Changing of the guard

Published 9:30 am Friday, November 18, 2011

Much can be said, and much of it positive, about Charles Turner’s lifetime of service to Southampton County’s public schools, including the last 13 years as superintendent.

Above all, Turner served with honor and integrity – qualities that should not be taken for granted or underestimated.

During Turner’s tenure as superintendent, coincidentally an era of increased accountability for public education thanks to initiatives like the federal No Child Left Behind Act, Southampton schools consistently earned full accreditation from the state and remained in good standing with state and federal regulators.

The quality of the school division’s buildings improved considerably under Turner’s watch, with new elementary schools constructed and other buildings refurbished.

Turner, who this week announced his retirement effective at the end of the school year, is bowing out at the right time.

The county schools are about to enter a new era of fiscal accountability. With four fiscal conservatives joining the Board of Supervisors in January, the schools, like other functions of county government, will be asked to operate with fewer people and with more efficiency.

Turner and the school board to which he has been fiercely loyal are accustomed to spending requests that are more likely to be rubber-stamped by the Board of Supervisors than scrutinized. Those days are over.

Fresh, innovative leadership is needed to navigate the rough waters ahead, when the schools will be challenged to deliver quality education at a much lower cost, especially in administration, where the county schools are overstaffed.

That said, Turner’s time at the helm of the county schools should be remembered fondly. We commend him for his service and wish him well in retirement.