Superintendent’s farewell message

Published 10:27 am Thursday, December 27, 2018

Over the past seven and a half years, I have been blessed to live and work in a community I love. These years have been the absolute best in my 27-year career in K-12 education. While my work as your superintendent has been challenging at times, it has also yielded many great rewards and lifelong friendships. As I wrap up my last month as your superintendent, I wanted to share a few thoughts and many thanks.

At the December regular meeting of the Board of Education, I had the opportunity to thank Chad Fuller and Barbara Owens for their faithful service to the board over the past 10 years. Chad and Barbara have been model board members. I have been fortunate to work with a fantastic Board of Education throughout my tenure and, together, we have accomplished numerous things that will benefit children for many generations. I congratulated Lori Smith and David Carroll on their recent election, and Chair Clint Junker for his recent re-election to the Board of Education. I challenged the board to keep their focus on what is best for students, work together to set good policy, and select the next superintendent who will also have a focus on students first.

When I first arrived in July 2011, Marie Roth brought me the book she had written on the History of Davie County Schools and I read through it with great interest (Thank you Marie!). Not fully understanding what might lie ahead, it helped me to realize the many sacrifices that had been made to make Davie County Schools what it had become. In 1839, there were seven school districts and each had a superintendent. Since 1883, there have been 18 superintendents. As I looked at the list of superintendents, I began thinking about what each might have experienced during their era of history and how the district would look different at the end of my tenure.

At that time, I did not know how long I would make it in Davie. The community had been at odds for over 12 years and I had been thrust into the middle of that debate. The average tenure of a superintendent in North Carolina is about three years, and Ms. Roth recorded that two former superintendents had died while in office. After the first six months, I was beginning to wonder about my own fate.

While the situation was rocky, I was able to be part of experiencing a community coming together and the integration of many beliefs and ideas. Together, with rational minds and patient neighbors, the strong resistance and vindictive behaviors by a few were overcome with truth, facts, and a focus on our future.

We have come a long way together and for that, I am grateful.

I have many people to thank, and I will start with our students. Our students are the reason we exist as a school district. Students, thank you for inspiring me every day to advocate for you. I have watched so many of you grow up in school, graduate, go to work, to the military, or off to college, and there are so many success stories. A couple weeks ago, one of our recent graduates was in my office; we just hired her this school year as a school social worker. Sydnee Autry graduated from Davie County High School, then graduated from NC State. She was sharing with me how she was supporting one of our elementary students who has been through a traumatic experience. It made me proud to see her using her talents in her new position. Sydnee is one of so many success stories! She has chosen to live and work here and give back to her community, as we hope many others will follow. Students, you make us proud!

I want to thank the Board of Education for their support. Each member of the board has had a unique impact on my life and I thank them for their service to our schools and community. Chad Fuller and Barbara Owens were the last members of the board who hired me in 2011, and the board has changed and become even better every year. No pressure, David and Lori; don’t mess it up!

I want to thank our executive leadership team. I could not have worked with a better team of people who take risks, give honest feedback, and work together in an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect. Davie County Schools is in great hands for the future.

I want to thank Elle King, executive assistant to the superintendent, who has done so much to organize and coordinate projects in our office and take care of me and our board. DCS is fortunate to have you!

I want to thank our principals, teachers, administrators, and staff. Your hard work and dedication to our students has produced phenomenal results. Keep up the great work and know that your superintendent and community appreciate you!

I want to thank so many members of our community who have supported our work. It takes our parents and the entire community working beside our educators and support staff to make a better future for the lives of the children we serve. Davie County, our schools are where they are today because of this partnership.

I want to thank my mentors: Dr. Bill Steed, Dr. Gene Moore, and Dr. Larry Coble for their wise counsel. When I needed advice or just a listening ear, you were always there for me.

I come to work each day to support my family, but they are the ones who support me. Lisa, Madison, and Molly, thank you for the sacrifices you have made that have allowed me to serve others. Lisa, now you won’t have to worry about others telling you things they hope you will tell me, and you will no longer get the texts, calls and questions asking if we are on a delay, dismissing early, or cancelling school!

As I look back over the numerous things we have accomplished together, I am proud of the investments we have made in future generations. My children never had an opportunity to attend the new high school, nor will they ever directly benefit from the investments we have made in early literacy, but students today and tomorrow will have those opportunities.

Although the law has been changed and the election of school board members in Davie County has become partisan, partisan politics has no place in our public schools. I challenge the board of education to keep their focus on what is most important: the children we serve. I challenge our community to elect people who have everyone’s best interest at heart, not a certain agenda.

Our investments are paying off. Recently, the N.C. Department of Commerce released the annual ranking of the 100 counties in NC in 3 Tiers. They considered population growth, unemployment rate, median household income, and property tax base per citizen as they placed counties in each tier. Tier 1 counties are the 40 most distressed counties in our state. The next 40 counties are in Tier 2. The top 20 counties in NC according to economic well-being were placed in Tier 3. For the first time since the state has ranked counties this way, Davie County has moved from the Tier 2 to the Tier 3 category for 2019. This ranking is used in many different ways…to distribute grants, incentives, and other funding… but, what it means to us is that we live in one of the 20 most blessed counties in NC!

I firmly believe that the investments we have made in the future are paying dividends.

In the Book that contains the answers to all of life’s questions, King Solomon wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” While the wise king may have intended this advice for parents, public education in our state and in our country is an essential element in the foundation of our democracy. We have one opportunity to train up the next generation. This is not an experiment and we must not regress! While there continues to be attempts to re-segregate our schools through charters and vouchers and to privatize public education, America still remains a place where every child, regardless of their race, their wealth or poverty, their abilities or disabilities, has the right to a free public education. No other place in the world enjoys the freedoms we often take for granted. We must strive to be better eachyear, and we must work together to ensure education remains a top priority for our community and our state.

The work of our teachers makes a lifelong impact, and I have been blessed to be just a small part of supporting the education of our children.

I want to leave you with a Greek proverb that should serve each of us well: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” I challenge each member of our community to continue to look beyond self-interests and make decisions and investments in the best interest of all.

Lisa and I will continue to live in our home in Davie County and be active members of this community. I look forward to my new role as President of DCCC that officially begins on Jan. 1. I am fortunate to be in a position which will allow me to serve citizens in both Davidson and Davie counties and to support many of our students who continue their education after high school. I will always cherish the wonderful memories and lessons learned while serving as your superintendent.

May God continue to bless the Davie County School District and this community, and may He grant mercy and grace on our country.

I wish you and your families a wonderful Christmas season, and a peaceful and prosperous 2019.