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2023 Dr. Brad Sneeden
Leadership Award

The North Carolina School Superintendents' Association (NCSSA) has announced the selection of Mr. Aaron Greene, Superintendent of Polk County Schools, as the recipient of the Dr. Brad Sneeden Leadership Award. The award is presented in honor and recognition of a superintendent who has demonstrated a strong commitment to lifelong learning, unwavering integrity in leadership, and transformation of vision into action.

2023 Dr. Dwayne Stallings
Leadership Award

The North Carolina School Superintendents' Association (NCSSA) has announced the selection of Dr. Otis L. Smallwood, Superintendent of Bertie County Schools, as the recipient of the Dr. Dwayne Stallings Leadership Award. The award is presented in honor and recognition of a superintendent who has demonstrated a strong dedication to public education, commitment to academic excellence, and a continual focus on professional growth and student learning.

Previous Superintendent
of the Year Recipients:

2023 – Dr. Don Phipps, Caldwell

2022 – Dr. Valerie Bridges, Edgecombe

2021 – Dr. Brent Williams, Lenoir

2020 – Dr. Anthony Jackson, Vance

2019 – Dr. Patrick Miller, Greene

2018 – Dr. Janet Mason, Rutherford

2017 – Dr. Jim Merrill, Wake

2016 – Dr. Freddie E. Williamson, Hoke

2015 – Dr. Rodney Shotwell, Rockingham

2014 – Brady Johnson, Iredell-Statesville

2013 – Dr. Mark Adrian Edwards,
               Mooresville City

2012 – Dr. Diane L. Frost, Asheboro

2011 – Dr. Donald L. Martin, Jr.,

2010 – Dr. Donna Cox Peters, Montgomery

2009 – Dr. Terry K. Holliday, Iredell-Statesville

2008 – Dr. Terry B. Grier, Guilford

2007 – Dr. Shirley B.  Prince, Scotland

2006 – Dr. Larry E. Price, Wilson

2005 – Dr. James G. Merrill,

2004 – William R. McNeal, Jr., Wake

2003 – Dr. Edward D. Sadler, Jr., Gaston

2002 – Dr. Eric J. Smith, Charlotte-Mecklenburg

2001 – Dr. Neil G. Pedersen, Chapel Hill-Carrboro

2000 – Dr. Ann T. Denlinger, Durham

1999 – Dr. Jerry D.  Weast, Guilford

1998 – Dr. James F. Causby, Johnston

1997 – Steven Wrenn,  Lee

1996 – Douglas Scott Penland, Clay

1995 – Dr. John B. Dunn, Edenton-Chowan

1994 – Dr. Michael E. Ward, Granville

1993 – Charles L.  Byrd, Hendersonville City

1992 – Dr. Travis Twiford,
               Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Schools

1991 – Dr. James F. Causby, Polk

1990 – Dr. G. Thomas Houlihan, Granville

1989 – Dr. Emmett Malvin Floyd, Catawba

1988 – Dr. Cleveland Hammonds, Durham

NCSSA Announces
2024 Regional Superintendents of the Year
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Region 1

Dr. Barry Williams

Gates County Schools

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Region 2

Dr. Wesley Johnson

Clinton  City Schools

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Region 3

Dr. Rhonda Schuhler

Franklin County Schools

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Region 4

Dr. Marvin Connelly

County Schools

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Region 5

Dr. Stephen Gainey

Randolph County
School System

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Region 6

Dr. Aaron Allen

Lincoln County Schools

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Region 7

Dr. Matt Stover

Catawba County Schools

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Region 8

Mr. Aaron Greene

Polk County Schools

The winner of the 2024  A. Craig Phillips North Carolina Superintendent of the Year Award will be presented to one of these nominees. The award will be announced on November 14, 2023 ,
at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, NC.

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Caldwell County Schools Superintendent Wins 2023 A. Craig Phillips NC Superintendent of the Year Award


GREENSBORO | Dr. Don Phipps, Superintendent of Caldwell County Schools, was named the 2023 A. Craig Phillips North Carolina Superintendent of the Year at an awards presentation and reception held Tuesday, Nov. 15.

The award is jointly presented annually by the North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA), the North Carolina School Superintendents' Association

(NCSSA) and the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA). Scholastic Education Solutions, who sponsored the event, also provided $5,000 in recognition of Dr. Phipps’ monumental achievement.

Dr. Phipps joined Caldwell County Schools as superintendent in 2018 and since that time has been a driving force in creating positive change in his district, particularly in the areas of budget management, student wellness, and community involvement.

