time with her husband, a high school STEM teacher, and their two boys, exploring nature trails, cafes, museums, or just their backyard. Wendy looks forward to serving on the Board and serving her community.
Justin Smith, Treasurer
Justin is a dedicated school administrator with 18 years of experience in education. Justin is a Lee County native and graduate of Lee County Senior High School. Justin attended North Carolina State University and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History Education in 2004. After graduating he began his teaching career at Jesse O. Sanderson High School in Raleigh, NC. At Sanderson he taught a variety of Social Studies courses including Civics and Economics, World History, and African American History. At Sanderson High School, Justin held several leadership positions. In 2008, Justin applied and received National Board Certification in Social Studies (9-12 Adolescents and Young Adults). In August of 2010 he accepted the prestigious North Carolina Principal Fellows Scholarship to attend North Carolina Central University to earn a Master of School Administration degree. After graduating from North Carolina Central Magna Cum Laude in May of 2012 he accepted an Assistant Principal position at Voyager Academy High School. At Voyager he has worked closely with Principal, Cory Draughon, to establish a rigorous Project Based Learning academic program. In 2015, Justin moved to Voyager Academy Middle School after the prior administration abruptly parted ways with Voyager. He worked quickly to reenergize the learning community and solidify the school culture. In 2017, Justin helped establish Ascend Leadership Academy, a charter school that opened in Sanford, NC in August of 2018. Justin led ALA’s Board of Directors through the application and Ready to Open Process with the NC Office of Charter Schools, in addition to starting a high school. He currently serves as ALA’s Managing Director.
Jocelyn is a native of North Carolina, but has also lived in Florida and Dallas TX, where she met her husband, Jim. Jocelyn and her husband have been married for 13 years and they have two sons, Kenneth and Emmanuel, who both attend Alamance Community School. Their values in life stem from having a strong family core, where respect, empathy, and serving others help to build a great sense of community and compassion both in and out of the home. Jocelyn enjoys staying active with her boys outside, visiting different museums, parks, and community events to expand their intellectual, social, and physical enrichment, in addition to spending family time at home by watching movies, cooking, playing video games, and taking care of baby birds in the spring together. Jocelyn is very hands on with her boys’ learning at home and has even been a homeschool mom.
One of her passions is finding great learning enrichment programs her boys can use at home to help complement their learning to keep them sharp and ahead on their skills in school, so they have a learning advantage to succeed. She also loves to share these resources and experiences with other parents and educators as she is passionate to see all children excel in their studies and life. Jocelyn loves children and is the neighborhood mom who loves to engage with all kids that cross her path, and invite her boys’ friends over to play, cook for them, and be another source of support for them. Many of them, she even volunteers to bring along to her boys’ church youth group. Jocelyn believes that all children are treasure and have so much beauty and potential, and with the right support, attention, opportunities, and cultivation, they can rise above any challenge, will shine and be great beacons of hope and light in the future. So, investing in the lives of children and their development is truly one of her greatest passions because she knows that investment will shape our tomorrow. Therefore, Jocelyn is very honored to be a member of the Alamance Community School Board.
Jocelyn’s background is in nutrition education. She graduated with a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is pursuing her licensure as a Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator. Her nutrition advocacy focuses are childhood obesity prevention, healthy eating habits for families and communities, and improving food insecurity and diabetes states in Alamance County. Jocelyn has taught nutrition education in many local schools, community programs, and collaborated on several nutrition research projects to help encourage healthy eating habits. Jocelyn is also completing her MBA from Fayetteville State University with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and Project Management and plans to open her own nutrition consulting practice and kids gym, where she can offer opportunities for kids fun and fitness and activities that teach healthy eating for the entire family to improve community wellness. Jocelyn hopes to bring her bag of collective skills and passions in child learning and enrichment, nutrition education, community involvement and empowerment, and business management to help Alamance Community School rise to next level of excellence in education and child development.
Michelle Smith-Hylton has a background in Aerospace Engineering and Cognitive Neuroscience. She holds a B.A. in Graphic Communications from Brevard College and a M.S. in Industrial Technology/Industrial Engineering from North Carolina A&T State University. She also has certifications in Fundamentals in Cognitive Neuroscience and Project Management. She is currently working to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience. Currently she travels between Washington, D.C. and North Carolina working as an Aerospace Engineer and Cognitive Neuroscience Researcher.
Growing up in a family of educators from administrators to teachers, Michelle understands the importance of education. For years she was taught to continually pursue the highest level of education for herself and to also encourage youth to do the same. She lives by her mother’s motto which has always been “Reach One, Teach One”. With her passion to help youth, Michelle has served on several boards that are geared towards helping young people. She is a former member of Girl’s Inc. and Oak Ridge Military Academy Board of Development and Admissions. She has also served on the Science, Technology, and Innovation Commission Board in which she was appointed by former Governor Pat McCrory. She also serves on the Duke University Hospital Neuroscience PFAC.
She is honored to have the opportunity to serve on the Alamance Community School Board of Directors. Because of her passion to ensure every child has a quality education regardless of his/her economic background, she is dedicated to helping ACS continually reach the highest level of success as a North Carolina Charter School.
Sean is a North Carolina native who grew up in Sedalia. Sean attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and earned a Bachelor of Science in Electronics and Computer Technology. He also holds an Associates in Christian Education from Apex School of Theology and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Health Entrepreneurship and Innovation from Arizona State University.
Sean is married to his wife of 25 years, Kiara and they have one daughter. He enjoys spending time with his family and feels that a strong family builds strong individuals. Sean believes that a bonded community builds a family environment and believes family is more than blood or by marriage but by the people in your life that bonds are built on.
Sean has a passion for learning and teaching. Sean is an ordained Elder and has served in Ministry for over 25 years. He is one who enjoys teaching and showing others through properly vetted information what an informed decision can do for their life.
Sean is humbled and honored to serve on the School Board of Alamance Community School. He is one willing to work as needed to accomplish the goals set forth to promote a well-informed, well rounded learning environment for both students and staff.
Charter Success Partners
With over 14 years experience, CSP provides financial, facility financing, and student information services to charter schools. Their services provide security and peace of mind for charter school boards and administration through sound fiscal and student information management, allowing the school to focus on student instruction.
Schoolhouse Development, LLC
Schoolhouse Development has been working with charter schools since 2004. They partner with charter schools through the entire process. Through proper planning, strategy, and execution, they work to alleviate concerns related to finance, building design, permitting, and construction. They give charter founders and educators the freedom and confidence to focus on childhood development and education, rather than the uncertainty that can arise and distract in the process of completing a large real estate development.
Hubrich Contracting, Inc.
Hubrich Contracting, Inc., located in Durham, NC, has pioneered a different type of relationship with their charter school clients. They create mutually beneficial projects through careful planning, design, and hands on oversight, which helps their clients avoid the typical pitfalls sometimes associated with contractin and development.
Steve Hubrich and his team built all three schools that comprise the K-12 Voyager Academy in Durham, NC (the middle school in 2007, the high school in 2011, and the elementary school in 2012). This will be the fourth charter school construction project our Managing Director, Leslie Paynter, will work with the Hubrich Contracting team. Leslie said, "Knowing that we will have Steve’s vast knowledge and experience in charter school construction, in addition to the local aspect, brings me great relief and security." You can learn more about Hubrich Contracting at https://www.hubrichcontracting.com/ourwork.html.