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Ferrell begins work as Camden schools chief

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Joe Ferrell (right) is sworn in as new superintendent of the Camden County Schools by District Court Judge Eula Reid (center) as Camden Board of Education Chairman Christian Overton holds the Bible, Wednesday.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, November 2, 2017

CAMDEN — Joe Ferrell took the reins Wednesday as the new superintendent of the Camden County Schools.

Ferrell, who comes to Camden from the Alamance-Burlington Schools where he worked as executive director of secondary education, was sworn in as the county’s top school leader by District Court Judge Eula Reid. Camden Board of Education Chairman Christian Overton held the Bible as Ferrell took his oath of office.

Ferrell then spent the day moving into his office across from Grandy Primary School and holding a series of one-on-one meetings with Camden’s principals and directors.

Ferrell spent a day last week visiting each of Camden’s schools. He said his goal Wednesday was to hear school leaders’ thoughts about what is going well, what needs to be improved and how he can support them in making those improvements.

Ferrell, who was hired Oct. 6, said he liked what he saw when he visited Camden’s schools.

“I find the facilities to be very nice, very well maintained and cared for,” Ferrell said. School staff likewise has been very welcoming, he said.

There are a number of positive things happening in the schols, he said, “and I’m excited to be working with the staff to take (those things) to the next level.”

Part of the purpose of the one-hour meetings with principals and directors was to hear from them what they think that “next level” is and what the next steps might be to get there, Ferrell said.

Travis Twiford, who served as Camden’s interim superintendent from May through October, said earlier this week he believes Ferrell will be “a good fit for the school district.” 

Twiford said Ferrell is coming in as Camden school superintendent at a good time. He noted Ferrell will have about six months to review what is going on now before deciding if he wants to make changes as he plans for next school year.

Twiford doesn’t believe any restructuring or other major changes are needed in the district.

“The only thing that needs to be done is a little polishing,” he said.

Twiford noted the school district’s performance indicators are good.

“But with the proper attention it could get even better,” he said.

Citing the work of organizational leadership expert Jim Collins in the book “Good to Great,” Twiford said Camden County Schools is a good school district that is not far from being great.

“I think that Dr. Ferrell seems to be focused on the curriculum side,” Twiford said, adding that will be the focus that helps the district improve the performance of its individual schools.

Twiford said he spent a day with Ferrell last week and discussed the transition, telling the new superintendent he would be available if needed for support or to provide background information that might help.

“I think the biggest challenge right now is whether or not we are going to be able to get funding for the new high school,” Twiford said.

The school district is hoping to get a $15 million grant from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to help with the new school’s funding. County commissioners are committed to building the new high school but without the state grant the burden on local taxpapers could be significant, Twiford notes.

A native of Person County, Ferrell began his career in education as a fifth-grade teacher in Person. He holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Elon University, a master’s degree in school administration from N.C. State University and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Before assuming his current role as executive director of secondary education in Alamance-Burlington, Ferrell was principal at Williams High School in Alamance County from 2011-16.

Ferrell was selected from a field of 27 candidates who applied for the Camden superintendent’s job that became vacant when former Superintendent Melvin Hawkins retired in March.

The new superintendent has worked in education for more than 21 years, including serving as a principal at the elementary, middle school and high school levels.

Ferrell’s contract is for a period that ends June 30, 2021. 

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