Retirement party held for Supt. Miller at PCHS Sunday

Published 10:00 pm Monday, June 13, 2016

Polk County Commissioner Michael Gage, Bill Miller and Polk County Commissioner Ted Owens

Polk County Commissioner Michael Gage, Bill Miller and Polk County Commissioner Ted Owens

Following the close of the 2015-16 school year on Friday, a retirement party for Polk County Schools Superintendent Bill Miller was held Sunday afternoon at the Polk County High School cafeteria.

Guest speakers at the reception included Kathy Cochran, Miller’s assistant, former Director of Curriculum and Instruction Aaron Greene, James T. Boyle, Dr. Brock Womble, Polk County Schools Board of Education Chairman Geoffrey Tennant and Polk County Commissioners Michael Gage and Ted Owens.

Miller will retire in August following 12 years as superintendent of the Polk County Schools system. Aaron Greene will be his successor beginning with the 2016-17 school year. With tears in his eyes, Miller recounted his years as superintendent and thanked his family and community for their support.

Bill Miller and wife Valerie Miller

Bill Miller and wife Valerie Miller

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He said he would miss everything at Polk County Schools from high school athletics, to watching students graduate, to seeing students he’s known since preschool walk across the stage, to seeing the smiles on children’s faces at the holidays.

“I’ll miss everything about the school year and Polk County Schools, from the beginning of a new school year and the opportunities for our students going forward, to football Fridays, the exciting volleyball games and all there is about high school athletics,” Miller said. “I’ll even miss interacting with students and the names the students have for me, including my favorite, ‘that man’s voice that comes on the phone.’”

Aaron Greene, incoming superintendent

Aaron Greene, incoming superintendent

Cochran began the program by reciting a poem she composed about her work as Miller’s assistant since he began his role as superintendent in 2004.

In her “Ode to Mr. Miller,” Cochran said she felt Miller had “signed a lucrative movie deal to play ‘The Facilitator’” instead of announcing retirement and said it has been her pleasure to work with Miller for the last 12 years.


“It has been my pleasure to work with Mr. Miller for all of these years, and watching him leave has brought me to tears,” Cochran said in her poem. “We can never thank you enough Mr. Miller and I reluctantly say goodbye.”

Tennant said his earliest recollection of the retiring superintendent is of when Miller was an athlete at Tryon High School and talked about how his competitive nature benefited him in the education world.

Bill Miller and Dr. Brock Womble

Bill Miller and Dr. Brock Womble

“It came to my knowledge that Miller exhibited a highly competitive nature on the basketball floor,” Tennant explained. “It served him well and it served Polk County Schools well because he was always compassionate about competing in the field of education.”

Tennant explained to those gathered at the PCHS cafeteria that Miller has made a number of important changes to the system including the introduction of the Chinese language and culture program, the biodiesel program at PCHS and renovations to Polk County Middle School and Sunny View Elementary.

“None of those things measure the impact that he has really had,” Tennant said. “He never has been one to shy away from something that is new, innovative, challenging, difficult and even, sometimes, frightening. Innovation comes with risk, and Mr. Miller has never been adverse to risk if the people who were enrolled in the Polk County Schools were to be the ultimate beneficiaries.”

Tennant said the English language could not put into words how much he has appreciated Miller being his friend and colleague.

“He never had the belief that all he had to do was sit behind a desk and, maybe, attend board meetings every once in a while,” Tennant said. “His goal was to come out to whatever event was going on at whatever school, if he could be a part of it. I honestly think that is what he liked most about his job.”

On behalf of the Stuart and Margaret L. Forbes Foundation and the Ann L. Turner and Geoffrey M. Tennant Foundation, Forbes Foundation board member James T. Boyle presented Miller with the initiation of the William J. Miller Scholarship Fund at the North Carolina Center of Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT).

“He is a true champion of education,” Boyle said when he presented Miller with the William J. Miller Scholarship Fund plaque. “We did this once in 2003, and to be able to do it again with Mr. Miller and Polk County is a true honor.”

Dr. Brock Womble is the director of the NCCAT and said he has known Miller for more than 12 years and said everything he has done as superintendent has affirmed his passion for education leadership.

“He is an outstanding leader and such a great innovator,” Womble said. “What a privilege it has to been to lead with him. It is evident today with the attendance of these friends and family that your direction and work have touched many lives here in Polk County.”

Polk County Commissioners Ted Owens and Michael Gage, along with Greene, presented a resolution in Miller’s name and expressed the gratitude of the Polk County Board of Commissioners for his leadership.

“Bill always came to us, if he came to us, with a need or a problem and never came to us without having a solution,” Owens said. “Whenever he did that, I could never vote no. This resolution is the least we can do.”

Greene stepped up to the podium to express his words of gratitude and thanks to Miller.

“I hope the people who are here realize they are only a fraction of the lives he has touched,” Greene said. “How do you go about defining his more than 30 years of work with these schools and community? How do you give Miller the recognition and accolades he deserves for his work with the community and students for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon? You can’t.”

Miller’s compassion for students and helping others achieve their best interests will be a blueprint for the school system after he has retired, Greene said.

“The goal has always been to seek a better life for every child, and your steadfast dedication has resulted in a decorated and successful career,” Greene said. “More importantly, you have accomplished everything you have set out to do and have made a lasting mark on everyone you have served.”

“It’s been a pleasure to be a part of a school system that I’ve grown up in,” Miller said. “Wherever these students will go, they will be supported and people will be behind them. This place is special and I’m so honored to have been a small part of it.”