Replacing the leader of a high-performing organization is never easy. But that’s what Haywood County Schools did this week after the March departure of a longtime superintendent who led the district to new heights. But as the district looks to the future, it didn’t have to look far for a replacement.
With more than 7,000 students, Haywood County is home to the largest public school system west of Buncombe County. It’s also one of the best anywhere in the state. In each of the past two years, Haywood County has ranked 11th in academic performance out of 115 North Carolina school systems.
“In the last four years Haywood County Schools has made some very good progress,” said Haywood County Schools Board of Education Chairman Chuck Francis. “We’re now ranked in the top 10 percent in the state and it’s due to a lot of hard work with our personnel, our people. The board makes policy decisions, and we let our folks, administrators, do the day-to-day operations and they are the ones that do the work.”
Among them was Dr. Anne Garrett, who in her 13 years as superintendent led Haywood County Schools from the middle of the pack to near the top of the heap. With her all the while was 30-plus year veteran of Haywood Schools, Dr. Bill Nolte.
“When she was hired as superintendent, she hired me as the associate,” said Nolte. “I had been a principal at several locations, assistant principal on several occasions and we made a concerted decision that we were not going to be average anymore. The schools system had performed a little above the state average for several decades. ”
Nolte was offered the position by the board July 3 after a nationwide search, and will be responsible for maintaining and improving on that top-ten percent ranking. Francis thinks Nolte is well suited to the task at hand.
“I know that Dr. Bill has been an employee that’s always been a team player, always excelled everywhere we’ve ever had him, whether it be assistant principal or moving on up the ladder,” Francis said. “He’s always excelled in every position that he’s been assigned to.”
Nolte acknowledges challenges related to infrastructure needs, school funding and school safety, but his new four-year contract as superintendent will give him time to show the school board’s faith in him is well placed.