New beginnings

Published 10:57 am Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Newly hired Gates County Schools Superintendent Dr. Barry Williams receives the oath of office from Kristen Ward, Administrative Assistant for the school system’s Central Office. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

GATESVILLE – With the promise of building on the strong foundation already in place, Dr. Barry Williams took the oath of office here last week as the new Superintendent of Gates County Schools.

Williams, a native of Appalachia, VA – located in the southwestern mountains, north of Kingsport, TN – comes to Gates County after serving a two-year stint as Superintendent of Schools in Rangely, Colorado.

He began his new duties on Jan. 2.

“I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed in me. I thank Mr. (Earl) Norfleet (who served as the county’s Interim Superintendent) for his service to our district, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition,” Williams remarked during the Jan. 9 meeting of the Gates County Board of Education.

“As the new superintendent of Gates County Schools, it is an honor and a pleasure to become a part of a community that values education and is always striving for the best,” he continued. “From my conversations with staff, parents and community members, it is clear that great schools mean a lot to people. It’s the reason why people chose to live in Gates County and raise their children in this great community.

“However, Gates County citizens also do not rest on their reputation alone and expect our schools to build upon previous successes. A priority of mine will be to continue to maintain excellence and progress in the classroom so that our students are prepared for higher education and the jobs of tomorrow.”

Williams said the district will have, “have high expectations combined with the necessary supports for all students, faculty and staff” in an effort to ensure that the county’s children are making progress.

“We will help all students graduate,” Williams stressed.  “We need to always know where they are in their progress towards graduation and design opportunities to ensure they do graduate. Examples of actions include creating and maintaining a platform that enables us to monitor student achievement, student engagement, and other indicators of student progress, supporting initiatives that target specific student needs, and allowing flexible individualized student plan.”
Williams touted the need to integrate technology as a natural part of classroom instruction and learning and develop improved media literacy skills so students can access and critique information. He stressed the need to partner with the community, local colleges and outside agencies…..“to ensure that we will meet our goals by focusing our efforts and available resources.”

“We will strengthen our public outreach by listening and including all of the various voices of our community; strengthen relationships with our post secondary institutions and recognize the tremendous resources available within our own community. Within this process we will remain good stewards of finite public resources,” Williams said.

“I am looking forward to working with all employees, all parents and all community members of the Gates County School community and observing the great learning taking place in every classroom in our district each and every day,” he added.

“We welcome a new member of our staff, a new leader of our staff and we welcome Dr. Williams,” said Doug Lilley, chairman of the Gates County Board of Education. “We, as a board, feel we have placed the right man in our leadership chair and we feel we’re about to embark on great things to come.”

Later in the meeting, Williams praised Norfleet for his leadership efforts while the school board conducted their search for a superintendent.

“I entered this building on Jan. 2 with task at hand,” Williams said. “The first person I spoke with was Mr. Norfleet. We have discussed our educational philosophies. Our stories pretty much parallel each other as far as educational strategies. My informal evaluation of Mr. Norfleet after one week tells me that he is a man of great conviction. He has love, compassion and enthusiasm to move this school district forward. I feel our professional relationship will grow stronger. Mr. Norfleet and I are not on the same page, rather we’re on the same word and that word is team.”

As far as what lies in the immediate future, Williams said by following the vision that all students can learn it becomes his direct responsibility to make sure all the procedures and policies fall in line with that vision.

“Through collaboration with all the stakeholders and my instructional team, we’ll establish goals and activities and strategies to make sure that vision is in place,” he said.

In the short period of time he has been in charge of the day-to-day duties of leading the county’s school system, Williams said he has personally witnessed the components it takes to lead a successful district are already in place. He said those components include a data driven, decision making governing structure; a rigorous curriculum with clearly defined expectations; instructional strategies and activities that support student achievement; having a highly qualified staff in place; facilities and sites and equipment that condone learning in an effort to prepare the county’s students for a global society; staying abreast of ever-changing technology; and a solid offering of extracurricular activities to include athletics (of which he noted were very well attended by parents and other community members).

Williams promised to be “visible in every school.”

“I want to make sure to be in the schools, in the classrooms,” he said. “On the athletic field you see perspiration; in the classroom you see mental sweat.”

Williams and his wife, Alice, are currently seeking a home in the county.

“We both love it here and can’t wait until we can make our home in this wonderful county,” Williams stated.

Williams, 48, graduated in 1995 from Clinch Valley Community College (now the University of Virginia at Wise) with a Bachelor of Arts in biology with a minor in chemistry. Armed with that education, Williams – who spent his early years as an adult working with Norfolk Southern Railway – launched his new career as a math and chemistry teacher at his high school alma mater in Appalachia. There, he also served as an assistant football coach and coached volleyball and girl’s basketball.

A few years later Williams obtained his Masters in Administration and Supervision from Virginia Tech, a degree that led to his first role as an administrator – assistant principal at J.J. Kelly High School in Wise, VA in 2002. Five years later he was promoted to principal at Coeburn Elementary School, also located in Wise County.

He received his Doctorate in Education in 2007 from Nova Southeastern University in Florida, a degree that led him to seek a job as a superintendent and was hired by the Rangely, Colorado School District.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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