She replaces Nicholas King, who has accepted a position with Northampton County Schools.
O’Neal-Williams, who is a Durham native and graduate of Northern High School, most recently has served as assistant principal of Riverside High School for two years. Before that, she was a principal intern at W.G. Pearson Elementary School.
O’Neal-Williams earned a master’s degree in school administration and a bachelor’s degree in education, both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Early College High School, on the NCCU campus, allows students to take high school and college-level courses throughout their four years. Students graduate with a high school diploma, plus up to two years of college credit toward a bachelor’s degree
(And in case you were wondering, she is part of a family of Durham educators and public officials. She is the daughter of Elton O'Neal, principal of Lakeview, and a niece of Eunice (O'Neal) Sanders, former principal of Hillside and current top-level schools administrator, and Elaine (O'Neal) Bushfan, a Durham judge.)
Here is a story written in 2001 by former staffer Mary Miller about the influential family:
News and Observer (Raleigh, NC)
February 11, 2001 Sunday, FINAL EDITION
A family of influence
BYLINE: Mary E. Miller, Staff Writer
SECTION: SUNDAY JOURNAL; Pg. D1
LENGTH: 1262 words
School is long out when I get to Eunice O'Neal Sanders' office
at Rogers-Herr Middle School in Durham. Her sister, Elaine, and
brother, Ellis, huddle at the small conference table laughing. A
week does not pass when all five O'Neal siblings and their
children don't get together.
"Eileen's at home and Elton's not here yet," Elaine O'Neal
says of their brother, as Eunice gets up to call him. "He's the
Eunice puts her hand over the receiver and corrects her little
sister. "I'm the late one -- he's the forgetful one."
Ellis smiles, points his fingers at his little sisters and
whispers, "They're BOTH the late ones! We're always waiting on
The women rain down withering glares on Ellis, until they all
start to laugh.
"Eunice is the know-it-all and I'm the baby and the spoiled
brat," Elaine announces, and her sister rolls her eyes.
"Ooh, life was sooo good for almost seven years, until you
came along!" she says.
"Check it out," Elaine shoots back, "It took this long for
mamma and daddy to get it right!"
"Well, Elton is forgetful, but he's also the big-hearted,
sweet one," Elaine adds.
Eunice sighs, "You know Elton. I'm sure somebody's brought him
a problem, and he's trying to take care of it."
Lots of people in Durham bring lots of problems to the
O'Neals. The siblings are proof that one person can make a
difference in a community, and that one family can become a
At one time or another over the last two decades, you've read
about at least some of them. Elaine O'Neal, at 38 the youngest,
is the fiery Durham County District Court judge, the one who
jails parents for not making their kids attend school, who shows
up from time to time as a legal expert on the "Montel Williams"
show. In six years on the bench, she has earned a reputation for
being tough but fair, outspoken, unconventional and an
uncompromising advocate when it comes to children's welfare.
Eunice, 46, is the principal at Rogers-Herr Middle School, a
post she earned last year after turning around the troubled C.C.
Spaulding Elementary School. When she got to Spaulding in June
1996, Eunice was the third principal that school year. By 1998,
morale was back up and the student's test scores had risen
impressively. Rogers-Herr is her alma mater and home. She was a
member of the school's first integrated class. She taught here
and now runs the year-round program.
Elton, 49, is the principal at the Lakeview School, an
alternative school for Durham's most troubled middle and high
school students. He shepherds kids with severe emotional
disorders, the violent ones, the ones who missed too much school
because they were sitting in jail, and Lakeview is now held up as
a model learning environment. Like his sister, Eunice, Elton has
spent his career in Durham public schools. As a college student
at N.C. Central University, he got a job driving school buses.
Eventually he taught driver's education, became an athletics
director, an administrator and now a principal. All the siblings
agree that Elton knows more people in Durham than anybody.
(Listen to see if his name will be in the hat to take over as
principal at his alma mater, Hillside High School.)
"Elton is like a rock star here," Ellis says. "You go to the
mall with him and you can't get more than 10 feet before somebody
else is coming up going 'Hey! Mr. O'Neal, how'ya doin?' "
The two eldest O'Neals steer clear of the limelight, but
contribute no less. Ellis is a calibrations technician for IBM,
the family and neighborhood fix-it man. Eileen, who was born
legally blind, works for The Lions Industry. She lives at home
and helps take care of their aging parents, Ruben and Polly
Durham is a place that, for all its attributes, gets a lot of
bad press. The labels are hard to chip off: High crime, racial
tensions, struggling schools. But there is another, often
neglected side of the city so rich with history and pride. There
are several families like the O'Neals, who have lived there for
generations. But few who give back as much.
"Their work goes out into the community, and it impacts young
people," says Audrey Boykin, the principal of Pearsontown
Elementary School. "They are totally committed to making a
difference. And there's not many people who actually grew up in
Durham and stayed around to make a difference."
Boykin knows. She was a teacher at Rogers-Herr when Elaine was
a student. She was principal there when Eunice was a teacher. Her
family, too, works in the public school system. Boykin's sister,
Julia Fairley, is principal of Shepard Middle School.
Elton arrives in a flurry, and the O'Neals horse around like
big kids while posing for a picture. Afterward, they settle
around Eunice's table to talk about the lessons they learned at
home, and the ones they try to teach kids in Durham now.
"We grew up seeing our parents doing for everybody," Elton
says, while the others nod. "So the first lessons came there. And
we were raised by an extended family of aunts and uncles and
cousins. Everybody lived in the neighborhood."
Ellis says the O'Neal family has been a presence in Durham
ever since a group of O'Neals left a sharecropping job in
Johnston County in 1938 and settled in the West End neighborhood.
Their parents still live on Morehead Avenue, in the house that
their father designed and built.
The grown children live in northern and southern Durham, the
boys around the corner from each other, and the girls within a
couple of blocks. Ellis left only when he joined the service.
Elton spent a year in Washington. But none of them would dream of
living anywhere else, they say.
You have to know that people who turn out like the O'Neals did
had some impressive parents. Ruben and Polly O'Neal are not
college graduates. Ruben worked at Liggett & Myers for 37 years
and only took two days off. He didn't finish high school, but
went back to Durham Technical College and got his GED after he
retired. Polly stayed home until Elaine went to kindergarten and
then became a teacher's assistant at Lyon Park Elementary. She
was elected president of the PTA.
When I asked Polly O'Neal what she did right to make her kids
turn out so well, the silence came through the phone line as she
chose her words.
"One thing is, we were all readers, which really makes a
difference," she said. She talked about treating the children
with respect, but having expectations that they would work. They
never told their children they had to go to college, she said.
They told them them they needed to go to college.
"We tried to show the kids that learning was a lifelong
process," she says.
And the lesson was so much more than words.
The children say that their parents are just natural teachers.
Their father made sure the boys learned how to fix a car or a
toilet or put in tile, as well as learn to cook and wash. Many a
Saturday when others were playing, they were working for
neighbors or at the church. They had to learn to take care of
themselves so that one day they would be able to take care of
When I tell Polly O'Neal she must feel so proud, she chuckles
and makes a remark her children can recite by heart.
"Oh, I'm proud of all the children," she says. "Everyone is
somebody's child and deserves to be loved."
So many people say stuff like that. So few live it.