By Jesse Wood
May 1, 2014. The Watauga County Board of Education unanimously named Dr. Scott Elliott as the next superintendent of Watauga County Schools at a special meeting on Thursday night. Elliott’s appointment is effective July 1 – at which point interim Supt. David Fonseca will return to his assistant superintendent position.
Elliott is currently the assistant superintendent at Transylvania County Schools, where he has held several other titles including teacher, assistant principal, principal and director of secondary education for the past 18 years. He was named TCS teacher of the year in 2000 and administrator of the year in 2012.
Referring to Elliott being a native of Marion and graduate of McDowell High School in 1992, school board Vice Chair Delora Hodges noted that Elliott has a “respect” for the culture of Western North Carolina.
During Thursday’s brief meeting, all of the school board members talked about Elliott and the search process. Chair Dr. Lee Warren noted that he was one of the six finalists that underwent in-depth interviews after whittling down a total of 24 applications. Warren also mentioned that Elliott passed an extensive check of professional and personal references – both listed and unlisted – with flying colors.
“He has a sterling record of success in his current and previous positions, a passion for serving students, and a strong commitment to building the relationships so essential to successful schools,” Warren said. “I am confident he will provide the outstanding leadership our students need to achieve their potential as productive citizens and lifelong learners.”
Hodges, in her speech, read from her notes that she jotted down during the interview process with Elliott. She mentioned that Watauga County Schools was the only place that he applied and was impressed when Elliott said there was no other place he wanted to live and work. She mentioned that during the interview process Elliott said that he didn’t make decisions in isolation and that he valued the input of other stakeholders in the schools like parents.
She also mentioned that Elliott was willing to make a long-term commitment to WCS, a system that needs the “consistency of a long-term leader” – alluding to the fact that the school system has had three superintendents and two interims since 2008.
Board Member Ron Henries, just as his fellow board members did, travelled to Transylvania County and interviewed 12 different people – some that were on Elliott’s reference list and others that weren’t. Aside from the glowing reviews, Henries said he was most impressed at the success of the Transylvania County School system, noting that Rosman High School, which has about 400 students, didn’t have a single dropout last year.
“If you can imagine that. Somebody is doing something incredibly right,” Henries said. “I want that knowledge brought to Watauga County and shared with our students.”
School Board Member Brenda Reese brought laughter to those that attended the announcement in the packed Gragg Education Center when she recounted a short story of her research on Elliott in Transylvania County.
She said she ended up talking one woman and asked if she knew of Elliott. The woman said that she did but “hadn’t heard anything about him.” Now, Reese took this as a good sign because that woman was a beautician who heard gossip all day every day in the hair salon.
Former WCS Superintendent Dr. Dick Jones, who also served as an interim superintendent when former Supt. Marty Hemric left for Wilkesboro County Schools in 2011, worked with Elliott at Transylvania County Schools years ago and has maintained contact with him over the years.
Elliott, Jones said in a press release, is “an exemplary candidate for superintendent and a great choice for the position. He has served in a system very similar to ours and will get off to a fast and smooth start as superintendent. He is also a person of high integrity, a strong family person, and a very personable individual that people will enjoy getting to know.”
Attending Thursdays announcement was Elliott’s wife of 18 years Laura and their two school-aged children Grayson and Athena.
Elliott’s four-year contract includes a base salary of $130,600 plus benefits.
For more information, read a press release from WCS below:
Dr. Scott Elliott to be Next Superintendent of WCS
The Watauga County Board of Education has appointed Dr. Scott Elliott as superintendent of Watauga County Schools effective July 1.
Board of Education Chair Dr. Lee Warren announced the appointment at a special called meeting of the Board of Education Thursday evening, saying “It is with great pleasure that we announce the selection of Dr. Scott Elliott as the next superintendent of the Watauga County Schools. After a thorough review of 24 applications, in-depth interviews with six candidates, and extensive checks of professional and personal references, the Board of Education is convinced that Dr. Elliott is the best person to lead our school system. He has a sterling record of success in his current and previous positions, a passion for serving students, and a strong commitment to building the relationships so essential to successful schools. I am confident he will provide the outstanding leadership our students need to achieve their potential as productive citizens and lifelong learners.”
Dr. Warren added, “I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Fonseca for his great leadership as interim superintendent. He has done an excellent job in keeping our system moving forward during a challenging time for our schools. This Board shares a deep appreciation for his work and we look forward to his continued service in this system.”
