By Sharon Kebschull Barrett, December 9, 2021
When Dr. Tony Jackson, then superintendent of Vance County Schools, was named the 2020 A. Craig Phillips North Carolina Superintendent of the Year, we at Public Impact were delighted—but hardly surprised. Having worked with Jackson since 2016 to help the district implement Opportunity Culture models, we knew the powerful effect his leadership had on this northeastern North Carolina district, on the Virginia border.
And when Dr. Valerie Bridges, superintendent of Edgecombe County Public Schools—65 miles southeast of Vance—received the same designation last month for 2022 superintendent of the year, we were again both thrilled and unsurprised. Under Bridges’ leadership, Edgecombe has used Opportunity Culture models in nearly all its schools, with some impressive student growth results. Edgecombe and Vance turned to these models to help confront their similar challenges around teacher recruitment and retention in their rural districts, not too far from wealthier Raleigh and Research Triangle districts.
Both districts have benefited from strong leadership that strengthens Opportunity Culture continuity during superintendent turnover. Jackson became superintendent of Chatham County Schools this year, but Vance’s Opportunity Culture work carries on (Dr. Cindy Bennett, who led Vance’s Opportunity Culture implementation as assistant superintendent, followed Jackson as superintendent), and Bridges advanced the early Opportunity Culture planning of the previous Edgecombe superintendent when he moved to another North Carolina district.
Thinking about their strong leadership, how their districts have learned from each other, and their impact on students and teachers led us back to interviews we did pre-Covid with both superintendents. Hear their thoughts on how Opportunity Culture models have made a difference in this video: