Officials, attorney roast outgoing superintendent

Superintendent to step down after 43 years in education

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — After 43 years in education, Dr. George Norris still had one more lesson to learn: Don’t bring an attorney to your own farewell party.

No one could have anticipated that the gathering for Norris, who will retire June 30 after seven years as superintendent of Richmond County Schools and 43 years in education, would have generated such laughter.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Dr. George Norris, retiring superintendent of Richmond County Schools, turned the tables and said it was the teachers and administrators in the audience who should be applauded.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Dr. George Norris, retiring superintendent of Richmond County Schools, turned the tables and said it was the teachers and administrators in the audience who should be applauded.

Had the event been billed a comedy, it likely would have attracted more than the 100 teachers, administrators, friends and dignitaries who filled the Richmond Senior High School cafeteria Wednesday evening to pay tribute to the longest active superintendent in the state. In fact, the event turned into an old-fashioned roast.

After 27 years as superintendent in four separate school systems, including the last seven at the helm of Richmond County Schools, Norris was the center of attention as colleagues paid homage to the man referred to as “a great leader,” by Dr. Cindy Goodman, someone who “made a difference,” said Dr. Jim Simeon and a man “you could trust and respect,” said Dr. Irene Aiken.

But amid the celebratory tears of a man who led Richmond County Schools through the transition to middle schools from junior high schools and yearly financial battles to put children first was, at its core, a roast. Norris should have known the atmosphere was going to change when Richard Schwartz, board attorney, took to the podium.

Norris, Schwartz said, is good for business.

“He has gotten into more messes over the years,” Schwartz said. “He’s left a wide swath of destruction.”

Schwartz even lowered himself to pick on the Raiders football team that, incidentally, won the state championship the year Norris arrived in Richmond County.

“Football today has gone to hell,” Schwartz said. “Maybe they’ll get better.”

Schwartz said Norris’ leadership “meant a lot of business for me and my firm” and has Norris progressed to seasoned mentor, that meant even more business for lawyers.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com State Rep. Ken Goodman said Dr. George Norris was a man who "made a lot of hard decisions" but always the ones that benefitted children most.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
State Rep. Ken Goodman said Dr. George Norris was a man who “made a lot of hard decisions” but always the ones that benefitted children most.

“It’s going to be a big loss,” Schwartz said of Norris’ retirement. “I’ve already had to start laying people off at my firm. I’m going to miss the phone calls from George, especially the ones that began with, ‘Let me tell you what I just did.’ He’s your problem now, Teresa.”

But Schwartz was serious, too, if only for a moment or two. The longtime board attorney  credited Norris with “staying on top of what is new” and “never being afraid to have new ideas.”

“That’s the mark of a true leader,” Schwartz said.

State Rep. Ken Goodman acknowledged that Norris had to “make a lot of hard decisions” and that he “didn’t make everybody in the world happy.”

But he was someone anyone could rely on to make a move towards whatever direction he felt was in the best interest of the students.

“I really believe that,” Goodman said. “He came here and put his heart and soul into it.”

Jim Butler, principal of Hamlet Middle School with 25 years in the field of education, questioned how someone could last 43 years.

“He got into education when I was 7 years old,” Butler said. “Why would you do that for 43 years? After 43 years, we finally broke him.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com From left to right, Dennis Quick, Dr. Jeff Maples and Dr. George Norris listen as Board of Education attorney Richard Schwartz roasts Norris. Norris retires June 30 after 43 years in education.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
From left to right, Dennis Quick, Dr. Jeff Maples and Dr. George Norris listen as Board of Education attorney Richard Schwartz roasts Norris. Norris retires June 30 after 43 years in education.

Butler reflected that the single thing he’s done or 43 years is have a passion for reading. And in that lay common ground with the outgoing superintendent.

“You’ve got to care about something (to do it) for 43 years,” Butler said.

Simeon, executive director of the Sandhills Regional Education Consortium — the group that recognized Norris as 2012-13 Regional Superintendent of the Year — Norris always stood up for “what was best in education.”

The students, Simeon said, “were the No. 1 priority in all cases. The person we’re honoring today was always there for the right reasons.”

Norris, Simeon said, “made a difference.”

Many of those who took their turn at the podium emphasized that Norris now belonged to his wife, Teresa, after all these years. That’s not true — at least, not yet. It took more than 30 minutes for Norris to be able to reach his car from the cafeteria due to the rush of colleagues and educators who wanted to borrow a few more minutes of his time.

Norris offered a friendly half wave to Dennis Quick, executive director of Richmond County Schools.

“See you in the morning,” Norris said.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com In less than three weeks, Dr. George Norris belongs to nobody but wife Teresa, herself a retired educator. The couple will celebrate 43 years of marriage on July 31.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
In less than three weeks, Dr. George Norris belongs to nobody but wife Teresa, herself a retired educator. The couple will celebrate 43 years of marriage on July 31.

After all, there’s still work to do.

 

Filed in: Education, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News

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