Editorial: Moody transformed Rowan-Salisbury Schools

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 17, 2020

Often, you pick the superintendent for the times you’re in, Jim Vining, chairman of the Rock Hill, South Carolina, Board of Education told the Salisbury Post in 2013 as his superintendent prepared to start a new job here.

It’s not enough for the head of a public school system to only be an expert on education, Vining said. He or she also needs to “sell the schools” and develop relationships with the community.

Lynn Moody, Rowan-Salisbury Schools superintendent since 2013, has proven to be exactly that. She has shown an ability to “sell the schools” and develop relationships with the community. And she’s been a superintendent to fit the times. From the start, she’s put a focus on priorities such as technology.

Rowan-Salisbury students now have universal access to devices on which they can complete their work, whether at home or in the classroom. No matter their income level or family situation, students are better prepared to use the technology of the future than students were in 2013 — when she was first hired here. But the focus on technology has its detractors, namely those who believe the old way is the best way. The dividends of a one-to-one policy, however, have paid off greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic and should alleviate any fears about the basic premise of the idea. It’s fair, though, to question whether Apple devices have been the right choice for Rowan-Salisbury Schools at a price of $12.3 million.

If there’s any task still on the dockets of educators and a future superintendent, it’s to advocate for and take steps to make internet more widely available for those who don’t already have it at home.

Moody has also led the school system through the beginnings of a bold project to fundamentally reimagine what public education looks like — renewal — and put local public schools on a path to the future. For now, the coronavirus pandemic has stalled renewal’s progress, but it remains a firm foundation from which to reimagine how students learn in the 21st century.

Moody is not universally liked. She’s taken on some tough projects and been the destination for anger about projects in which she had an indirect role. From personal lives to the workplace, people can be hesitant to change, especially the kind of constant reforms that have taken place during Moody’s tenure, whether they were her doing or the school board’s.

Call it creative leadership. Moody has been willing to try new and sometimes unusual solutions to long-standing problems. For a while, there were two principals at Knox Middle School after it saw five principals in four years, which does not tend to make structural (figuratively and literally) problems at Knox any easier.

The two principal solution didn’t appear to work as planned, but it was a sign that the school system would embrace new ideas.

During Moody’s tenure, Rowan-Salisbury Schools also accomplished what others previously hadn’t in securing funding to build a school central office, albeit one that went over its original budget and was viewed by some as exorbitant. Closures and consolidation are ultimately school board decisions, but Moody’s administration encouraged action and hasn’t gained any popularity points from that.

There have been concerns about test scores from some members of the general public, but usually not from Moody herself. That was true even in the first few months of her tenure, when she told the Post, “I am not at all discouraged by our test scores.” But she added, “We have a lot of work to do.”

She has grown more explicit in the ways in which she describes standardized testing as she’s been in Rowan County. She said last year that standardized tests are an “ordering and sorting of economic status.” The scores have basically reflected that for years.

When it’s financially possible to retire, a confluence of factors usually results in a decision to do so. But it’s hard to ignore one in particular. Moody’s retirement announcement comes during a global pandemic when change is more present than ever and educators are in the middle of an impossibly difficult school year. When more time with grandchildren and a less stressful daily life await on the other side of retirement, it’s not hard to make the call.

Ultimately, parents, educators and the taxpayers who fund the Rowan-Salisbury School System will judge Moody’s tenure as superintendent, but she’s transformed what public education looks like in our community. We think that transformation has been for the better.