CALHOUN FALLS — When Kalan Rogers first arrived at Union County High School, a physical education teacher there thought: “Oh, he’s young. The kids are going to eat him alive.”
“But they didn’t,” said Lashon Rogers, who’s not related to Kalan. “He was not what I expected. He’s an old soul.”
Fast-forward two years and Rogers, 25, has just finished his first year as the principal at Calhoun Falls Charter School, which enrolls about 140 children in grades 6 through 12 and employs 30.
“I still have teachers say, ‘Hey, we were nervous at first,’” Rogers said. “I know (they were) probably like, ‘Why did y’all hire this young guy?’”
But Lori Lindler, assistant principal and 11-year veteran of the school, knew who the Charter Institute at Erskine — the sponsor of the school’s charter — had hired and saw no problem with it. She had known Rogers, a Calhoun Falls native, since he was 5 years old and saw his progression through high school.
“I always knew who he is, and I’ve never known him not to have good common sense, a good head on his shoulders and a good work ethic,” Lindler said.
Rogers lived in Calhoun Falls until he left for the University of South Carolina Upstate in 2012 and had always wanted to be a bus driver, something he realized in high school
“He’s an oddball somewhat, but in a good way,” Lashon said. “He likes learning about weird stuff. He told me he’s wanted to drive a bus since he was a little boy. He knows the years certain buses came out and their features.”
“As soon as he was able to (drive a bus), he went through the whole process,” Lindler said. “He did all that while he was going to school, working another job.”
But his career goals changed when he stepped into Risha Bomar’s class in his sophomore year in high school.
“He actually told me, he said, ‘Coach, I want to do what you’re doing,’ because I would always get out there with the kids and play volley or basketball,” Bomar said.
“From that day forward, when I stepped in that gym, I knew that I wanted to be a PE teacher,” Rogers said. “I had someone that actually cared. Cared about my success, cared about where I was going. ... She was more like a second mother to me.”
After graduating from USC Upstate, he taught PE at Union County High School.
“I actually remember the first day I met him,” Lashon said. “He was asking me if I was Coach Rogers because he was also Coach Rogers.”
He was happy in the role, and when he stumbled across the job posting for principal at Calhoun Falls, sent an application thinking he could learn from the experience if he were called in for an interview. He was, and two hours later was offered the job.
“I was shell shocked,” he said. “I was like, can I call you back next week?”
He could not — he had to answer before noon the next day.
“My hometown needs me, these kids need me,” he recalls thinking. “Let me go ahead and take the job and see what I can do as an administrator.”
He felt ready for the job even despite his limited experience. As part of his pursuit of a degree in educational administration while at Union, he fulfilled an internship requirement by shadowing the assistant principal. Working for a charter school came with unexpected challenges, however.
“We are our own district office in a sense. We do everything in house,” he said. “I do Title I, I do Title II programs, one of my teachers does CATE, my office manager tag-teams finances.”
And he never had to abandon his earlier dreams of driving a bus and coaching. This year, he served as the school’s track coach. And when the driver for the baseball team was three hours away, Rogers jumped at the opportunity to fill in for him.
Rogers said he’s often asked: “What don’t you do at that school?”
“Wherever I can fit in and help out, I do it,” he said. “I’m not just isolating myself to, ‘I am only a principal.’”