A Western Carolina University alumnus that climbed to the top of the Jackson County Public School System announced her retirement on Tuesday, Jan. 25.
Sue Nations, who has led local schools as superintendent since February 2004, broke the news during January’s Jackson County Board of Education meeting. She also made the announcement via a pre-recorded message that was sent out to parents, faculty, staff and community members who are signed-up to receive “connect-ed” telephone calls.
Nation’s last day on the job will be July 1.
“It is with mixed emotions I inform you of my intent to retire,” Nations said in her message to the Board. “I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve as superintendent and for your support, your commitment to education, the professionalism and integrity you bring to your work. Working for our students is very rewarding, you have heard me say, ‘I have 3,602 bosses’, they’re great and I love every one of them.
“The administrators, teachers, and staff of Jackson County Schools are a hard-working, dedicated group of individuals who bring their hands and hearts to work each day, because they, too, value the young people we serve,” Nations added. “I appreciate this wonderful group of people probably more than they will ever know. In addition, our parents, families, and school partners are crucial in our success and I have respect and gratitude for their on-going, sincere support.”
Besides her family, Nations said in an interview on Tuesday, Feb. 1 no one knew of the decision before her announcement and that she had been considering retirement for a few months.
“My contract ends this year so I began thinking about do I want it renewed because then I’m obligated to stay,” she said. “I came to the realization that I have two grandchildren growing up and they are involved in youth sports and I didn’t like with my schedule choosing what game to go to or whether to go hiking, so now I will be able to do what I want.”
Nations, who with her husband James has hiked for several years, also hopes to reach a goal during the free time she will have during retirement.
“For several years, my husband and I have set a goal to hike all the trails of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and we’re about half way there. I’ve decided to have fun while there is still some fun left in me,” said Nations. “I may even write a book about it, I have a couple chapters already written.”
The search process for Jackson County Public Schools’ next superintendent has already begun.
“The Jackson County Board of Education is currently working on putting an application up and that is the first step,” Nations said. “An advertisement will be placed with the North Carolina Public School Board, Employment Security Commission, the Jackson County Public Schools website and other places.”
Once Nations’ job is posted, completed applications will be sent to the Board of Education’s attorney for initial screening and then the Board will be able to sort through the applications. Nations won’t be involved in the search or decision process and she said applicants for her position could come from all over.
“I would say the search is mainly going to be in-state, but anything that is put online can be seen nationally and even worldwide,” she said.
Nations retirement on July 1 will end 37 years of service with the Jackson County Public School System. She began in 1974 as a fourth grade teaching intern for Fairview School while pursuing a M.A. in Early Childhood Education at WCU. The internship was with Teacher Corps, which was a program established by the U.S. Congress in the Higher Education Act of 1965 to improve elementary and secondary teaching in predominantly low-income areas. Students in the program taught full time, worked on a master’s degree full time and did community service work to provide enrichment to the children we taught and to enhance the communities they lived in.
In 1976, Nations officially took over the fourth grade teaching position at Fairview and held it until 1988, when she was named assistant principal of Smoky Mountain High School. In 1994 she returned to Fairview as principal, a post she kept until being offered the assistant superintendent position in July 2003. Nations took over as superintendent in February, 2004 when then superintendent Mack McCary had his contract bought out.
Nations said being named principal at Fairview was one of her top accomplishments.
“Everyone at the school voted for me for the principal position,” said Nations. “To be given a seal of approval by your peers means a lot.”
Despite her approaching retirement, Nations said she will not let up on her work.
“I’m not going to be a lame duck,” said Nations. “I will be on the job, doing my very best until the last day. I will do whatever I can to help in the transition of a new person or in any other way that I can be of assistance.”