Inside her office, Lisa Reynolds smiled as she held a photo frame, with a witch hanging from it.
Her door at the central office for Sampson County Schools has a calendar counting down October, next to a flag which reads “The Witch Is In” to let people know she’s in the building. It’s somewhat fitting since Reynolds’ last day is Tuesday, Oct. 31 — Halloween.
“I thought it was appropriate that the witch rides away on Halloween,” Reynolds said about her retirement as the director of federal programs.
But her 30 years of service in education and to students, shows that she’s completely different than the evil mythical character.
“Everybody’s been focused on what’s best for the kids,” Reynolds said. “That’s been our focus. How can we make everything work for the kids? That’s always been my thing — do whatever you can to make the kids successful.”
The Sampson County native graduated from Midway High School and earned her bachelor’s and master’s in agricultural education from North Carolina State University. She would later work in the Hobbton, Lakewood, Midway and Union regions of the district as an educator and principal, which was her favorite position.
“I loved working with the teachers, the parents and the kids,” Reynolds said.
During her years as an educator, she recalled improvements throughout the years when it came to technology and student success. One example was being the first to have a SmartBoard in Sampson County through a grant.
“The growth we’ve had has been phenomenal,” she said. “It’s been an emphasis to make sure that the kids have the technology and skills they need to be successful, regardless of what they do.”
She came to the central office six years ago as the director of federal programs, a position previously held by Pam Westbrook. During her years, Reynolds enjoyed working with schools and meeting migrant families to help their children through academic challenges. She recalled a time visiting a home with only five cans of soda and a few bottles of water in the refrigerator.
“But before you left, you had to have something to drink so you wouldn’t offend them,” she said. “They were willing to offer whatever.”
Some of the programs she was involved with included the English as a Second Language (ESL) Program and the Title I program, which provides a great deal of financial assistance to schools.
Reynolds said she was also fortunate to work with others at the central office.
“I have a wonderful staff,” Reynolds said. “That’s been a blessing. I didn’t know much about migrant and ESL except for a principals perspective. I’ve had them to help me.”
Her duties also involved working with homeless people. The amount of people who needed help increased after Hurricane Matthew. With the recent hurricanes affecting the Caribbean and Southeast region of the United States, Reynolds expects North Carolina will probably receive more students.
“The parents may be staying back there to rebuild and they’re sending their children here with families or they may be coming to relocate,” she said.
After Reynolds retires, Dr. Linda J. Carr will take over the position. Carr was previously the principal of Union Elementary School. With her free time, Reynolds says she plans to spend time remodeling a house in Wilmington with the help of her husband, Linwood Reynolds, director of public works for Sampson County. They reside in the Spivey’s Corner area and together they have two children, Laura Reynolds, a pharmacist; and Tori Reynolds, a teacher and coach at Hobbton High School.
“I want to get back to working with my hands more,” Reynolds said.
Some of the other time will be used taking care of her parents, spending time with her grand puppy traveling or just doing whatever she wants to.
“I’ve enjoyed my time, the people and the parents,” Reynolds said. “That’s the part I’m going to miss. You’re not going to miss the stuff that you do. I’m going to miss the people that I work with and the people that impacted my life.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.