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SMITHFIELD — Eric Bracy is moving next door.
The superintendent of Sampson County schools will take the helm of Johnston’s public schools on July 1.
The Johnston County Board of Education hired Bracy after a closed session on Wednesday. He spoke afterward during a meet-and-greet.
“One thing you’ll learn about me quickly is I believe in children,” said Bracy, 47. “And I believe all children can achieve anything if the adults in the room make sure everything is in place to achieve those goals.”
When Bracy arrived in Sampson County in February of 2014, he inherited an average school system. That year, 14 of the county’s 18 schools earned a C on their state report card. Two earned a B, while one received an A and one a D.
In 2017-18, Bracy’s fourth full year in Sampson County, three schools earned an A, 10 received a B, and five earned a C. The schools took a slight step back in 2018-19, with just one earning an A, eight receiving a B and nine getting a C.
That “proven track record in raising student achievement while maintaining fiscal responsibility” sold Johnston’s school board on Bracy, said board member Terri Sessoms.
While Sampson was raising student achievement during Bracy’s tenure, Johnston schools were heading in the other direction. In 2014-15, two schools here earned an A, 12 a B, 19 a C, eight a D and one an F. In 2018-19, two received an A, seven a B, 21 a C, 13 a D and two an F.
Bracy said he wanted to turn that around. “My goal is simple here in Johnston County Public Schools,” he said. “My goal is to have our children achieve at the highest level possible.”
“Our children will step up to whatever challenges lay in front of them,” Bracy added. “We just have to believe in them and create relationships with our children.”
Bracy comes to Johnston from much smaller Sampson. But former Johnston superintendents Jim Causby and Tony Parker also came from smaller school systems, Sessoms noted.
“Under their leadership, we climbed to the top 20 in the state in student performance and maintained that level under their leadership,” she said.
Bracy can do for Johnston’s 37,000 students what he did for Sampson County’s 8,000, Sessoms said. “The processes he used in Sampson County are research-based and proven to be successful regardless of district size,” she said. “I am confident his skills set of processes can easily be duplicated in Johnston County Public Schools.
“He has demonstrated he understands the change process and will effectively lead us to success for all.”
It helps too that Bracy has been a superintendent for more than a decade, Sessoms said. “His 11 years of experience as a superintendent will be a plus,” she said. “He understands the importance of building public trust through results and transparency. He is a team builder and understands the importance of listening to and involving stakeholders.”
School board Chairman Todd Sutton said the board was excited to announce Bracy’s hiring. “The members of the Johnston County Board of Education unanimously and enthusiastically support Dr. Bracy’s selection as our new superintendent of schools.,” he said.
“We are certain that Dr. Bracy will lead our school system to high achievement,” Sutton added. His “extensive experience as a superintendent and his extensive track record of improving student achievement ... made his selection a clear, strong choice.”
Sutton also praised Bracy for “improving the financial well-being of his current school district.”
Before arriving in Sampson County, Bracy was superintendent of Northampton County schools for five and a half years.
He began his education career as a fourth-grade teacher in Northampton County and was later a principal and assistant principal in elementary and middle schools.
For nearly five years, Bracy was executive director of student support services in Durham’s public schools.
He earned his doctorate in education leadership from Nova Southeastern University and his master’s degree in education administration and supervision from Virginia State University. Bracy received his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from N.C. Central University.
He and his wife, Janelle, a pre-kindergarten teacher, have three daughters.
“I’m looking forward to working with everybody in this district, and together we will forge our path ahead,” Bracy said. “I believe in our students, I believe in the people that will be leading our students — our teachers, our school leaders, our parent community, the greater Johnston County community at large.”