Community leaders talk superintendent priorities, local hire

Published 12:10 am Sunday, May 1, 2022

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools is looking for a new superintendent and the Post spoke to community leaders about what they are looking for in the next leader.

Communities in Schools Rowan Executive Director James Davis said his organization’s priority is simple: They want someone to push the mission and vision of the district further.

Specifically, he said his hopes for the next leader is someone who will engage well with families and work well with Communities in Schools.

“We had a great relationship with Dr. Watlington,” Davis said, adding the organization also maintained a good relationship with former superintendent Lynn Moody, interim superintendent Jason Gardner and several district administrators sit on the Communities in Schools board of directors.

Watlington was a longtime darling of Communities in Schools of Greater Greensboro and served on its board.

He credited Watlington for bringing in Communities in Schools as well as other community groups on the creation of the district’s strategic plan launched earlier this year that plots out goals for the next five years.

“Vision 2027 already put out the district’s goals for the next five years,” Davis said. “We want to be sure whoever comes in makes sure we can align with the program.”

Rowan Partners for Education Executive Director Patty Overcash said she wants someone who is committed to the schools and a visionary.

“I want someone who is looking for a commitment here,” Overcash said. “Not just using our school system to make a name for themself, but coming to make a name for our kids. I want someone interested in making a name for Rowan County schools.”

Overcash said she hopes the new superintendent will have a working knowledge of renewal and what the unique status means for the county and the state. Overcash said she would like to see a local hire because it would bring more stability to the district, but there is always a possibility of finding the right person from the outside.

Davis said he understands the interest in a local hire and sees the benefits, but also sees the positives of bringing in someone from the outside.

“If somebody comes from the outside they are coming in with a clean slate and see there are spots we might overlook,” Davis said. “My biggest thing is I just hope they will bring in a new superintendent that will bring that commitment.”

“A superintendent is more than a leader of the school system,” Overcash said. “I am praying they can find the right person.”

Rowan County Chamber of Commerce President Elaine Spalding said she is sure the school board will pick the right candidate and the choice is important to the chamber.

The chamber meets with district officials monthly as part of its Workforce Development Alliance. Recently, the chamber sponsored a job fair for district students, worked with the district on its job shadow day and works with the career and technical education programs to match local education with the needs of employers.

Spalding said the chamber also advocates for schools at the state and federal levels to try and secure more funding for schools as well.

“The education of our children is the most important thing to our chamber members,” Spalding said. “Every time we survey our business community, education is the No. 1 issue. Business leaders want to make sure we have a high quality public school system and certainly that’s something that attracts people to live in a community.”

Spalding said the chamber has reached out to the district to offer support with the amount of recent turnover. She has worked with a lot of superintendents in more than 30 years of chamber work and said the most effective school leaders for the chamber are those who reach out to the business and community and ask how to establish partnerships that work with the reality of the economic climate.

“I think the best ones are those that really get involved in local communities,” Spalding said.

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College President Carol Spalding was not available as of press time, but did furnish a statement for this story, saying the college and the district are close partners with their articulation, career and college promise programs.

“The leadership of both organizations are committed to the significant work of the Rowan Education Collaborative, and I look forward to working with the new superintendent to continue to strengthen and expand our partnerships,” Spalding said.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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