Bill Miller named 2015 NC Western Region Superintendent of the Year

Published 12:02 am Friday, January 8, 2016


By Michael O’Hearn

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Polk County Schools’ Superintendent Bill Miller was named the state’s western region’s top superintendent this past October.


With that distinction under his belt, Miller, who has been the school system’s superintendent for 13 years, was one of eight nominees for the statewide superintendent of the year award, the 2016 A. Craig Phillips North Carolina Superintendent of the Year Award, given out in November. Each of eight regions in North Carolina elected a nominee for the award, ultimately won by Dr. Freddie Williamson of Hoke County Schools.


Janet Webster is the president of the Western Region Education Service Alliance, the entity responsible for nominating Miller from Polk County’s region.


“Based on my understanding, and I want to speak for the council, Bill does a great job as a superintendent,” Webster said. “He looks out for and puts the kids first and is a good leader. He’s active in the North Carolina Association of School Administrators. He does a great job representing Polk County and Western North Carolina educationally, helping students and teachers do the best for their kids.”


Miller explained the process of being nominated by WRESA and the awards ceremony held annually by the North Carolina School Boards Association.


“There are eight regions in North Carolina and each region selects their winner/nominee for state superintendent of the year,” Miller said. “This happens at the yearly North Carolina School Boards Association conference where they announce the winner.”


The North Carolina School Boards Association held their ceremony on November 17, 2015 in Greensboro, North Carolina, where Miller attended on behalf of Polk County’s school system.


“You know, I don’t think this had anything to do with Bill Miller, per se,” Miller said about his nomination. “Our region has 18 school districts and, I don’t know, I was nominated one time before but that’s kinda the story in my case.”


Miller was nominated in 2011 for this award, but said he thinks there is something different about the nomination he received this year.


“I think it was just an acknowledgement of Polk County and our school system,” Miller speculated. “I think it’s a little different, and here’s what I mean by that, because I think each region is selected because of some big program or change they’ve done in their system. I think it’s completely opposite in my case.”


Being selected twice in the last five years is a simple acknowledgement to Miller.


“It is a simple acknowledgement of people in the state about Polk County Schools,” Miller said. “Polk County Schools is high-performing, is innovative and has a lot of good things going. It is an acknowledgement of the quality of the things going on here from the students to our taxpayers and our teachers and Polk County Schools as an outstanding school system.”


One of the most difficult things Miller said he faces as a superintendent is sustaining excellence across the board.


“Having excellence across the board and sustaining that is a difficult thing,” Miller explained. “I think people acknowledge us for that and want to recognize us for that and one of the ways they do that is probably recognizing their superintendent.”


Community is a big thing for Miller and being a part of the system in which he grew up has been a fabulous honor.


“From my time as an elementary student to my time as an athlete in high school here, people throughout this community supported me, encouraged me and pushed me forward, sometimes when I deserved it and sometimes when I didn’t,” Miller said. “It’s been just a great honor to be a part of the place that did and I hope I have been some small part of what students have now.”


Polk County’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction Aaron Greene commented on Bill Miller’s time as Polk County’s superintendent.


“He’s an excellent leader for several reasons,” Greene said. “One of the first things he did here was to put a quote on his wall: ‘Let’s seek a better life for every child.’ That’s what this whole thing is about. He also created a logo that says, ‘Doing what’s right for students.’ It’s not just a motto, it’s a culture, and I credit Mr. Miller for establishing that culture.”


Miller said he never wanted to be a superintendent, rather being a teacher and a coach, but then decided it would be good for the schools and the community to have someone from the area in charge.


“I think this is a great place for people to raise their children and have their children be a part of our school system,” Miller said. “In my case, it’s just a wonderful thing and I’ve never thought of it as a daily grind. I like being around our students and watching our students from the time they are in kindergarten to the time they walk across the stage at the high school and watching them develop.”


Greene commented on Miller’s ability as a superintendent to look into the future while also being a volunteer for anyone who needs it.


“The guy has the ability to see 15 or 20 years down the road while also, by the same token, park cars on a Friday night or mop the floor for the middle school because someone needs to do it,” Greene explained. “He’s not a person who would expect you to do anything that he wouldn’t do. He’s truly what I would call a ‘service leader’ and some people may see that as a derogatory term, but it’s not.”


Having parents feel comfortable with having their children in the county’s schools and sustaining the feeling is the highlight of his time, said Miller.


“I don’t know that I can single out any one thing, because it’s a combination of a lot of things,” Miller said. “It’s exciting for me to see teachers who have been in our school system as students come back because they want to see the good things for their children. I’m certainly proud of that.”


Thirteen years of being a superintendent has taught Miller about what matter most.


“People, teachers and students matter most, not programs, not technology, not all those things,” Miller said. “What I tell my teachers and staff all the time is that if students believe that they are doing what’s best for them, that they are doing all they can, then all the other stuff is taken care of. The test results, the test scores, whatever it might be will be good if they are bending over backwards to help the children.”


Overall, Miller said he doesn’t deserve all of the credit for the nomination. The recognition should be of the community.


“We do what we do and we do it every year because we have great people here, with parents and community support, and we do our thing,” Miller said. “The continuation of that is being acknowledged here.”