Former principal, superintendent dies
Published 8:46 pm Friday, February 12, 2016
A former Southampton County Public Schools Principal and Franklin City Public Schools Superintendent has passed away. William “Bill” Pruett, 73, died Monday, Feb. 1.
According to his teachers, staff and students, Pruett was much more than a leader, he became one of their best friends and someone they will never forget.
“He was supportive, a great friend and always bragged on us,” said several former employees who worked under Pruett while he was in the Southampton school system.
A native of Emporia, Pruett was a teacher in Ivor and then became a principal at Hunterdale Elementary School, where he held that position for 30 years.
Those who worked with him said that he knew almost all of his students’ names and they always remembered him.
“He took an interest in the students and staff, and gave the teachers freedom and trusted them to do their job,” former librarian of Hunterdale Joe Culpepper said.
Former teacher Mattie Webber said, “He felt like teachers should make the decisions.”
Rod Phelps, another former teacher, added,” He believe that teachers were ‘it’ and encouraged creativity, even after SOLs.”
Former colleagues of Pruett’s reminisced on the many fun and generous things he did while in education.
Phelps and Jim Ritter, another former teacher, recalled his interest in gymnastics.
“He loved gymnastics and track,” they said. “He got rings, a tumbling mat and trampolines for the school. And he would stay after and help us help the boys with gymnastics.”
Phelps, who taught history, also remembered Pruett being a history buff and helping him with government lessons.
“He would come in in the morning and teach the first lesson of the day and set an example for me,” he said.
Those who worked at Hunterdale while he was principal, also remember his sense of humor.
“Sometimes when he had a joke to tell us, he would come to the classroom and act serious and pull us out just so he could tell it,” Ritter and Phelps said.
Everyone also remembered the rubber chicken that would be passed around all the staff and would end up in the most random paces. They said Pruett considered that chicken to be the unofficial mascot of Hunterdale Elementary.
After retiring as principal, Pruett took a few years off before going back into the education system and serving as superintendent of Franklin City Public Schools from August 2006 until June 2008.
“After 30 years serving as principal of Hunterdale Elementary School, Pruett said that the one thing he missed while serving as superintendent was getting to know the students as well as he did while a principal,” stated in an article published in The Tidewater News on June 12, 2008. “However, in 2006, he had said that the opportunity to come back to Franklin was too appealing.
“It’s a beautiful place to drive into work in the morning he said this week. The city manager, the mayor, and everyone in the school system have been great (to work with).”
Eileen Ritter, who worked in Central Office in Franklin while Pruett was superintendent, said he believed in discussion, and always got other’s views and ideas before making a decision.
“Anybody who worked in the school division was treated equally,” Eileen said. “He was there for the students. He loved and cared about them and he believed they were the bottom line.”
Pruett was also the Legislative Liaison of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, and his former colleagues said he was good at it and comfortable in that position. They also said that he fought to get the school systems money because he believed they deserved it.
“He made my 28 years of teaching as successful as they were,” Jim said.
Aside from being in education, Pruett enjoyed fishing and reading. He also liked antiques and the architecture and restoration of old homes dating back to the 1700s.
His friends said that he was a dedicated son to his mother, who is in a wheelchair, and did everything he could for his nieces and and great-nieces.
Many friends of Pruett are making a donation in his honor to the Village View Foundation, 108 State St., Emporia, VA 23847.
The memorial service for him will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13, in Echols Funeral Home, 806 Brunswick Ave., Emporia.