Dr. Elliott is currently assistant superintendent of Transylvania County Schools, a NC district he has served for 18 years as a teacher, assistant principal and principal, and administrator. He was named Administrator of the Year in the Transylvania County Schools (TCS) in 2012 and was honored as that district’s Teacher of the Year for 1999-2000.
Elliott responded to his appointment by expressing his gratitude to the Board and his excitement about his new role. “I am very grateful to the Watauga Board of Education for trusting me with the responsibility to lead this excellent school system. I appreciate the extensive effort they have given to ensuring this is the right fit for both the Watauga community and for my family. I am optimistic and excited about our future work together.”
He went on to note some of the reasons for his optimism and excitement. “I do think this is a great mutual fit. I live in a college town with a growing and diverse population. I understand the value and contributions of our academic and business professionals, the need to welcome and engage newcomers to the community, and the sometimes competing demands and perspectives these different stakeholders bring to our schools. At the same time, I have a deep understanding and respect for the native and local residents who have long held relationships and traditions related to our local schools. I grew up in rural McDowell County and served as a principal in the rural mountain community of Rosman in Transylvania County. I very much look forward to developing genuine and supportive relationships with folks from all across the Watauga community.”
The appeal of Watauga County to his family was a key factor in Elliott’s pursuit of the position. “There are very few communities around the state where we would want to live, raise our children, work, and have our children go to school. Brevard was one, and Watauga is one as well. It was a deliberate decision on our part to pursue living and working in Watauga County. We are looking forward to meeting new colleagues, making new friends, and serving the Watauga community for many years to come.”
Former WCS Superintendent Dr. Richard Jones, who also came to Watauga from the Transylvania County Schools, worked with Dr. Elliott for about a year in Transylvania County and has maintained occasional contact with him in the intervening years. Jones praised Elliott as “an exemplary candidate for superintendent and a great choice for the position. He has served in a system very similar to ours and will get off to a fast and smooth start as superintendent. He is also a person of high integrity, a strong family person, and a very personable individual that people will enjoy getting to know.”
Transylvania County associates of Elliott warmly praised his service there. Mike Hawkins, Chair of the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners, cited Elliott’s “progressive vision and tireless work,” and stated that “I know he will be a sensational superintendent in Watauga County.” TCS Superintendent Dr. Jeff McDaris commented “Watauga County is getting a proven leader who will take that county to new levels.” The principal who first hired him as a teacher said Elliott still has “his obvious love of kids, quick wit, boundless energy, and a delightful sense of humor…he has an infectious, can-do attitude that has permeated all who surrounded him, kids and adults alike. Wherever Scott has worked, all staff members become part of a community family to get the job done of caring for our kids and helping them find success.”
As assistant superintendent, Elliott oversees the TCS departments of Curriculum and Instruction, Human Resources, Technology Services, Career and Technical Education, Student Services, Federal Programs, and Testing and Accountability. Before becoming assistant superintendent, his duties included serving as the director of Secondary Education, Career and Technical Education, and Student Services. He has also been a middle school assistant principal and principal, and has taught high school English, Carpentry, and Computer Skills.
Like the Watauga County Schools, TCS is a western NC school district where students outperform state averages on the graduation rate and on most measures of academic proficiency.
Elliott’s educational background includes a master’s degree in education, an education specialist degree in educational leadership, and a doctoral degree in educational leadership, all from Western Carolina University. He completed his bachelor’s degree at UNC-Greensboro. He holds NC licenses as a superintendent, principal, and career and technical education director, as well as teaching licenses for English in grades 9-12 and in language arts for grades 6-9.
Elliott and his wife Laura have been married for 18 years and have two school age children, Grayson and Athena. Ms. Elliott is also an educator and has completed a master’s degree and National Board certification. She taught eighth grade social studies and science for the last 14 years and worked for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission for five years before entering the teaching profession.
Elliott has served as Chair of the Western Region Education Service Alliance Curriculum Council for the last seven years and is the current chair of the Western Region Association for Career and Technical Education Administrators. He is a member of the Board of Trustees at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock, NC.
Elliott is also active in community service. He has served for the last two years as president of VISION Transylvania, a community leadership development program in Transylvania County, and is a member of the local Juvenile Crime Prevention Council. He and his wife also coached a church league basketball team for second and third grade boys.
The Watauga County Schools system consists of eight combined elementary/middle schools and one comprehensive high school for grades 9-12. The system has 575 full time employees and serves a total of approximately 4,400 students.