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Bertie Schools make history – again

WINDSOR – Bertie County made history six years ago by selecting John F. Smith Sr. as the first black superintendent of the county’s public school system.

History was made again here yesterday (Wednesday) when Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart became Bertie’s first-ever female superintendent.

The decision came following a 29-minute closed session from where the Bertie Board of Education emerged in unanimous agreement over the selection of Dr. Collins-Hart.

&uot;I am very humbled to be selected as your superintendent,&uot; said Dr. Collins-Hart, a native of Charlotte who currently resides in Durham. &uot;If you will work with me, I will work with you. I need your help and your support.&uot;

The new school leader was complementary of Smith, who will retire at the end of this month.

&uot;I know I have a hard act to follow,&uot; she said.

Then, turning to the Board of Education seated behind her, she said, &uot;You will not be disappointed.&uot;

Currently, Dr. Collins-Hart serves as Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services for Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools, a position she has held for the past five years.

She spent 10 years working in school systems in Kansas where she relocated with her husband. There she served as a curriculum and instructional specialist, a principal, a director of curriculum and as an assistant superintendent.

Dr. Collins-Hart also taught English at Tarboro High School from 1977-1984.

In a prepared statement read by Rev. Gary Cordon, Chairman of the Bertie Board of Education, the local educational leaders were pleased to have a new superintendent onboard with such a strong instructional background and a commitment to excellence.

&uot;The Board believes that Dr. Collins-Hart has the ability and the skills necessary to continue to move the Bertie County Schools forward,&uot; Rev. Cordon said as he read from the statement. &uot;In the interview process, the members of the Board found Dr. Collins-Hart to be very thorough, very professional and very approachable. She also impressed the Board with her knowledge of the issues facing the Bertie County Schools and her clear plans to approach the challenges ahead in a positive and constructive manner.&uot;

Board member Rickey Freeman said he was extremely pleased with the person selected as Bertie’s new educational leader.

&uot;When I first saw her resume, it jumped right off the page at me,&uot; Freeman recalled. &uot;She was clearly qualified to lead our school district. I feel we’re very fortunate to land a person of her caliber. She comes from a system (Chapel Hill-Carrboro) that is one of the top school systems in the state.&uot;

Seaton Fairless, the Board’s senior member as well as its vice-chairman, said the decision didn’t come easy.

&uot;We interviewed many qualified candidates, but this is the right choice,&uot; he said. &uot;People are looking at the success we’ve enjoyed under Mr. Smith. We believe Dr. Collins-Hart is very capable of continuing that success.&uot;

Prior to the end of the meeting, Smith received a standing ovation for his six years of service to Bertie County.

&uot;This is a bittersweet moment,&uot; Rev. Cordon noted. &uot;We welcome a new superintendent, but at the same time say goodbye to a man who has had the best interest of Bertie County and its children in his heart.&uot;

The terms of Dr. Collins-Hart’s contract calls for a four-year agreement, one ending June 30, 2009. Her combined salary during that period is listed at $122,500 annually plus reasonable job-related expenses. In addition, Dr. Collins-Hart qualifies for up to a $6,000 yearly performance bonus. That additional money is paid through the discretion of the Board and is based on certain goals and objectives mutually established by the Board and the superintendent.