Former State Superintendent Craig Phillips
April 13, 2011
The news that former State Superintendent Craig Phillips had passed away at age 88 came to us last week just a few hours before the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee released its first stab at the House budget for public schools for 2011-13. Dr. Phillips was the State Superintendent when I came to work at the Department of Public Instruction, and I suspect that he would be among the first to rejoice that our dropout rate is at an all time low and our high school graduation rate is at an all time high. His work many years ago gave us the foundation to make the progress we are now experiencing today. .
A visionary leader and a five-term State Superintendent, Dr. Phillips was an important force in bringing universal kindergarten to North Carolina's public schools. He and his team led our school districts through the sensitive period of racial integration in schools, and, because of their thoughtful leadership, North Carolina did not face the same kind of unrest that plagued many other states and communities during this time. He worked with the General Assembly and other stakeholders in creating the Basic Education Plan, the mid-1980s legislation that defined the full range of subjects and opportunities that should be in a public school education. He advocated for education for the "whole child" – not only education that would make a young person employable.
Throughout his career and as recently as 2007 when Dr. Phillips was honored by the State Board of Education, Dr. Phillips brought every conversation and deliberation back to the "boys and girls" of North Carolina. He always brought us back to the girls and boys, the students, learning in our schools. As we continue to learn how to best use data to make decisions and as we investigate trendlines and relationships between inputs and outcomes, I think it would serve us well to also ask Dr. Phillips' question: Will this be good for girls and boys in our schools?
In this blog over the coming weeks and months, I want to bring to you the boys and girls, the young people, who are in our schools. I hope I can share some of my experiences meeting students throughout our state so that together we can keep our focus on those who stand to gain or lose the most through our decisions and activities – our 1.5 million students.
June St. Clair Atkinson