DOBSON — Dr. Ashley F. Hinson Jr., superintendent of Surry County Schools, announced plans for his retirement with the Surry County Board of Education and Leadership Team present Monday at the board’s offices in Dobson.
His retirement will become effective Jan. 1, 2013, following a nine-year tenure as superintendent.
“It’s a sad day for Surry County Schools but a very happy day for Dr. Hinson,” said Board Chairman Earlie Coe, who is a retired educator. “He has been a great asset to our school system. Many of the initiatives he backed have made it better for our children and I am hopeful their legacy continue and will last into the 21st Century.”
“It’s (the county superintendent post) been a good fit for me and the school system,” commented Hinson. “Surry County is a great place to live and raise your children. People here value education. Surry places great value on preparing its children.”
Hinson will leave the post after a longstanding policy of raising the academic bar higher and higher through equity of resources and staff, according to a press release issued on his retirement. The county school district consists of more than 8,600 students and routinely ranks amount the top 10 to 15 percent of districts across North Carolina. He also has championed proactive solutions for teaching and learning.
Another precept of Hinson’s term has been the use of “the best interests of all children” as a template for his decisions, the press release stated.
Hinson commented after the meeting that he drew from his experiences as a sergeant major in the U.S. Army and his upbringing on a farm in his approach to his work.
“Most are either driven by a desire to succeed or fear of failure,” responded Hinson when asked about the influence of the military and early home life. “What has driven me is I don’t want to fail. When given responsibility, I don’t want to let people down.”
He said that one of his most formative experiences was merely working on a farm. He said the cooperation for the greater good was a given as the community united to raise a barn, for instance.
He characterized his leadership style as leading people so they don’t know they are being led because of their involvement. He said it has been about empowering persons. Hinson said that there is nothing more powerful or uplifting than people who feel they can make a difference.
“I truly believe that children and their families have always been our top priority and that we have done our very best to provide an education for them second to none,” continued Hinson. He briefly recounted how he had anticipated the impact of budget constraints, raising academic standards and unfunded mandates.
Hinson continued to work to ensure staff members would remain employed through difficult economic times in the district’s history in spite of a loss of positions through attrition.
Perhaps two of Hinson’s greatest visions for the school district have been the establishment of the Surry County Schools Educational Foundation and the Surry County Schools Athletic Committee. Hinson commented on seeing signs posted to defeat a school bond referendum when he first toured the county.
In spite of that proposal being soundly defeated, Hinson was at the helm during the building of three new schools that opened fall 2010. Those schools were Rockford Elementary, Pilot Mountain Middle and Pilot Mountain Elementary. Hinson spoke with school employees, held community meetings and distributed printed information towards obtaining a one-quarter-cent sales tax to benefit education.
He also is credited with initiatives that include the 1:1 laptop program, the annual Arts WOW event and foreign language instruction for all students beginning in grade three. Hinson gave credit to the support given him by county commissioners, staff and board members.
“I inherited a great leadership team,” said Hinson. “It’s phenomenal. There’s not a weak link in the chain. The difficulty for me is leaving an organization that is this good.”
He has been named the recipient of the 2009 Piedmont Triad Education Consortium Superintendent of the Year.
Hinson’s record of community involvement includes past chairman of the United Fund of Surry County, and he has served on the board of directors for the State Employees’ Credit Union and American Red Cross. Hinson continues to serve on the local Salvation Army Board. He also is involved in the Rotary Club, Piedmont Triad Education Consortium and the Surry Arts Council.
Hinson and his wife, Lynne, have one daughter, Holly, who is a special education teacher in Guilford County.
“I’m just very, very, very lucky. I work for a great school board,” added Hinson. “I’m excited abut my future and looking forward to it. I will stay engaged and active. I will just enjoy life in a different way. No matter what is placed in front of me I approach it in the most positive way.”
He was characteristically gracious and direct in explaining his plans.
“While I have thoroughly enjoyed my career as an educator, I realize it is time for the next phase of my life, retirement. Lynne and I look forward to this new experience, but will forever cherish the opportunity to live and work in Surry County,” concluded Hinson.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.