Kannapolis superintendent named to Rhododendron Society

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 26, 2018

KANNAPOLIS — Kannapolis City Schools Superintendent Darren “Chip” Buckwell has been inducted into the Appalachian State University Rhododendron Society in recognition of his work and contributions to education.

Buckwell said he “never on the planet” thought he would earn the honor.

“It was very humbling,” he said.

New members of the Rhododendron Society are inducted each year at the Black and Gold Reunion luncheon, held during the university’s Alumni Reunion Weekend on Saturday and Sunday.

Buckwell is a graduate of the Reich College of Education at Appalachian State and earned degrees from the university in 1981 and 1983.

“Forty-one years ago, I applied to one school, and that was Appalachian, and no one could have predicted that 41 years later I’d get my name on the wall of the College of Education,” Buckwell said with a chuckle.

Being inducted into the Rhododendron Society is the highest honor given by the Reich College of Education. The honor recognizes graduates whose service to education is considered remarkable or exemplary. According to the Appalachian State University website, the recognition is given to educators who reflect “great credit on themselves, the field of education and the university.”

When he received the call informing him of the honor, Buckwell said he let it go to voice mail. When he listened to the message, he thought someone was playing a prank. But the nomination, and the award, were real.

“I had a freak-out,” he said.

Buckwell said he was nominated by co-workers at Kannapolis City Schools and by city residents. While he “tries to fly under the radar,” he’s spent his decades as an educator advocating for children and working to build lasting relationships with students and staff.

After taking over as Kannapolis superintendent in 2016, Buckwell is credited with working to build a culture of mutual respect in the district and to improve job training and career development options for teachers. Under his leadership, the school system has added a middle school annex, opened a new elementary school and launched three magnet school programs.

When asked about the key to his success, Buckwell’s answer was simple:

“It’s about relationships,” he said.

“Sometimes you’re not successful at that,” he said. “Hopefully, you’re more successful than you’re not.”

Buckwell earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Appalachian State and his doctorate from Nova Southeastern University. During his career as an educator, Buckwell has been a teacher, coach, dropout prevention coordinator, director of student services, director of testing, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent.

He began his career with Kannapolis City Schools in 1985.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.