‘One of the great guys’: Chip Buckwell named regional Superintendent of the Year

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 4, 2019

KANNAPOLIS — Hailed by his colleagues as the catalyst for Kannapolis City Schools’ innovative magnet programs, career and technical education opportunities, and more, Chip Buckwell has been named Superintendent of the Year for the southwest region of North Carolina.

The region includes 11 Charlotte area school systems: Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Cabarrus County, Rowan-Salisbury, Gaston County, Union County, Lincoln County, Cleveland County, Iredell-Statesville, Stanly County, Mooresville and Kannapolis.

Buckwell joined Kannapolis City Schools in 1985, serving as a teacher, dropout prevention coordinator, director of student services, director of testing, principal and assistant superintendent. He was named superintendent in January 2016.

Since then, the district has seen increased student achievement through efforts to personalize the academic experience. In 2017, for example, the system offered magnet programs for the first time. The programs focus on an area of study such as science, the performing arts or career education.

The district also has expanded career and technical opportunities for students, built a middle school, increased collaboration with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, and added partnerships with the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and the faith community over the past three and a half years.

Buckwell was honored for his roles in each of these initiatives. Stephen Mauney, superintendent of the Mooresville Graded School District and chairman of the Southwest Education Alliance Superintendents’ Council, praised Buckwell for a long and distinguished career in public education

“(Buckwell) has provided leadership … that has led to increased learning opportunities for the students served by that school district,” Mauney said. “The superintendents in the southwest region are proud to name him as our 2020 Superintendent of the Year.”

Barbi Jones, executive director of the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce, said Buckwell is the community’s best advocate for students and staff and “their loudest cheerleader.”

“He works so hard to connect our businesses and nonprofits to the needs of (Kannapolis City  Schools) and students, and he has been a wonderful ambassador for public education,” Jones said.

But Buckwell was quick to credit other staff members for recent strides across the district.

“This is an award that deserves a list of people and their accomplishments behind it,” he said. “Nobody ever does this by themselves. It takes good administrators, good teachers, good bus drivers, good teacher assistants, good students, good parents, just good all around.”

Recent growth in Kannapolis City Schools

Magnet programs for Kannapolis City Schools began in August 2017 at Wilson Elementary School, including focuses on global studies and Spanish language immersion. An A+ Arts magnet program followed at Carver Elementary.

Buckwell has worked to increase STEM opportunities for students, partnering with Discovery Place Science Museum to provide exposure and hands-on learning.

In an effort to expand the career and technical education program, Buckwell and other administrators have worked to create a partnership with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College to offer training in welding for high school students. At A.L. Brown High School, students are able earn industry-recognized welding credentials and receive college credit while they are in high school.

In addition, the district has formed partnerships with Wayne Brothers Construction and S&D Coffee that allow Brown students to complete pre-apprenticeship programs and qualify for guaranteed employment and free college tuition after they graduate from high school.

The programs go hand in hand with what Buckwell calls his goal for all Kannapolis City Schools. He wants every graduate to leave the system headed in one of four directions, he said: to the workforce, military, a two-year or other trade program, or a four-year college.

“Our kids are capable of this,” said Buckwell. “They deserve it, and they work hard. … I would want this for my own children, so I want it for every kid here.”

Moving onward

Buckwell will now represent the Southwest Region and be considered for the A. Craig Phillips North Carolina Superintendent of the Year Award, sponsored by the N.C. Association of School Administrators, the N.C. School Superintendents Association, and the N.C. School Boards Association.

“We are extremely proud of Dr. Buckwell and his accomplishments,” said Kannapolis City Board of Education Chairman Todd Adams. “Under his leadership, our academic achievement has gone up tremendously, and we’ve started highly successful programs. … Dr. Buckwell is an outstanding leader and is extremely deserving of this honor.”

Jones agreed.

“Dr. Buckwell is one of the great guys in education,” she said, “and he is so deserving of this award.”