HAMLET —Friends and colleagues gave Dr. George Norris a fond farewell during a drop-in reception held Tuesday for the retiring Richmond County Schools superintendent.
Dozens gathered in the Cole Auditorium lobby at Richmond Community College to share snacks and swap stories in advance of Norris’ last day on June 30.
Norris said his greatest accomplishment during his tenure as head of the school district was the result of teamwork.
“I believe a wonderful thing that came out of the last several years has been the building of a strong relationship between the school system and Richmond Community College,” Norris said. “That partnership has opened doors for so many of our kids to graduate high school with some college experience already under their belts. And the college credits they earn while still in high school don’t cost them anything. They are completely free.”
There were transportation issues in the beginning, Norris said, but the strong team of those who gradually made the dual enrollment and early college high school program successful found ways around that barrier along with many other minor problems. They overcame the challenges to offer Richmond County students the best education, he said, because the students were the priority.
Jim McCaskill, member of the RCC Board of Trustees, said the foundation Norris helped to lay for education in the county is a legacy he hopes will continue for years to come. He will remember Norris as a man who was not afraid of new ideas.
“He has built a great team,” McCaskill said. “But he is going to be missed. We have built a great relationship between the college and the schools. The Ninth-Grade Academy was a tough call. People didn’t like that idea at first, but it was the call we had to make. It turned out to be a good one. We’re looking for more great things. Hopefully the team stays in place and we keep moving forward.”
The part of Norris’ job he loved most was being present in the schools, walking the halls and seeing things from the perspective of the students in classrooms. Norris was known to visit schools several times a week.
He also said he was impressed with the principals he has worked with, and the professionalism each has invested in the students for whom they are responsible.
“And on awards days and graduation, I didn’t dread going to those things,” Norris said. “I loved it. I would watch the kids, look at their faces when their names were called to receive awards. At graduation, they each have a card with their name on it, and as they approach the podium to receive their diplomas, the look on their faces, that look of anticipation and, ‘It’s finally here, it’s happening’ is what I loved most.”
Norris and his wife of 43 years, Teresa, welcomed a grandson into the world and their lives only a week ago. The Norrises intend to enjoy their newest family member and travel more. They believe they chose the perfect place to live when they moved to Richmond County due to its geographic proximity to the state’s two largest cities and the coast.
“We have family near Raleigh and family near the Charlotte area,” Norris said. “And we love the beach, and that’s about the same distance from here. We’re definitely going to be spending more time at the beach.”
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-997-3111, ext. 15.