Dr. Phillip Bradley Rice has been named as the new superintendent of Stokes County Schools, set to start on July 1, with a contract running through June 20, 2020.
Rice is currently serving as Assistant Superintendent with Asheboro City Schools, a post he has held since June 2013.
“I feel absolutely privileged to be coming to Stokes County,” said Rice. “My goal is to make sure that Stokes County schools is a top 10 school district in the state and that it is the choice for education in the surrounding area, a system where people know they can send their children to get a great education which will prepare them to reach their dreams.”
Rice said he is looking forward to enrolling his own three children, Kari, Sarah and Joshua, in the county school system.
“It is a beautiful place with a lot of wonderful things going on,” said Rice. “I am looking forward to joining that community and being a resident of Stokes County.”
He said he was impressed with the data on Stokes County schools, noting that he was looking forward to working all of the school system’s staff to make it an even better system.
“Public schools, to me, are a launching pad for success for the students and we want to give students as many opportunities as possible to reach their dreams,” said Rice. “I want to get to know the people there and build relationships and then work to build Stokes County solutions for Stokes County problems.”
He said he would carefully evaluate all of the programs in the system to see what is working and what is not working.
“I want to develop a sense of team where it is non-threatening and people are able to share ideas and speak freely,” he said. “You are able to fail as long as you are trying new things for the benefit of the students. I also want to set a clear purpose of why we do what we do. When people understand why they are doing what they are doing the whats and hows seem to work themselves out.
“The thing I have learned is it really does not matter what your dream is but that you have a dream,” said Rice. “Our job as educators is to help these students dream big and for us to give them the foundation to reach whatever dream they have. Whatever they want to do, give them the foundation to be successful. That is my simple vision of what we can do together.
School Board Chair Sonya Cox said the board was excited to have Rice come on board, noting that he would be in the county some in June getting to know the system before officially starting in July.
“We wanted to find someone who was a good fit for our county,” she said. “Someone who was not looking at our county as a stepping stone and could be here and have some longevity.”
She said input from parents, school staff and the community had played a key role in helping the board choose Rice out of 21 applicants for the position.
“We felt that he embodies a lot of the characteristics that were asked for in the surveys including integrity, approachable, friendly and enthusiastic, great communicator and listener, credibility, and intelligence,” said Cox. “He has a lot of common sense and is very authentic.”
Cox said only one of the 21 applicants had served as a superintendent before, noting that the majority of the superintendents in the sate currently had five years or less of experience.
Rice will be paid a salary of $127,500, not far from the $126,700 that former superintendent Ronnie Mendenhall would have made had he not retired, according to Cox.
[EDITOR’s NOTE: The Stokes County School Board accidentally provided inaccurate information on the potential salary former superintendent Ronnie Mendenhall could have been making in the 2016-17 school year if he had not retired. Board Chair Sonya Cox said the figure mistakenly provided came from preliminary calculations on what the school system could possibly offer a new superintendent. Stokes County Schools Finance Director Lanette Moore said it is more likely that Mr. Mendenhall would have received a salary of $120,357 had he continued to work for the school system with an expectation of a three percent salary increase from the state. Mr. Mendenhall’s salary at the time of retirement was $117,601.]
“We looked as similar school systems and ADMs and where their salaries are,” said Cox. “He is not at the top of his salary range, so there is room to give increases in the future as we evaluate his performance.”
She added that Rice will bring a wide range of knowledge and balance to the system.
“One of his big things is early literacy,” said Cox, “and he is very good at looking at data. He had already been through all of our data with a fine-tooth comb before we even met and brought a lot of things to light. He also seems to be very knowledgeable about the budget and budget strategies and ways to move our system forward. He is bringing to Stokes County a lot of what we need right now.
“The thing that impressed the Board was his mantra, and it’s part of his vision for our school district,” said Cox. “‘Each kid, each day!’ It’s not enough to say we teach our kids, but we have to teach each kid each day.”
While coming from a smaller school system, both in population and geography, Rice said he looked forward to the challenges of working in a larger rural county.
“I was not born in stokes county but I got here as fast as I could,” he added.
Rice said some goals for his first 180-days include: beginning to establish a culture of collaboration and trust internally and externally; commencing a smooth and orderly transition of leadership; developing a plan to learn about the unique needs/concerns of the Stokes County School System and community; beginning to establish a strong working relationship with all departments, school leadership, and community leadership; learning the current strategic plan and strategies and begin to execute a plan of continuous improvement in order to address identified needs of the district; and beginning building the capacity of school and district leadership for maximizing effective and efficient support to each student.
A native of Alabama, Rice received his undergraduate degree from Carson-Newman University in Tennessee and his master’s degree, educational specialist degree, and doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He has served as a teacher and coach in Jefferson City, Tennessee and in Greensboro, North Carolina, teaching math, science, and physical education. He began his administrative career with the Asheboro City Schools as an assistant principal in 2002.
Rice is presently involved in many community and civic organizations. He serves as Vice Chair of the Randolph County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, Co Chair of Leadership Randolph, and a member of the Randolph Community College Adult Literacy and Human Resources Development Advisory Committee, the Randolph County Board of Health, the Randolph County Community Wellness Assessment Team, the Randolph Sports Council, North Ridge Church, and Rotary International.
His wife, Keasha, is currently an elementary teacher in Randolph County. This June he and his wife will have been married 18 years.
Cox said the Board will be announcing times this summer for additional opportunities for the community and employees to meet Rice and his family.
Dr. Stewart Hobbs, interim Superintendent, will assist the Board in the transition of bringing Rice on by July 1. Hobbs replaced former Superintendent Ronnie Mendenhall, who retired February 1 of this year after 36 years of service to the county’s educational system.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.