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School Board Meeting Highlighted By Announcement Of New Assistant Superintendent, Update On New Valle Crucis School

Kelly Walker of Watauga Schools congratulates teachers on board certification. Photo by Zack Hill.

By Zack Hill

The Watauga County Board of Education’s Monday, March 13, meeting was highlighted by the announcement of a new assistant superintendent and an update on the new Valle Crucis School.

Dr. Chris Blanton, current principal of Watauga High School, will replace Stephen Martin who is retiring at the end of June. Blanton’s tenure will start on July 1.

“I believe he is very well qualified for this role,” superintendent Scott Elliot said. “I have the highest confidence in him. He is extremely accomplished and skilled and understands our culture and process.”

Blanton spoke briefly, thanking the board, county administration and Watauga High School.

“This is difficult,” Blanton said. “I think it’s because of all the people I’ve worked with and all the students and faculty at Watauga High School. We have great students and great educators and I couldn’t be more proud of my time there and more excited to start this new role.”

Elliot noted he began as a student teacher at Watauga High School and has served the last six years as its principal also saying that “the role at Watauga comes as close to the role of superintendent as it could.”

Elliot also provided the board with an update on the new Valle Crucis School project.

“Exciting things are happening,” Elliot said. “Because of the great weather recently, they’ve made more progress on-site than expected.”

Elliot said digging for the foundation and footers will hopefully begin in April.

“By summer we’ll see vertical construction. Great progress is being made there, onward and upward. We’re going to have a brand new school soon.”

The board also provided an update on the search for the new superintendent of Watauga County Schools. Elliot is nearing the end of his tenure and can’t be reappointed.

Chair Gary Childers said the board completed the first phase of reviewing the initial 17 applicants and would be reviewing them in a closed session after the night’s open portion to whittle it down to a selection of “semi-finalists.” That group will be again be reviewed at the board’s meeting on April 27 to bring it down to a group of finalists.

Several students and faculty also received awards and recognition.

Nine teachers were recognized by Kelly Walker of Watauga County Schools Central Services for receiving their certification from the national board.

Four were on hand to have their picture taken: Ashley Tate, McKinley Kunz, Olivia Tarnowski and Andrew Wilson. Pace Cooper was in attendance and was recognized for achieving maintenance of board certification.

Walker thanked the board for their help in getting the teachers their certification.

“We here in Watauga County Schools agree this in important and we’re dedicated to increasing this number,” Walker said.

“Thank you to the [teachers’] families too,” Walker said. “For the child care or even just the time to work on [the certification].”

Childers echoed Walker’s words saying, “It’s a big deal and we’re aware of that. We’re so proud of our folks and encourage everyone that can take it on. You’ll be better for it and your students better served.”

Director of Middle Grades Education Meredith Jones presented Parkway School 8th grade student Keith Tu a certificate for winning his spelling bee and going to a regional competition and placing well.

Childers said Tu’s performance was “very impressive” and the board “can’t wait to see what you do next.”

Jones also recognized Blowing Rock School 4th grade teacher Sarah Holt, who had been nominated at the district and recognized by the state for her math teaching.

Childers thanked Holt and praised her work saying, “I know it was deserved.”