For the first time in recent memory, the Carroll County School Board has hired from within for its new Superintendent of Schools. On Wednesday, the school board unanimously voted to hire long-time Carroll County instructor and administrator Dr. Strader Blankenship as its new Superintendent.
Of Blankenship’s 33 years in education, the past 24 have been spent in the Carroll County Public School system. His days in Carroll began as a math teacher at then-Hillsville Intermediate School from 1988-1990. From there, he served as Coordinator of Computer Services for Carroll County Public Schools from 1990-1997. He spent the next three years as the assistant principal at Carroll County High School before taking over as the principal at CCHS from 2000-2002.
Blankenship made the move to Central Office as the Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations for Carroll County Public Schools from 2002-2005. He has been the Assistant Superintendent since June of 2005.
“We are very pleased that Dr. Blankenship has accepted this position,” said Brian Spencer, Chairman of the Carroll County School Board. “His vision and dedication to the students of Carroll County will ensure that Carroll County Public Schools continues to be one of the best school divisions in Virginia.”
Blankenship’s new duties were set to begin July 1. He takes over for outgoing Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith, who is leaving Carroll County to take the same position in Richmond County, Va.
The Carroll County School Board chose to advertise regionally and adhered to a short timeline in order to have the process go smoothly and quickly after Smith announced his resignation May 10. Spencer said the school board received 22 applications from seven states, which included five current Superintendents, four Assistant Superintendents, seven central office administrators, five principals, and one educator. The board conducted six interviews, three women and three men, before unanimously selecting Blankenship to lead the school division.
As far as his plans for the school system, Blankenship said he’d like to improve on an already successful product.
“We have a very good school system and we want to get better. I’ve heard statements and I truly believe it, we are one of the best-kept secrets in Virginia,” Blankenship said. “I’ve talked to many people across the state during conferences and it reaffirms that.”
Blankenship said the Carroll County Public School System is a leader across the state in many aspects, including virtual schools, and it’s something he wants to see continue. He said he’s been blessed to learn from many great mentors in the Carroll County school system.
“I’ve had great mentors in my life and I feel very fortunate for that. I’ve had excellent tutelage. I’m excited and I have the utmost respect for what our teachers do,” Blankenship said. “I do know the system here very well. I’ve been part of the Carroll education family for the last 24 years and I’m blessed to be a part of it.”
But Blankenship also understands there is much work to do in a short amount of time. Aside from the ongoing renovations to the high school and intermediate school, there are several positions to be filled throughout the county, including the now vacant Assistant Superintendent position. The Carroll County School Board did fill two additional positions at the June 27 meeting, hiring Chuck Thompson as the new principal at Carroll County High School and Elizabeth Motley as the new principal at Hillsville Elementary School. That leaves CCIS without any principals at the moment as Thompson and Motley served as the principal and assistant principal at the school, respectively.
“I hope to hit the ground running. We have an awful lot to do between now and the first day of school, with construction going on,” Blankenship said. “We have empty spots in staff we need to get taken care of. If we’re not running we’re not going to be on time.”
As for rumors that the school year may be delayed because of ongoing construction, Blankenship said those were false.
“We are right on schedule,” Blankenship said. “Does that mean it will be difficult? Yes, we will have to rush staff to make it happen, but everything is right on schedule.”
Blankenship’s annual salary as the new Superintendent will be $102,000.
A swearing-in ceremony and reception has been scheduled for July 2 beginning at 4 p.m. in the 2nd floor conference room of the Carroll County Governmental Complex.