SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury School System's next superintendent said Tuesday she looks forward to getting to know the community and building a better relationship with Rowan County.
Dr. Lynn Moody, currently the superintendent of Rock Hill Schools in Rock Hill, S.C., was officially introduced during an afternoon press conference at the Gateway Building in Salisbury.
The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education unanimously voted to hire Moody on Monday with a start date of Oct. 1.
She will replace current superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom, who has worked for more than 43 years in public education, including eight in the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
“It is a great honor to follow behind Dr. Grissom,” Moody said. “She's an outstanding leader, and I hope that she will stay involved with the school district and definitely with the community.”
During his introduction of Moody, Board of Education Chairman Richard Miller said she was chosen out of 28 different candidates from nine states during its search for a new leader.
Vice Chairwoman Kay Wright Norman said that while Grissom will be a tough act to follow, “time moves on,” and Moody will bring “another kind of energy” that the school system needs.
“She is ready to take us... to the next level,” Norman said. “We can say that because we don't know how far that is, but we know it's high.”
When Moody invited questions, County Commissioner Jon Barber asked how the school system and Rowan County could take their relationship “to the next level.”
Moody replied that she has a long history of building bridges and relationships. Her doctoral dissertation was about how county, city and school boards work together for the community they serve.
“Quite honestly, that was another thing that attracted me to the area, is that I think I bring some experience with that,” she said.
She said one of the reference letters in her application package was from the York County manager about how they had built their working relationship. She said that county manager is a “dear friend” of hers now.
Moody also happens to be from the same small town — Ruffin, N.C. — as Rowan County Manager Gary Page. She joked that they might be kin.
“I know there's been a lot of controversy,” Moody said. “I have subscribed to Salisbury Post and in the last couple months have followed that. So I've been following the stories, but I'm very open-minded about how we build that bridge and make it a better quality of life.”
She said she hopes to figure out a solution that's in the best interests of the taxpayers and the whole community.
Moody said she will make about as much at the Rowan-Salisbury School System as she does now at Rock Hill Schools.
Her base salary will be nearly $30,000 lower than Grissom's, but payments to an annuity or retirement program will make up most of the difference. After the first year of the contract, Moody can choose to receive that benefit as additional salary.
Officials at Rock Hill Schools said Moody's current salary is $193,450, including both state and local funds, as well as $19,740 diverted to a tax-deferred annuity. Subtracting another $3,500 paid for unused vacation days, Moody's base salary is $170,306.
Moody's contract with Rowan-Salisbury says her annual salary — not including the 12 percent annuity payments — will be $171,000 in total state and local funds.
Her salary will be reviewed at least annually by the board, which may increase it at any time. There is no built-in yearly increase, like the 2.5 percent raise included in Grissom's contract.
The contract does specify that Moody's salary cannot be decreased during its four-year term, which begins Oct. 1 of this year and ends June 30, 2017.
A Post reporter requested Moody's current contract in Rock Hill and Grissom's contract in Rowan-Salisbury, but they were not released by the end of the day Monday.
According to a recent report by WRAL in Raleigh, which examined the contracts of all 115 public school superintendents in the state, Grissom's annual salary is $201,556.
Gene Miller, assistant superintendent of operations, said he plans to retire with Grissom on Sept. 30.
“I wish her all the luck in the world. I hope she succeeds,” Miller said.
Moody said she will “aggressively recruit” to fill any vacancies, but she has no plans right now to bring any of her current staff members with her.
Moody started in Rock Hill Schools in March 2003 as an associate superintendent for planning and program support. She became the district's first female superintendent in August 2006.
She received her undergraduate and master's degrees from N.C. State University and her Doctorate of Education from Nova Southeastern University. She is married to Wayne Moody, and they have two grown sons, Brad and Hunter.
Moody has 25 years of experience as a teacher, counselor, coach and administrator. About 19 of those have been in North Carolina, and she said she wanted to return to the state — especially somewhere close to her mother, who lives in Greensboro.
“North Carolina's home. It's good to be back,” she said Tuesday.
Moving back also will qualify her to receive retirement benefits from the state, Moody said.
“There were a large number of things that attracted me to this area, and I can't wait to get to know you better,” she said.
Those things include the national awards Rowan-Salisbury has received for its use of technology, and downtown development in the city of Salisbury, Moody said.
Jason Walser, executive director of The LandTrust for Central North Carolina, introduced himself during the press conference as a parent of two children in the school system.
“Five years from now, as you think about your successful tenure here, what are the top two or three things that you ... hope you're going to be able to brag about?” Walser said.
Moody said it's hard to answer that question until she finds out what parents, businesses and the students themselves want to see.
“It's really important to me in the first six months to get to know you all and to find out what your dreams are,” Moody said.
She said one of her main areas of focus is literacy and getting students reading at grade level.
“We get that right, that's the foundation that we'll build on,” Moody said. “I'll be asking everybody to hold hands with that initiative as we move forward.”
She said she's sad to leave Rock Hill Schools, but she isn't worried. The other leaders there are innovative and will do fine without her, she said.
Elaine Baker, Rock Hill's director of information services, said that's because Moody trained them well. She described Moody as an “idea person” who also loves to get involved in the action.
“She's always thinking about what can benefit the children,” Baker said. “She's very much into collaboration with people and listening to others' ideas.”
At Rock Hill Schools, Moody led a technology initiative called “iRock” in an effort to provide every student with a mobile device. This fall is the start of its implementation, and each student in grades 4 through 8 will be provided with an iPad.
“Of course, we're disappointed. We had hoped to have her here for a number of years,” Baker said. “We hate to see her go, but if this is good for her and her family, how would you not wish her well?”