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Bertie County Schools Superintendent Selected as 2023 NCSSA Dr. Dwayne Stallings Leadership (NERESA) Award Winner

Jul 12, 2023

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.  

This award is presented to a superintendent serving a school district in northeast North Carolina who is a member of the Northeast Regional Education Service Alliance (NERESA). NERESA is a professional alliance that supports and enhances educational services and resources for the member districts. These include facilitating professional development opportunities and promoting communication between the districts and state agencies, professional organizations, elected officials, and educational leaders.  

The award is named in honor of Dr. Dwayne Stallings who was serving as the Executive Director of the NERESA at the time of his death on August 9, 2020 at the age of 63. Stallings began his career in education teaching in the Chowan, Gates, and Pasquotank school districts. He later served in the Perquimans County School System as the Assistant Principal of the High School, Principal of Central Elementary School in Winfall, Principal of the High School, Assistant Superintendent, and lastly as Superintendent. Dr. Stallings also served as an Adjunct Professor at ECU after retirement.  

As an educational leader, Dr. Stallings served as a head coach or assistant coach in three different school districts. He served on the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Board of Directors and in 2015 he received the Bob McRae Superintendent of the Year award, named for Bob McRae, a former school superintendent in Randolph County and former president of the NCHSAA. Dr. Stallings was named the NERESA Superintendent of the Year in 2013 and a nominee for the A. Craig Phillips Superintendent of the Year award.  

“I am extremely humbled and honored to receive such a prestigious award given in honor of Dr. Stallings,” stated Dr. Smallwood. “The encouragement I received from Dr. Stallings started while I was student teaching at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City and it continued throughout my career as a young administrator and into the superintendency. Dr. Stallings was highly respected and admired by his peers and the entire education community. Again, it is an honor to receive this award in his name sake.”

In selecting the award winner, the following criteria were considered:


  • Dedication to public educational leadership resulting in innovative programs for student success.


  • Commitment to academic excellence through collaboration with local and state educational leaders.


  • Continual focus on professional growth through personal learning and providing continuous learning opportunities for school district leaders.


Commenting on Dr. Smallwood, NCSSA Executive Director Jack Hoke said, “Dr. Smallwood exemplifies the traits that guided Dr. Dwayne Stallings’ career in educational leadership. He has demonstrated a strong dedication to public education, commitment to academic excellence, and a continual focus on professional growth and student learning for the Bertie County Schools. He is very deserving of the leadership award honoring Dr. Stallings.”


Dr. Smallwood was named Superintendent of Bertie County Schools in July, 2019 and the only Bertie County native to ever hold the position of Superintendent of Schools. Prior to that, he served 11 years in the Jones County School System as an Executive Director of Human Resources & Accountability, and Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources/Operations/IT. He earned his Doctor of Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University, a Masters in School Administration from East Carolina University, and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics & Secondary Education from Elizabeth City State University. Dr. Smallwood completed the Principal’s Executive Program (Developing Future Leaders) at UNC Chapel Hill and is a 1989 graduate of Bertie High School.


Throughout his career, Dr. Smallwood has often been recognized for her achievements and leadership. He has presented at the National Science Foundation for a Program Effectiveness Review for Comprehensive Partnerships for Math & Science Achievement (CMPSA) nationally and regionally; served as a state science fair judge; served as a facilitator in the state math fair; received the Jones County Schools Administrator of the Year for four consecutive years (2013-2017); and received the inaugural Sam Houston Leadership Award for Aspiring Superintendents (2018). Additionally, he received the First Year Teacher of the Year award in Bertie County (1996-97); Southwestern Middle School SGA Teacher of the Year (1997); awarded for highest math EOG scores (1997); Extra Effort Award for student success in Mathematics (1999); & recognized for conducting Math Praxis Workshops (1999).


In 2020, the Windsor Area Chamber of Commerce presented Dr. Smallwood with the Black History Celebration Award in recognition of the great work done in the Bertie County Community. In 2021, Dr. Smallwood co- authored research along with ECU School of Dental Medicine on School-Based Oral Health Prevention During COVID-19 that was published in the Journal of School Health.


Dr. Smallwood serves as a Trustee at St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church in Elizabeth City, NC under the leadership of Dr. Ricky L. Banks. He is also an active member of the New Bern, NC Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. where he serves as Keeper of Records.


Congratulations to Dr. Smallwood on this well-deserved recognition!

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