“People say, “Why do you want to go to Ashe County?’” said Dr. Todd Holden, the new superintendent of Ashe County Schools, who starts work July 1.
“There’s no other place I wanted to be superintendent,” he said.
An Appalachian State alumnus, Holden fell in love with the N.C. High Country 20 years ago, and is glad for the opportunity to come back to the mountains.
Holden grew up in Canton, Miss., where he used to break horses as a teenager. In high school, when he was thinking about college, a guidance counselor told him he should focus on the skilled trades.
“That’s a discouraging thing for a young man to hear,” he said.
After a brief hitch with the U.S. Coast Guard, Holden decided to go college, starting at Mississippi State ‘89, and finishing at ASU in ‘92. He got his doctorate at Wingate University.
“I didn’t learn anything in high school,” he said. “That’s why I went into education.”
Holden is currently principal of West Iredell High School in Statesville. He and his wife of 14 years Karen will be relocating to the Fleetwood-Todd area in the coming weeks.
Asked what he considered job one as incoming superintendent, Holden said, “You don’t make changes when things are going good.”
“The main thing I’ve got to work on is getting to know the community,” he said. “I’m going to be building relationships.”
That doesn’t mean Holden doesn’t have any goals for a better school system, though. “Looking at Ashe County, the big issue is literacy,” he said.
Ashe County has already been doing a lot to emphasize literacy through Common Core, a national initiative of standards-based education reform, but full implementation of those standards is still two or three years off, he said.
When a student’s literacy is not at grade level by third grade, that student is statistically less likely to gradate, he explained. “I really want to see the literacy rate increase across the board.”
Holden describes his managerial style as “problems down, solutions up.” “I’m a pretty straight-forward guy,” he said.
Holden likes to fish, hunt, hike, and be outdoors in general, he said, and wants to get out and see all four corners of Ashe County.
“I’m not using this as a stepping stone,” he said. “I do plan on staying.”