Back to the future

Published 9:50 am Monday, June 25, 2012

Before I get started, no one asked me.

That’s never stopped me from giving my opinion anyway though, so here goes.

Bertie County Schools will soon begin their search for yet another superintendent. I’ve given some thought to the kind of person they need as the school board begins deliberations about hiring a new leader.

I think they need a combination of the attributes that have been available in the recent holders of the office. If you were able to combine some of the best attributes of the recent superintendents you could easily come up with the best person for the job.

I’ll begin with the current superintendent, who is retiring after just over a year on the job and work backwards.

As the board looks for a new superintendent, I think they should look for someone with the grace and dignity of Dr. Debbie Harris-Rollins. During her time, she has been assailed from all sides, but has never let it make her act any other way but dignified and elegant.

Although he was an interim superintendent, I’ll add the no nonsense attitude of former district leader Dr. Will Crawford. During his tenure, Bertie County Schools was under the command of a true leader. Dr. Crawford was not as personable at times as his predecessor or successor, but had a way of cutting through the malarkey and saying exactly what needed to be said.

Before Dr. Crawford was Dr. Chip Zullinger. While many have their opinions, I believe Zullinger was the most personable superintendent in the history of the county. He liked the people of Bertie County and he truly wanted to be a part of the district. If a new superintendent is coming from outside Bertie County – and we all know that is what will happen – that new leader needs to have the same desire to be a part of Bertie County Zullinger had – and his way of working with people.

The interim superintendent before Zullinger may have been one of the most intelligent and experienced leaders the district ever had. If the Bertie County Board of Education could find someone with the knowledge of Dr. Michael Priddy who wasn’t retired, they would have found a true blessing to Bertie County. Priddy was without a doubt, one of the finest leaders the school system has had, even on an interim basis.

I never worked with those between Priddy and Joe Nelson, so it’s difficult for me to comment on them.

As for Nelson, I think he was a consummate professional. I didn’t always agree with him, but I did always believe he did what he thought was right for Bertie County Schools. Also, he was able to last a long time for any superintendent, but particularly for one in Bertie County. His staying power as a leader would be nice as well.

I think Bertie County Schools has improved over the past five years, sometimes in spite of itself. The district has some good teachers. It also has some good school-level leaders. The three high schools are working. They are offering better choices for students and the students are taking advantage of them.

What Bertie County needs now is a superintendent that can combine all the best qualities of its past leaders and take the district into a future where success can be enjoyed by every student.


Thadd White is Managing Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be reached via email at or by telephone at 332-7211. In addition to covering the Bertie County Schools, he is a graduate of the district.