Among the principals who will retire at the end of the school year are: Mac Porter at Dublin School, Lillian Graham at East Arcadia; Bonnell Walker at Elizabethtown Primary, Eddie Walters at Bladenboro Primary, and Brenda Ebrom of Extended Hope.
According to School Superintendent Dr. Byron Lawson, the large number of retiring principals in Bladen and several surrounding counties could make it difficult to find replacement principals who meet the needs of the individual schools.
In nearby Duplin County, five principals are also retiring; four are retiring in Sampson County; two are retiring in Whiteville City Schools; and two are retiring in Clinton City Schools. That adds up to 17 principals retiring in a four county area at the same time.
"These are the ones I know we (the combined school systems) are losing," said Lawson, in a Friday interview. "Others are eligible to retire and could possibly do so. This large number of retirements at the same time could make it a challenge for us to find principals who meet the needs unique to the individual schools."
Lawson said the number of principals retiring this year is just the tip of the iceberg with regard to personnel turnover concerns in Bladen County Schools.
"We potentially could lose as many as 125 of the 575 employees we have at the end of this school year," Lawson said. "Of that number, about 90 are teachers-about 25 percent of the total teacher force.
"We also have three individuals here in the Central office staff we will have to replace," Lawson explained. "Bill Turner and Jackie Williams are retiring, and Suzanne Huggins has moved into the Assistance Superintendent position. Her becoming an Assistant Superintendent has left a vacancy in the Exceptional Children program.
"To compound the problem of filling this position, there are vacancies in the Exceptional Children program in two other nearby school districts."
Lawson added that the system will likely lose a large number of teachers (included in the 90 indicated above) because they do not meet the certification requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind program. The requirements will also greatly impact recruiting new teachers.
"This (No Child Left Behind legislation) complicates the problem of hiring principals, as well," Lawson said. "Here we are losing a number of principals with years and years of experience just as we are having to implement the requirements of the program."
Lawson pointed out that the replacement of the principals retiring this year is not the end of the problem for the school district.
"We potentially have five more principals who could retire in the next four years," he said.
Lawson said that the number of baby boomers who are retiring at this time is putting immense pressure on school systems to find replacements. He added that "another bubble (group)" of teachers would be retiring in about four or five years, which would put yet another strain on the school system to fill positions.
"Two other issues are making it difficult for us to hire replacements," Lawson pointed out. "First, the intense training required for certification and the pressure to meet No Child Left Behind academic requirements are discouraging individuals from going into teaching.
"Second, there's no money available to entice them to go into the profession. Most teachers can go into another business or industry and make more money. With the economy down, that's not quite as available as it has been, but once the economy recovers, the jobs will be out there again."