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School Board Appoints New Principals at Hardin Park, Bethel Schools

Gillespie and Ward are pictured with Watauga County Schools Superintendent Leslie Alexander at the board meeting held Tuesday. Photo submitted.

The Watauga County Board of Education has approved the appointment of new principals at Hardin Park and Bethel schools. Travis Gillespie is set to take lead at Hardin Park, while Ricky Ward will become Principal at Bethel School.

Gillespie, who comes to Hardin Park from his current position as Director of Exceptional Children’s Services with Caldwell County Schools, is not a stranger to Watauga County, having served as a middle school math and science teacher at Parkway School from 2007 to 2015. He also served as Principal at West Lenoir Elementary School, where he was named Caldwell County’s Principal of the Year in 2019. Gillespie holds a Masters’ Degree in School Administration from Appalachian State University.

Gillespie said he was looking forward to continuing the tradition of excellence he’d seen at Hardin Park during his tenure as a Watauga County Schools teacher.

“It is an honor to have the opportunity to serve the students, staff and families of the Hardin Park community,” Gillespie said. “I feel truly blessed to have been selected and look forward to getting to work. Hardin Park is an exceptional school that has such a strong foundation for learning and student success, and I will continue to build on that and create a learning environment that is safe, meets the needs of all learners and is highly effective in preparing our students for the future.”

Bethel School’s new Principal Ricky Ward will join WCS from a long tenure in Avery County Schools. Ward has served in various capacities in Avery County since 2000, working both as a classroom teacher, assistant principal and principal at the elementary, middle and high school level. He brings fifteen years of administrative experience to Bethel. Ward holds a Master’s Degree in School Administration from Appalachian State University and an undergraduate degree from Lees-McRae. He has twice been named Principal of the Year in Avery County in 2013 and 2019.

Ward said he was looking forward to starting work in Watauga County and was excited to begin work with students.

“It is an honor to be joining Watauga County Schools, and I am looking forward to working with the students, staff and families of the Bethel Community,” Ward said. “I am excited to be part of a school with such a strong sense of tradition and positive culture.”

Watauga County Schools Superintendent Leslie Alexander said she looked forward to getting to work with Gillespie and Ward and felt confident in their selection as the right candidates for each role.

“I am thrilled that we are hiring individuals who bring leadership experiences and personal perspectives that make them a great fit for their school and the school community,” Alexander said. “We are excited to welcome Mr. Ward and Mr. Gillespie to Watauga County and I am looking forward to an exciting future for Bethel School and Hardin Park under their leadership.”

The Watauga County Board of Education will hold its next meeting on Monday, August 15. The 2023-24 school year will begin on Aug. 21.

Courtesy of Watauga County Schools.