Come the end of February, Sampson County Schools will bid farewell to one of its own. After close to 12 years with the county school system, Anthony Vann, executive director of auxiliary services, is leaving, having accepted a new position with Rowan-Salisbury Schools.
While looking forward to the new job and new opportunities, Vann shared Monday that the decision to leave Sampson has been a difficult one.
“I’m really going to miss the people. That’s what’s tough,” he said, mentioning that, while there has been some turnover, he has worked with many of the same people since 2002. “It will be an adjustment. In fact, I just told some of them today that we’ve got to stay in touch. It’s going to be different not seeing some of these folks anymore.”
A Sampson County native, Vann attended the old Herring School before eventually attending the old Midway Elementary School which now houses the school system’s Early Childhood Development Center. At that time, according to Vann, there was no Midway Middle School; instead students completed K-8 grades at the elementary school and then moved right to the high school.
A couple of years after graduating from Midway High, Vann moved away, living and working in Wilmington, Raleigh, and Cary. While working, he earned his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Administration from Mount Olive College, now the University of Mount Olive, as well as his Master’s in Business Administration from Liberty University.
When Vann moved back to Sampson in 2002 to be closer to his mother, he took on the job with the county schools, bringing with him over 20 years of experience working in the private construction industry.
“I knew pretty soon after graduating that I wanted to be involved in construction or the building industry,” shared Vann, explaining how he likes “to see ideas and concepts go from the page to reality.”
“I can look at plans and see it, visualize it,” he said, adding that “it’s a good feeling when you can ride by and see the structure and know that you had a hand in it. There’s a feeling of pride.”
Doing that kind of work as part of a school system wasn’t something Vann had planned on though, but he noted that he wouldn’t have it any other way now.
“Gary Weeks was the superintendent then (when I returned to Sampson) and they just happened to have an opening in my line of work,” recalled Vann. “It just happened; it just worked out, but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Now I can’t imagine working for anything other than a school system.”
As executive director of auxiliary services for the county schools, Vann has been overseeing the system’s construction, operations, and maintenance as well as other services, including transportation and child nutrition.
“It’s been a different dynamic here,” he noted as he compared his work with the school system to his experience in the private industry. “I had worked with schools before but I was just on the construction side, on the other side of the fence so to speak, but here I’ve been able to be on both sides, construction and ownership, which I like.”
When asked to pick the most memorable project he has worked on while at Sampson County Schools, Vann noted that there were many to choose from but he ultimately settled on the construction of the two newest high schools — Union and Midway.
“It was exciting just because of the sheer scale of the project,” he said, recalling the busy 18 months of work on the project. “We had the task of building them both simultaneously with a goal to finish them at the same time too. I think we got the certificates of occupancy a day apart so we finished them within one day of each other.”
While his years with the county schools have been filled with other memorable, satisfying projects, the job has also had its challenges.
“There’s a lot of needs in a school system and the largest hurdle is trying to match those needs with the financial ends,” Vann explained, stressing that while the system is very grateful for the funding it receives, there’s no way to fund everything. “We see larger, big ticket items like roofs and parking lots and all down the road. We just have to try and recognize the need and prioritize the best we can.”
Something that makes prioritizing projects a bit easier, shared Vann, is the constant reminder that everything the school system does should be for the benefit of the students.
“I like that it is actually for the kids so I can feel good about what we do because of that,” he said, pointing out that he strives to consistently remind the staff that “we’re here to serve the students.”
With that focus, and by asking questions such as “What’s best for the students?” when working on a project, those things that should take priority become much more clear, said Vann. “It answers it for you.”
In his new position as assistant superintendent of operations for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, Vann will be doing much of the same kind of work, just on a larger scale since that system has approximately 35 schools and over 20,000 students.
“My calendar for March is already filling up fast,” he said, mentioning that Rowan-Salisbury has a few construction projects currently in the works, something he will be involved in come March 3 when he reports to his new job. “That’s on my list to start with. I’m going to have to hit the ground running.”
“It’s good for me, a good opportunity professionally. It feels like something I need to take,” continued Vann, still stressing that leaving his friends in Sampson is hard.
“By far it has to be the people,” replied Vann when asked what he liked most about his home county. “I’ve had a lot of good relationships here and not just personal ones but ones with county managers, the sheriff’s office, the commissioners, all those government agencies that we work with as well as Clinton City Schools and the community college.”
Vann added that when it comes time for him to retire he hopes to return to Sampson and “renew those relationships.”
As he prepares to leave, Vann expressed his thankfulness for the opportunity he has had with Sampson County Schools and the people he has had a chance to know and work with.
“I’m happy to have had good superintendents over the years,” he said, mentioning that he has worked for six different educational leaders during his time with the county schools — Gary Weeks, Dr. Larry Bell, Stuart Hobbs, Dr. Ethan Lenker, Mike Warren, and new school chief Dr. Eric Bracy who officially begins work Monday, Feb. 3.
“I’m very happy that our school board has given me this opportunity, that they hired me and trusted me,” Vann added. “I just thank them for allowing me to be here and having confidence in me.”
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.