School Superintendent Taylor announces retirement
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 21, 2013 1:50 AM
Dr. Steve Taylor is seen at a recent meeting of the Wayne County Board of Education and county commissioners.
Dr. Steven Taylor has decided to retire as superintendent of Wayne County Public Schools effective July 1.
The official announcement was made Friday afternoon at a called meeting of principals, central office staff and invited guests. The Board of Education was notified of his decision two days before the announcement. Taylor said he privately shared the news with his leadership team on Thursday.
"There's an old saying that goes, all good things must come to an end, and the words of Mitt Romney when he was defeated by President Obama. He compared it to a roller coaster ride, exciting and thrilling, ups and downs. But the ride ends and then you get off," Taylor told the audience. "And for me the ride's going to stop June 30."
To quell any rumors that might be circulating, Taylor said he had made the decision with his family and noted that no one had asked him to retire. The Board of Education had also been very supportive.
"In fact, they have asked me to stay. They have asked me to reconsider," he said, noting that it felt good "to leave when they don't want you to leave."
The departure will be bittersweet, he admitted, because of the "family" of educators and staff he has been affiliated with for the past 13 years, including two school board members from the original board that hired him, Thelma Smith and John P. Grantham, current chairman.
"Wayne County Public Schools has been a great place to work and grow professionally," he read from the letter he had sent the board. "To see our students graduate and excel, becoming good productive citizens has made this journey and effort worth the hard work and pressures of this job.
"I retire satisfied with my effort and the effort of those who have worked with me. This has truly been a satisfying career with memories that I will cherish and treasure for a lifetime."
He said he had much to be proud of, from the Wee Wings bus traveling preschool program to introducing academies at high schools and putting in graduation coaches and success coaches to shore up graduation rates. But the things he considers perhaps the most gratifying, he said, had nothing to do with test scores or statistical data.
"In all these budget cuts that we have had, and looking at other counties around us, we didn't lay off a single person," he said. "I don't think I could sleep at night if I sent somebody to the house. I'm glad that we didn't have to do that."
The Wayne County native and 1976 graduate of Charles B. Aycock High School thanked God for giving him the strength and perseverance to do the job. He acknowledged his family, represented in the audience by wife, Pam, an art teacher at Eastern Wayne Elementary School, and daughter, Natalie, a first-year teacher at Eastern Wayne High School who will start pharmacy school in the fall. His other child, son Steven, is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Taylor's career path began in 1980, as a driver's education teacher with Tarboro City Schools. Four years later, he earned his doctorate in curriculum and instruction at Michigan State University. He became director of transportation with WCPS in 1985 and in the years since, has been a principal, assistant superintendent, personnel assistant and director of personnel services. He was named superintendent in 2000, at age 42.
"This the longest tenure I've ever had," he said. "I appreciate the face that you were able to give this old country boy from Eureka an opportunity to come in and lead the 20th largest school system in North Carolina."
The board has traditionally extended his contract to maintain four-year status, until this past year, when Taylor opted not to request the one-year extension. He still has two years remaining on the current contract, he said, but maintains it is the right time to retire.
He will not, however, be a "lame-duck superintendent" in the months remaining.
"We'll carry out the duties as if we're going to be here continuously and that's just how it is going to be as long as I'm sitting in that seat," he said. "I know the school board will do due diligence in trying to select the right person to replace me."
The emotional hour-long staff gathering concluded with several board members acknowledging Taylor's contributions and leadership.
"It's going to be mighty hard to find somebody that's done as good a job as you have for this school district," said Rick Pridgen, crediting the superintendent with being the reason he ran for re-election to his board seat. "Not all school boards have the relationships with their superintendent that we have with him."
Grantham also paid tribute to the superintendent, ending on a humorous note, "It's been a long road. It's been rewarding. I's been challenging. You have done a really good job for us here.
"We'll move on. We'll miss you. We appreciate what you have done. If you ever miss the criticism, you can always come to the school board."
The next step, Grantham said afterward, will be to begin the process of finding a replacement. Such decisions will be made in the coming weeks.
"What we will probably end up doing is getting some candidates from the state department of education," he said. "As far as whom we pick, that'll be something we all have to talk about and come to a consensus."
A budget work session set for April 30 will likely be an opportunity to include discussion on moving forward in the search, Grantham said.