Engage. Inspire. Empower.

A Message from our Principal

Mr. Whalen with students on field trip

Greetings to all our current, future, and past Firebird families! My name is Fred Whalen and I am honored to have been the Challenger principal for the past 4 years. I grew up in this area and love being able to give back to our local community. I am married to an amazing woman and CCS English teacher, Hollis, and I am the proud father of two CCS students, Kathryn and Hayden (a current Challenger student). I majored in Chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill (go Heels!) and received a Masters in Science Education and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University and Appalachian State University, respectively. I am currently working on my doctoral degree from Gardner-Webb University. Prior to coming to Challenger, I was a Chemistry and Physics teacher at Cooper City High School in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and at St. Stephens High School in Hickory, NC. While teaching science, I also served as the head track and football coach for over 10 years. I actually began my career in administration as the Assistant Principal at Challenger for two years before moving to Tuttle Elementary for three years before returning to Challenger.

At Challenger, we have several important goals:

1) Innovative Design and Operations: By legislation, CIHS are designed to partner with an institution of higher education to enable students to obtain  concurrently a high school diploma and begin or complete an associate degree program, master a certificate or vocational program, or earn up to two years  of college credit within five years. CIHS are designed to blend secondary and post-secondary experiences in innovative ways and to ensure successful  implementation of the other CIHS design elements described in this guide. 

2) Future Ready Graduates: All CIHS staff members commit to ensuring every student graduates prepared and credentialed to succeed in postsecondary  education and careers as a globally engaged and productive citizen. All staff collaborate to design, redesign, and sustain a powerful school culture where the  whole child is developed, challenged, and supported to succeed in his or her chosen pathway of study.  

3) Collaborative Partnerships: Each CIHS is established and sustained through a foundational partnership with one school district and one Institution of Higher  Education (IHE). A highly effective partnership between the school district, the CIHS, and its IHE is essential to the success of CIHS students. CIHS also develop  and sustain meaningful partnerships with business, industry, and community partners, and collaborate with other schools in their districts to promote  innovation and the success of all students.  

4) Innovative Instructional Practice: All CIHS staff members commit to ensuring every student is actively engaged, challenged, and supported, in all classes,  every day, to succeed in rigorous coursework, leading to completion of a high school diploma, an associate degree, two years of transferable credit, or CTE  credentials, such as certificates or diplomas. All staff members commit to deep inquiry and consistent collaboration to design, facilitate, assess, and redesign  learning activities that ensure these student outcomes. 

5) Leadership and Professionalism: All staff members commit to a shared responsibility for the success of every student. All staff lead in areas appropriate to  their role and expertise. All staff contribute to sustain a supportive and professional school culture that promotes inquiry and the ongoing design work of  innovative secondary education

6) Personalized Student Supports: All CIHS staff members commit to ensuring that every student feels known, respected, and cared for by the adults in the  school, and that every student is supported to develop his or her full potential. Staff leverage strong personal relationships with students to develop their  curiosity, persistence, and intrinsic motivation, as well as their support of each other, to succeed in rigorous coursework, innovative opportunities, and in  college and careers. We, as a Firebird family, pledge to work together to help our students achieve these goals and set them up for future success.

If you need anything from us (from current students to ones who graduated 10 years ago), please feel free to reach out anytime to the Challenger office, 828-485-2980, or via email, Fred_Whalen@catawbaschools.net. 

 As we always say, "once a Firebird, always a Firebird!"

Meet our Administrative Team

Meet our Support Staff