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HILLSVILLE — The Carroll County School Board decided to promote from within an educator who’s been with the school system for 24 years.
Long-time educator Strader Blankenship officially signed the contract Wednesday evening to serve as the next superintendent of schools.
As School Board Chairman Brian Spencer noted while announcing the selection, Blankenship was chosen from 22 applicants, six of whom were interviewed for the position.
Blankenship has spent 33 years total in education, starting out in 1974 as an elementary social studies teacher at Wythe County Public Schools, followed by five years with Galax as a secondary social studies teacher.
After three years as a programmer and analyst at Volvo, Blankenship taught technology classes at Wytheville and New River community colleges for several years.
His career in Carroll County started at the intermediate school as a math teacher in 1988.
For seven years, he served as the coordinator of computer services.
In 1997, Blankenship served as the assistant principal at Carroll County High School, followed by a two-year term as principal.
Since 2002, Blankenship has acted as assistant to former Superintendent Oliver McBride and outgoing Superintendent Greg Smith.
After graduating from Rural Retreat High School in 1970, Blankenship earned a bachelor of arts degree in social studies in 1974.
His next three degrees — a bachelor’s in computer science, a master’s in educational administration and a doctorate in educational administration — all came from Virginia Tech in 1985, 1993 and 1998, respectively.
After the school board unanimously approved hiring Blankenship on Wednesday, he told The Gazette he still feels like he’ll still have a learning curve on certain responsibilities of his new position.
He also wants to hit the ground running, as the saying goes. “We’ve got an awful lot to do between now and the first day of school, with construction going on,” the new superintendent said. “We’ve got some empty spots in our staff that we need to get taken care of. If we’re not running we’re not going to be on time.”
It looks like the construction projects are on schedule right now, he added.
“We are a very good school system and we want to get better,” Blankenship said. “I’ve heard this statement more than once and I truly believe it, that we’re the best kept secret…”
Carroll County Public Schools, as a school system that’s been helping forge online education with private partner K12, wants to become an educational leader in Virginia in lots areas.
“Always want to get better,” he said. “We believe in continuous improvement here, and the staff up here is tremendous in regard to that.”
Blankenship named McBride as one of his mentors. “I feel like I’ve had excellent tutelage.”
He also respects today’s teachers, because they have so many responsibilities in the classroom.
“I’ve been part of the Carroll County education family for about 24 years — just honored to be a part of the group of people that I work with,” Blankenship said. “They’re very good at what they do. It’s an honor to be chosen to be a part of this.”
The annual salary for the new superintendent is $102,000.