"It's overwhelming and a real honor for me to represent the superintendents in North Carolina with the work that they do and to call them all my peers," said Phipps. "Gratitude is not a strong enough word. I look forward to serving them and representing them."

Jack Hoke, Executive Director of the North Carolina School Superintendents’ Association, praised Phipps for the leadership that has earned him the top honor for local superintendents in NC. "Dr. Don Phipps is a leader among leaders,” Hoke said. “His focus on addressing the critical needs of students and families in his community and his efforts to be a strong voice for his colleagues in state and federal education policy work all make him an exemplary district leader who is very worthy of the Superintendent of the Year honor." Since becoming Superintendent of Caldwell County Schools, Dr. Phipps has made it his mission to establish robust resources to support student safety and well-being and to foster positive relationships between the school district and families.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Dr. Phipps directed Caldwell County Schools to deploy school buses, equipped with wi-fi, to help students and families with limited internet access. When students began returning to school, Dr. Phipps and his team continued their focus on student support and launched a partnership with three community mental health providers to offer school-based mental health services for the 2022-23 school year.

"This work is critical, in my opinion," said Phipps. "This work has significantly and positively impacted the gap that existed where our students’ mental health needs were identified and not being met."

Dr. Phipps also has worked with ministers in his community to create a Ministerial Alliance, a program which has helped to spread valuable information about critical issues such as free school lunch. In addition Caldwell County Schools engages the local community by offering needs-based services like college application and scholarship nights, Bootcamps for Grandparents seeking computer skills, and even an AgExpo focused on agricultural-related careers targeted at students.

"We must respond to needs in our community, but we only know what those needs are if we are part of the community," said Phipps. "We must be seen as trustworthy and genuine in our work.”

As the 2023 A. Craig Phillips North Carolina Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Phipps will compete at the national level for Superintendent of the Year at the American Association of School Administrators' National Conference on Education, in San Antonio, TX, February 16-18, 2023.

The 2023 North Carolina Regional Superintendents of the Year, all of whom were nominees for this prestigious state award, were also recognized as such at the Nov. 15, 2023 ceremony:

  • Region 1 | Northeast | Dr. Ethan Lenker, Pitt County Schools

  • Region 2 | Southeast | Dr. Jerry L. Oates, Brunswick County Schools

  • Region 3 | Central | Ms. Catty Q. Moore, Wake County Schools

  • Region 4 | Sandhills | Dr. Aaron Fleming, Harnett County Schools

  • Region 5 | Piedmont/Triad | Dr. Todd Martin, Yadkin County Schools

  • Region 6 | Southwest | Dr. Jeff Booker, Gaston County Schools

  • Region 7 | Northwest | Dr. Don Phipps, Caldwell County Schools

  • Region 8 | Western | Ms. Angela Knight, Graham County Schools

Previous Raymond Sarbaugh Leadership Award Recipients:

2023 | Dr. Ethan Lenker
2022 | Marvin Connelly
              Marcie Holland

2021 | Tabari Wallace
2020 | Patrick Miller
2019 | Jeff Hollamon
2018 | Glenda Jones
              David Hicks

2017 | Frank Till, Jr.
2016 | Dr. Rodney Shotwell
2015 | Dr. Dudley Flood
              Charlie Glazener

2014 | Jo Ann Norris
2013 | Donald L. Martin, Jr. 
2012 | Dr. James Casuby
2011 | Dr. Larry Price
2010 | Mr. Jack Hoke
2009 | Ms. Melisa Jessup

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Dr. Ethan Lenker, Superintendent of Pitt County Schools, Awarded 2023 Raymond Sarbaugh
Leadership Award

CONCORD | Dr. Ethan Lenker, Superintendent of Pitt County Schools, was awarded the NC Association of School Administrators’ (NCASA) 2023 Raymond Sarbaugh Leadership Award during the NCASA 2023 Conference on Educational Leadership.

This award, named in honor of NCASA’s first full-time Executive Director, the late Raymond Sarbaugh, is given 

annually to an NCASA member who shows outstanding leadership in public school service, as well as a commitment to enhancing and supporting the efforts of fellow school administrators and NCASA. Over his decades of service to North Carolina public schools, Dr. Lenker has distinguished himself as a “leader among leaders” through his tireless dedication to improving public schools and for his support of his school leader colleagues and the thousands of students they serve.

