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Watauga County Announces New School Superintendent

School board chairman introduces superintendent-elect, Dr. Leslie Alexander, to applause.
Photo by Zack Hill

By Zack Hill

Watauga County, say hello to your new superintendent of public schools.

Dr. Leslie Alexander was announced as superintendent-elect at a special meeting of the board of education on Monday. She will take over for Dr. Scott Elliot, whose tenure ends this summer.

“Welcome on behalf of a wonderful community that loves its schools,” Elliot said. “We couldn’t be happier you are here and I couldn’t be more proud right now of our school system and board. I’m so happy and optimistic for the future of our schools under your leadership.”

Alexander said she has long loved Watauga County and the High Country and spent time getting to know the schools, communities and culture well before getting the job.

“I am so excited to be here,” Alexander said. “I fell in love with this area about 13 years ago when we’d [her family] come to App State football games. We saw the community and just loved it. A few years ago, we decided this is where we want to end up long-term.”

“We bought a home in Foscoe. When this opportunity became available, we thought, ‘Is this possible? This vacancy in this place we love?’ I got so excited about it that back in February I decided it was important for me to go to every single school. I learned a lot. We have unique and very special schools and they have their own qualities and their communities are proud of them. I felt very much at home during those days. And I understand some of the struggles of rural life but also the deep pride these communities have.”

The board was filled with praise for Alexander.

Chair Gary Childers spoke of the difficulty the board faced in finding the right person to fill Elliot’s shoes.

“When Dr. Elliot first informed of us of his intent to retire, we decided the approach would not to be to focus on lamenting Dr. Elliot leaving, although we are sad to see him go, but on the opportunity to find the next outstanding leader, someone who would be able to sustain and add to our success,” Childers said. “We believe we’ve found that leader in Dr. Alexander. We’re happy to report that she checks all the boxes of leadership, skills and experience.”

Vice-chair Steve Combs said he felt that Alexander was the right choice almost immediately.

“I knew about halfway through the interview we had the person in the room who would be our superintendent,” Combs said. “Every question we asker her, she hit it right on the pin point. I am extremely excited to be able to work with her. She is going to make an outstanding superintendent.”

Board member Jay Fenwick said many of his worries about replacing Elliot were quelled after meeting Alexander.

“I have a great sense of relief now,” Fenwick said. “Six months ago it was a scary proposition to think of the task we had before us. The most important job a board can have is finding a new superintendent. But Dr. Alexander, in my estimation, was far and away the best candidate.”

Alexander thanked the board for the opportunity to serve.

“I’m going to do my very best to make you glad you chose me and keep you moving in a good direction,” Alexander said. “I just want you to know I believe deeply in public education. As public educators we have a chance to truly shape the lives of the next generations.”

Alexander will become superintendent on July 1 although Elliot has agreed to stay on until after that date to help with the transition for Alexander and the rest of the system.