McDuffie retiring as director of secondary education

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 29, 2013

SALISBURY — Leaving a legacy of compassion and teamwork, Kathy McDuffie is retiring as director of secondary education for the Rowan-Salisbury School System.
She has worked in education for 32 years, the last nine of those at Rowan-Salisbury. Now that she has a grandchild coming in June, McDuffie said she decided to retire to spend more time with her family.
The Salisbury resident said she might start volunteering to work with disabled or at-risk children in some way. Thursday was her last day of work as secondary education director.
“I’m thankful for this opportunity to work at Rowan-Salisbury Schools,” McDuffie said. “There are a lot of people here who care a lot about kids. I just hope that’s always the focus — what we need to do for the kids — and the adults come second. As long as we remember that, we’ll do what’s right.”
Dr. Hazel Frick, a retired central office director and administrator from Asheboro City Schools, will temporarily fill the vacancy left by McDuffie from April 1 until July 1.
“Kathy was an integral part of the growth at our high schools that occurred during her years of serving in the position of Director of Secondary Education for our district,” said Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom in an emailed statement. “Kathy’s leadership with our high school principals demonstrated her strong passion for student learning and student achievement.”
Grissom said McDuffie “led the charge with many changes” in the system’s high schools, including the introduction of night school, high school academies and individual counseling of students to make sure that they stay in school and graduate.
“No doubt we will miss her enthusiasm for our students and leadership with our high school principals,” Grissom said. “I wish her the very best in whatever new endeavors she may decide to pursue.”
McDuffie said Thursday that her favorite parts of the job have been when she gets to talk with or meet with students.
She said she also enjoys meeting with teachers, and leaving the people she works with is the hardest part of retiring.
“We’ve built a lot of good friendships here,” McDuffie said. “There are things we’ve started but haven’t finished yet, and leaving them mid-stream is difficult.”
Those things include plans for more student academies, she said, and the continued implementation of the common core curriculum.
Throughout her seven years in the director position, McDuffie has been an advocate for collaboration and teamwork.
She said teams of teachers now work more closely together, both within their high schools and between them.
At district-wide staff development meetings, teachers from across the school system meet and share what’s going on in their classrooms. This gives people who teach the same subject share advice and ideas from each other, she said. They can also meet across subject lines to see how to incorporate mathematics into history lessons, or language arts into science classes.
“People are learning that in this day and time, none of us can do it by ourselves,” she said. “We have to support one another.” McDuffie said one of her proudest accomplishments has been the forming of new student advisory groups.
For about six years, McDuffie, Grissom and other administrative staff have met with student leaders at each high school twice a year.
“We talk about things going on at their school and in the district,” she said. “We have made policy changes based on recommendations from students. They have a different perspective of how things are applying to them, and I think it’s an important perspective.”
Carol Croshaw, her administrative assistant, said she admires the way McDuffie truly cares about children and the community.
“If a parent and child downstairs need help or need guidance, we have an open door policy,” Croshaw said. “She’s very encouraging… she puts herself last and doesn’t care about her schedule.”
She said the system’s secondary education department is in much better shape than it was before McDuffie came, when “there was no plan.”
“We might not know the names of the roads, but we have a road map now,” Croshaw said.
McDuffie helped to smooth things over when state and federal changes affected the system, she said, by urging people to work together and move forward.
“I never felt like I was an assistant,” Croshaw said. “I was always a part of things, and we were a team. If we weren’t it would’ve all been lost. … I’m going to miss her.”

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.