A true servant leader, Dr. Lenker is deeply committed to the success of not only his own students and staff, but to the success of all public school students in North Carolina. When he is not visiting

schools and monitoring achievements in his own district, Dr. Lenker can likely be found uplifting his colleagues through his work on numerous boards and committees, including the Board of Directors for NCASA and the NC School Superintendents’ Association (NCSSA) Board. In these leadership positions, Dr. Lenker routinely commits himself to understanding nuanced situations, encouraging change when necessary, and always providing support to colleagues in need. His ongoing willingness to collaborate with others and tireless advocacy on behalf of our public schools make him truly deserving of this prestigious leadership award.

Dr. Ethan Lenker was selected as Superintendent of Pitt County Schools in 2013, following several years as Superintendent of Sampson County Schools and Jones County Schools. Dr. Lenker was given numerous awards in recognition of his leadership, including but not limited to the NCASA Southeast Superintendent of the Year, the NCSSA Dr. Brad Sneeden Leadership Award, and Superintendent of the Year by three different education regions across our state. In addition to his service as Superintendent, Dr. Lenker has also served as a central office director, principal, assistant principal, and teacher in various NC school systems. Dr. Lenker received his Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics Education and his Master of Arts in Education from Virginia Tech University, as well as his Doctorate of Education from East Carolina University.

“His commitment to public schools and the students they serve is second to none and it shows in all aspects of his work,” says NCASA Executive Director, Katherine Joyce. “Also as a go-to colleague that North Carolina’s newer — and even the most veteran —superintendents rely on, Dr. Ethan Lenker has distinguished himself as a ‘leader among leaders,’ making him very deserving of this prestigious NCASA award.”

Previous Champion for Children Award Recipients:

2023 | Jack Hoke
2022 | NC Sen. Don Davis
2021 | Beverly Emory
2020 | NC Rep. Jeffrey Elmore
2019 | Gov. Roy Cooper
2018 | D. Craig Horn
2017 | Hugh Blackwell
2016 | James H. Langdon, Jr. 
2015 | John Dornan
2014 | Ann B. Goodnight
2013 | Linda P. Johnson
2012 | Beverly E. Perdue
2011 | Bill McNeal &
             June St. Clair Atkinson

2010 | Vernon Malone
2009 | Howard N. Lee
2008 | Rick Glazier
2007 | Douglas Yongue
2006 | James B. Hunt, Jr. &
              Michael F. Easley

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Jack J. Hoke, NCSSA Executive Director, Awarded 2023 Champion For Children Award

CONCORD | Mr. Jack J. Hoke, Executive Director of the NC School Superintendents’ Association (NCSSA), was awarded the 2023 Champion for Children Award during the NC Association of School Administrators’ (NCASA) 2023 Conference on Educational Leadership.


The Champion For Children Award, a prestigious honor given annually by NCASA to an individual demonstrating leadership

in supporting and enhancing public education, was awarded this year to Mr. Hoke in recognition of over five decades of service as an educator, mentor, and fierce advocate for public schools. While NCASA has historically given this award to a legislator, Governor, or other high-ranking state official, Mr. Hoke received an exceptional outpouring of support for his nomination from school administrators across the state, many of whomcontinue to rely on Mr. Hoke for his unparalleled guidance and support.

For over a decade in his current role as NCSSA Executive Director, Mr. Hoke has served as an invaluable resource to school leaders across the state, and especially to those he mentors in NCSSA’s acclaimed professional development programs for current and aspiring superintendents. Never one to shy away from

professional development programs for current and aspiring superintendents. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Mr. Hoke is known for his dedication to helping school leaders navigate difficult situations, as he did throughout the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite having access to politicians, policymakers, and other decision makers from all backgrounds, Mr. Hoke never fails to make himself available to anyone who asks for his help, making him well-deserving of this special award.

Before accepting his current role as NCSSA Executive Director, Mr. Hoke served as Superintendent of Alexander County Schools for several years, earning him  numerous awards, including the Northwest Regional Educational Service Alliance Superintendent of the Year, as well as the NC Order of the Long Leaf Pine.


Prior to his role as Superintendent, Mr. Hoke worked in several roles in Caldwell County Schools, including high school teacher and coach, assistant principal, and principal. A true Appalachian State University (ASU) fan, Mr. Hoke received his Bachelor’s of Science, Certification in Business Education Teaching, Master’s degree in Public School Administration, and Education Specialist degrees from ASU.

“Jack Hoke is a hero to every local superintendent in North Carolina that he mentors,” says NCASA Executive Director, Katherine Joyce. “The support he provides these district leaders and his advocacy at the state level on their behalf make him a true ‘Champion for Children’ that NCASA is proud to honor.”

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