Kannapolis assistant superintendent set to retire in December
By Sarah Campbell
KANNAPOLIS - A top official in the Kannapolis City school system is set to retire in December.
Dr. Debra Morris will leave her post as the district's assistant superintendent in hopes of pursing a career in higher education.
"I think that if I do this now, there may be some opportunities at the university level coming my way," she said. "I'm not going to go home to sit back and not do anything."
Morris taught adolescent literature at Wingate University while she was teaching English at Piedmont High School in Monroe.
"I always knew that was something I would go back to," she said.
Morris wants to focus on working with future teachers and administrators, a passion that was sparked during her time as the North Carolina Principal of the Year in 2008.
"I got to go travel a lot and speak to groups of people who were going to be principals and I just enjoyed talking with them and sharing my experiences," she said.
In her current role, Morris serves as mentor to principals throughout the district, but working at the college level would allow her the time and resources to make more of a difference.
"They usually come to me when they have an issue or need advice about something," she said. "I think I could really be helpful because I have a vast experience with almost all the kinds of things people would ever have to deal with."
Superintendent Dr. Pam Cain said she knew Morris was interested in a career change that would play to those aspirations.
"It's so nice that people can get to a place in their life where they feel good about their service and then go on to their next passions," she said. "I think it's going to be a nice transition for her."
Morris began her career as a teacher at Piedmont High before moving on to receive her master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte through the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program.
Her first job in administration was as an assistant principal at South Iredell High School.
Morris worked as the principal of West Lincoln High School and the director of secondary education for the Lincoln County school system before coming to Kannapolis eight years ago.
She lead A.L. Brown High School for four years before stepping into her current role in July 2008.
Morris called the time she spent at A.L. Brown the "most significant years" of her career.
When she took over at the school, much of the staff had either retired or left to work in other school systems.
"So many key people were gone, so I had to look at hiring a strong staff," she said.
During her tenure at A.L. Brown, Morris launched the Freshman Academy, which assigns ninth-graders to small classes and a core group of teachers to help make the transition to high school easier.
She also added Latin classes, peer tutoring, a Teacher Cadet program and a Model United Nations Team.
Morris said she was lucky to figure out early on that education was her calling.
"The field of education allows you to live a life that matters because you impact others in a positive way," she said. "I've never regretted my decision to go into this field."
Morris said she feels blessed to have been able to work in Kannapolis.
"It's a great school system and we have wonderful leadership here," she said. "I'm very thankful that I had the opportunity to serve here."
Cain said Morris will be replaced, but the timeline for that is uncertain. Administrative personnel are being shuffled around right now in response to the retirement of Ron Deaton, director of secondary and career and technical education.
"We're really looking to put different people in place and let them get settled before we make any more changes," Cain said. "We want to make sure that we make good decisions."
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.