Bell wins leadership award

Published 9:35 am Friday, March 18, 2011



RICHMOND—The family that teaches together truly stays together. Willie J. Bell Jr., the son, brother and husband of educators, can testify.

A testament to that bond’s strength is that Bell, formerly of Southampton County, is principal at George Wythe High School in Richmond. Earlier this week, he won the R.E.B. Leadership Award for distinguished educational leadership. This is the latest in a long list of honors he’s earned. Bell has been the principal since July 2008.

His brother, Darian, who is assistant principal at Southampton Middle School, notified The Tidewater News this past Monday of the honor.

Their sister, Prenda Crocker, is a teacher at Sussex Central High School, and their parents are Lottie C. Bell and the late Willie J. Bell Sr. She retired as an elementary school teacher after 35 years. He was a former principal and director of math/science for grades K-12 at Southampton Junior High School, with 33 years of service to education.

Bell’s wife, Cassandra, is a middle school math teacher and administrator. They have three children, Evan, Gabrielle and Khairi.

The 1983 graduate of Southampton High School readily credits his career choice to the parents.

“Yes, I was greatly influenced by my parents to pursue a career in education. I observed the rewards from educating children and observed the valued friendships that were obtained. Making a difference in a child’s life and the community was the continued driving force in what I purview as the family business.”

He continued: “I remember all of my teachers and coaches. All of them had an impact in my life. Life lessons were taught and modeled on a daily basis. However, my idol and role model was my father. He was a tangible figure in my life. His commitment to excellence and extraordinary work ethic has transcended to each generation of our family.

“Behind every good man, is a great woman. This would be my mother, who also exemplified impeccable work standards. Both are the driving forces of success attained. I am extremely blessed to have conduits of excellence to mark my paths.”

Bell, 45, went on to graduate from Virginia State University in 1987, then from East Carolina University in 2000. He is a doctoral candidate at Cambridge College, Boston, Mass.

Bell said in a phone interview earlier on Monday that two staff members had nominated him for the award. That day he was informed of being chosen, and given a gift basket and a check for $15,000, with the provision that he use half of the money for the school.

“In this case,” he said, “we’ll be buying Promethean Interactive Whiteboards, which are proven to raise student achievement by 16 percent.”