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Don Phipps of Caldwell County is the 2023 Superintendent of the Year

At a ceremony in Greensboro on Tuesday, Don Phipps, superintendent of Caldwell County Schools, was named the 2023 A. Craig Phillips North Carolina Superintendent of the Year.

Phipps was one of eight superintendents vying for the award from the North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA), the North Carolina Superintendents’ Association (NCSSA), and the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA). 

“It’s overwhelming and a real honor for me to represent the superintendents in North Carolina with the work that they do and to call them all my peers,” Phipps said in a press release. “Gratitude is not a strong enough word. I look forward to serving them and representing them.”

Phipps became superintendent of Caldwell County Schools in 2018 and took on the challenge of ushering the district through the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the press release, under Phipps leadership, the school system sent out buses with Wi-Fi to address broadband connectivity issues. And when students returned, he worked with community mental health care providers to ensure students had the help they needed.

“This work is critical, in my opinion,” Phipps said in the press release. “This work has significantly and positively impacted the gap that existed where our students’ mental health needs were identified and not being met.”

Jack Hoke, executive director of NCSSA, called Phipps a “leader among leaders.”

“His focus on addressing the critical needs of students and families in his community and his efforts to be a strong voice for his colleagues in state and federal education policy work all make him an exemplary district leader who is very worthy of the Superintendent of the Year honor,” Hoke said in a press release.

The press release also talked about Phipps’ work creating the Caldwell County Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance to get the word out about important programs like free school lunch, the efforts by the school system to engage the community with college application and scholarship meetings, and even computer bootcamps for grandparents.

“We must respond to needs in our community, but we only know what those needs are if we are part of the community,” Phipps said in the press release. “We must be seen as trustworthy and genuine in our work.”

Phipps teaches classes in early child care, teacher preparation, and child guidance counseling at Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute.

The N.C. Superintendent of the Year competes for the national title, which will be announced in February. The regional superintendents of the year who were also up for contention to be state superintendent of the year are:

Region 1 | Northeast | Dr. Ethan Lenker, Pitt County Schools

Region 2 | Southeast | Dr. Jerry L. Oates, Brunswick County Schools

Region 3 | Central | Ms. Catty Q. Moore, Wake County Schools

Region 4 | Sandhills | Dr. Aaron Fleming, Harnett County Schools

Region 5 | Piedmont/Triad | Dr. Todd Martin, Yadkin County Schools

Region 6 | Southwest | Dr. Jeff Booker, Gaston County Schools

Region 8 | Western | Ms. Angela Knight, Graham County Schools


EdNC staff reporting relies on staff, interns, and columnists.