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‘New beginnings’ ahead as Superintendent-elect Catherine Truitt announces leadership team

State Superintendent-elect Catherine Truitt announced Dec. 2 the people she is bringing onboard at the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI) when she takes the reins in January. During the first day of the December State Board of Education meeting, she introduced her team, which includes education leaders and veterans of other state and federal agencies and offices.

Truitt’s chief of staff will be Shelby Armentrout. Armentrout, a graduate of Guilford County Public Schools, met Truitt when she was working in the office of Gov. Pat McCrory first as an intern and then as Truitt’s assistant. Since then, Armentrout has worked as an education policy advisor to state House Speaker Tim Moore and in external affairs for Western Governors University.

Truitt said she is building a “student-centered Department of Public Instruction” and announced three new advisory positions reporting directly to her:

  • Special Assistant to the Superintendent: Educator Engagement — Julie Pittman
  • Special Assistant to the Superintendent: Principal Engagement — To be announced in January
  • Special Assistant to the Superintendent: Workforce Engagement — Kristie VanAuken

In announcing VanAuken, Truitt said that her role is particularly important given the state’s attainment goal developed by myFutureNC. That goal is 2 million 25-44 year-old North Carolinians with a high-quality credential or postsecondary degree by 2030.

“It is crucial that we start building out pathways for our students in high school. I know firsthand that there is an incredible amount of interest and excitement from our business community about the work that’s happening with the State Board and the department,” she said.

With a “one voice, one team” strategy, Truitt announced the legislative affairs team:

  • Director of Government and Community Affairs — Freebird McKinney
  • Director of Government and Community Affairs — Jamey Falkenbury

Truitt announced four deputy directors of the Department of Public Instruction:

  • Deputy Superintendent of Innovation — Dr. David Stegall
  • Deputy Superintendent of Student and School Advancement — Dr. Robert Taylor (former Superintendent of Bladen County Schools)
  • Deputy Superintendent of the Office of Equity — Dr. Catherine Edmonds (former Superintendent of Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools)
  • Assistant Superintendent of Agency Schools — Dr. Derrick Jordan (former Superintendent of Chatham County Schools)

Truitt said there will be two dual reports, meaning they will report to both her and the State Board of Education:

  • Executive Director of Leandro — Beverly Emory
  • Communications Director — Blair Ellis Rhoades

“I have sought to surround myself with the best of the best because our students, our teachers, and school personnel in this state deserve nothing but that. Each of these individuals are tremendously talented in their respective fields and will be pivotal to advancing outcomes and opportunities for students here in North Carolina,” Truitt said in a press release.

State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis congratulated Truitt on her picks today.

“On behalf of my colleagues on the State Board, congratulations to Superintendent-Elect Truitt on recruiting these talented professionals to join the hard working and dedicated educators in DPI,” he said in a press release. “Attracting talent is a hallmark of a strong leader and a first step in creating an even stronger team to serve North Carolina students.” 

During the State Board meeting, member Jill Camnitz expressed her excitement that Truitt was planning on working with the State Board.

“Catherine, I’m just so pleased that you’re gonna work with us moving forward, and all of these plans that you just presented to us just sound great, and I look forward to what we’re going to accomplish together,” Camnitz said.

Truitt is replacing Republican Mark Johnson as state superintendent. Johnson ran and lost the race for Lieutenant Governor rather than seeking another term as state superintendent. Johnson had a contentious relationship with the State Board during his tenure as state superintendent.

Read the full release and get more info on the new hires here.

Here is Truitt’s presentation from the meeting.

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Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.