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Down the career pathway: Karl Mercer looks forward to serving as Alliance Academy for Innovation principal
Karl Mercer
Karl Mercer.

Karl Mercer has always been a part of Alliance Academy for Innovation in some way.

Even before serving as West Forsyth High School’s principal, Mercer worked at Forsyth County School’s district office, leading as the director of accountability for the system.

In that job, he was able to focus on what he said has been his main goal as an educator for the past 20 years — to help provide students with opportunities to succeed no matter what path they choose to take in life.

That is why, when college and career leaders came to him with the idea of creating a high school specifically meant to help students focus on their careers and futures, he couldn’t wait to get it started.

After more than a year of collaboration with CTAE Director Valery Lowe and Brandi Cannizzaro, who was the school’s first principal, Mercer helped to make Alliance Academy for Innovation a reality, and the school opened for the first time in 2018.

Mercer said he looks forward to continuing with the work he started at Alliance after being named the school’s new principal for the 2022-23 year.

“I am excited to have this opportunity and lead this school,” Mercer said.

Mercer began his career in education in 2000 in Spaulding County before finding a home at Forsyth Central High School in 2002. He started as a math teacher and football coach, and eventually worked his way up into school leadership as an assistant administrator and then assistant principal.

He served in the district office after that for a few years before accepting his first principalship at West Forsyth High School in 2017 where he has served for the past five years.

In those five years, Mercer said his main focus was always with the staff and students he worked with every day.

“To me, that's the most important thing,” Mercer said. “I feel if you can build strong relationships with everybody involved, that helps you create an atmosphere where students feel safe socially, emotionally, physically.”

When students and staff feel comfortable with peers and school, he said that is when they can really learn in the way they need to and find success both in and outside of school.

“Building up that family environment is what I’d say I’m most proud of [from my time at West],” Mercer said. “I think that led to the successes we had in academics, athletics and arts.”

And during those five years, Mercer and his team saw many historical successes at West. In academics, they were able to begin the 3DE Leadership Academy for students, raise SAT and ACT scores and see the highest graduate rate ever for the school while students earned six state championships in athletics, including the first-ever state championship in girls’ flag football.

Mercer emphasized that these successes were due in large part to the efforts of West Forsyth’s students, staff and community. Without them, he said the school would simply not be what it is today.

Now, he said he is looking forward to working with the Alliance community to create new successes.

“With Alliance having so many different options and pathways, students are able to really focus on what they want to do, whether they continue at college or enter the workforce,” Mercer said. “I'm excited to be a part of that and to be part of a school where that's really the whole focus is on those high-demand pathways.”

With his experience in helping to form the school and knowledge of the different career pathways and options available to students, Mercer said he is excited to help students at a new school.

For him, this means building relationships within the community and showing support to students at Alliance — like going to SkillsUSA and robotics competitions.

“West Forsyth will always have a special place in my heart,” Mercer said. “But I'm excited about Alliance and the work that we get to do here.”