James-Davis: New ECPPS head involved in planning school year


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Monday, July 22, 2019

Catherine Edmonds doesn’t take over as superintendent of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools until today — but she has already taken an active role in planning for the upcoming school year.

That’s according to the ECPPS official who has led the school district for the past four months.

Rhonda James-Davis, who has served as interim superintendent of ECPPS since April, said last week that Edmonds has already been actively involved with the leadership team in ECPPS getting things ready for the start of the 2019-20 school year in August.

“Since she has been named I know she probably has taken some leave from Bertie and has physically been in the district having conversations with me and also with community leaders at least 10 times, if not more,” James-Davis said.

James-Davis was referring to Edmonds’ former role as superintendent of the Bertie County Schools, where she’s leaving to come to ECPPS.

In addition to those in-person visits Edmonds has had numerous phone conversations to talk about the direction of the school district and her vision for the schools. Those calls have occurred “almost on a daily basis,” James-Davis said.

Edmonds also attended a July 15 leadership retreat for ECPPS principals, assistant principals, instructional coaches and directors, at which she led a conversation about the kind of culture the district wants to foster at all schools.

The desired culture is one of collaboration, communication and transparency, “with the number one focus being our students,” James-Davis said.

Edmonds also talked about the importance of leaders being visible and getting out among teachers and staff in order to know what supports they need, James-Davis said.

One leadership change at the school level next school year will be the return of Michael Drew as principal of Central Elementary School.

“I thought it was important because of the time of the year that we look at the talent we already have here,” James-Davis said of the decision to replace Tracy Gregory with Drew, who previously had served as the school’s principal.

“Who would be better to lead than a principal who had already had success there?” James-Davis said.

With Edmonds taking the reins as superintendent, James-Davis is returning full-time to what she says is her first love — career and technical education. James-Davis is the district’s director of CTE.

Last year the district added a technology program at Elizabeth City Middle School. The middle school courses expose students to courses they will be able to take in high school, James-Davis said.

“Any CTE course in the middle school is exploratory in nature,” she said.

Next year, ECPPS is adding an agriculture program at both middle schools. It also will start a drone program at Pasquotank County High School. Pasquotank is one of 14 counties participating in the state’s pilot program for drones in 2019-20.

James-Davis said she has enjoyed being interim superintendent.

“I would like to thank everybody for their support,” she said.

James-Davis said she gained an even deeper appreciation for the way school staff work as a team. She’s also seen in action, she said, the Board of Education’s commitment to always doing the best thing for students and staff.

James-Davis said she looks forward to what the schools will do under Edmonds’ leadership.

“Just from the conversations I have had with her and seeing how she interacts with people, I am looking forward to continuing to learn from her,” James-Davis said. “I have learned a lot from her already.”

She believes the changes will be positive and show up in student achievement.

“You’re going to see some positive changes in those measures that people look at,” James-Davis said.