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Bertie Superintendent to retire

WINDSOR – Since day one of his job as Superintendent of the Bertie County Public School system, John F. Smith Sr. has been a man of his word.

When he arrived on the job back in July of 1999, Smith promised to lead the school system to new heights. Upon making that bold prediction, Smith said he had a five-year plan in mind and would retire at the end of that period.

Smith was right on both accords – first, and most importantly, taking a system struggling to meet even the minimum standards of the statewide &uot;ABC’s of Education&uot; and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) to one where, in August, seven of its 10 schools were recognized for high achievement. Four of those schools – Askewville, Aulander, West Bertie and C.G. White – were hailed as Schools of Distinction with High Growth.

With that in mind, Smith honored the second prediction he made five years ago when, earlier this week, he announcement his retirement.

In a letter sent to Rev. Gary Cordon, Chairman of the Bertie County Board of Education, Smith said he was stepping down effective June 30, 2005. He gave such a lengthy notice in order for the School Board to have ample time to advertise, interview and choose a new superintendent prior to the beginning of the 2005-06 school year.

&uot;This has been a very good experience in my life to come here and work with this school system,&uot; said Smith. &uot;What made the experience more enjoyable were the outstanding administrators, teachers and staff that I was extremely fortunate to work with. Together, we have been able to meet the majority of the goals set five years ago.&uot;

Rev. Cordon expressed mixed emotions over Smith’s decision to retire.

&uot;It was a bittersweet moment when I read the letter Mr. Smith sent to me on Monday,&uot; he stated. &uot;I’m sad that we are losing a great leader of our school system, but yet happy for Mr. Smith that he can now enjoy what life has to offer in retirement.&uot;

Cordon continued, &uot;Mr. Smith did not have to join us five years ago. He was more than qualified to work in education at any level he chose, at a much higher salary than what he earned here. But he chose us. He brought in a passion that we all embraced for the betterment of our school system.&uot;

Smith pointed to three things that he attributed as the main reasons the school system has strived under his leadership.

&uot;One, when I arrived here five years ago, I immediately addressed the morale issue,&uot; he recalled. &uot;It was extremely low when I got here and together we brought it up to the level it is today.

&uot;Secondly, I made some administrative moves within the system when I got here and those moves allowed those individuals to become more creative, thus improving the overall system.

&uot;Last, but certainly not least, the support I received from our Board of Education has had a lot to do with the growth experienced by our schools.&uot;

Leaving the system in such good shape is pleasing to Smith.

&uot;We’ve worked very hard to get the school system to this point,&uot; he noted. &uot;It’s my wish that the Board will go out and hire someone to pick-up where we left off and take this system to loftier heights.&uot;

Smith’s five years in Bertie County have seen the system’s Education Foundation make great strides in generating local interest and local funds through various activities. Under Smith direction, a grant writer was hired two years ago for the school system. Smith’s foresight into that decision has reaped nearly $5.8 million in grants during the 2003-04 academic year.

In addition, Smith has sparked a high level of interest by school system employees and students in the Bertie County Relay for Life. For those efforts, Bertie’s Relay has bestowed several honors upon the superintendent. Just recently, Smith was named as the Windsor/Bertie County Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year.