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State Superintendent Catherine Truitt takes the lead of the Department of Public Instruction

“How do we change things to put kids at the center of everything we do?” asked Catherine Truitt in her first remarks after being sworn in as State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

It’s the question that framed her campaign, and it’s the question that will frame her leadership.

Who are you, Catherine Truitt?

Back in February 2020, before the primary election and COVID-19, Abdur Gant, a student at Edgecombe Early College High School, asked Truitt, “Who are you?” And he asked her that question over and over as a way for students at EdNC’s town hall to get to know her.

More than 10 long months later, on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, in an outdoor courtyard at Carroll Magnet Middle School in Raleigh, Truitt was sworn in by Court of Appeals Judge Chris Dillon. Then, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall did the rest before announcing, “It’s official.”

As Truitt told Gant, “I am Catherine.” At her swearing in, she laid her hand on a Bible given to her by her aunt and uncle for her own christening on June 30, 1971. A note inside the cover wishes for her faith and wisdom, happiness and love.

Truitt told Gant she is “a military spouse” and “a mom.” At her swearing in, her husband, Jeff, held the Bible, as her children — Susie, Chorley, and Charles — looked on. Her children attend public schools in Wake County.

The family wore masks except for this photo, which was taken outdoors and socially distanced from the others in attendance.

When Truitt told the students at the town hall she was a breast cancer survivor, there was spontaneous applause. At the swearing in, she thanked a former boss who had offered to help her with carpool while she was in treatment.

She described herself to Gant as “compassionate” and a “hard worker,” as a “consensus builder” and a “leader.” At her swearing in, she thanked the State Board of Education for welcoming her with open arms.

Steps at Carroll Magnet Middle School

She told the students she thinks of herself as “a practitioner” and “a former teacher.” The first student-painted paver on the right as you walked into the courtyard said, “Don’t forget me.”

“We are going to do amazing things together in the name of the students,” Truitt said as she concluded her remarks.

Truitt thanked Elizabeth MacWilliams, the principal of Carroll, which was one of the last schools she visited before COVID-19.

“I love your leadership in the school and your vision and your innovation — and that for me is a microcosm about what I want my administration to be about,” said Truitt.

Truitt with leaders of the State Board of Education and DPI

Now it is time for Truitt and her team to get to work.

The North Carolina State Board of Education meets on Wednesday, Jan. 6, and Thursday, Jan. 7. The agendas are linked.

P.S. If you made it to the end of Gant’s questions, then you also know Truitt is a “TV watcher.”

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.