SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — After serving as an assistant superintendent for Salem City Schools since 2014 and a central office administrative employee since 2007, Dr. Curtis Hicks has been named the division’s new superintendent, effective Sept. 30.
Hicks’ appointment was unanimously approved by the Salem City School Board at the end of a specially-called meeting that wrapped up the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 31, according to a statement released by city officials.
“I appreciate the confidence the board has shown in me, not just with this appointment, but throughout my time in Salem,” said Hicks. “The board has always been supportive of the initiatives I have brought before them, and I am proud to say we already have an outstanding working relationship.”
Hicks is set to replace the current superintendent, Dr. Alan Seibert, who is retiring after 30 years of service to the school division.
According to the School Board Chairman David Preston, Hicks’ extensive and diverse administrative experiences, as well as his wealth of institutional knowledge, made him the top choice among the candidates who applied for the position.
“We have an outstanding track record in Salem of hiring quality educators, identifying leaders and then grooming them for moments like this,” Preston said. “Curtis is a dynamic leader who relates extremely well to students, teachers and parents. He has the unique ability engage these groups, even when they are at odds or struggling, and find the common ground that ultimately benefits the child.”
Salem officials say that Hicks and his wife, Marcia, have three children who are products of Salem City Schools. Those three children are Garrett, a UVA graduate who will return to the university this fall to pursue his master’s degree; Meredith, a rising second year student at Virginia; and Will, a senior at Salem High School who has accepted an invitation to play lacrosse at the University of Lynchburg after he graduates.
“Our family will be forever grateful for the time and energy that the teachers in Salem invested on our children,” said Hicks. “They were given opportunities that continue to inspire them today.”
Hicks grew up on an Alleghany County farm and was a highly recruited student-athlete for the Alleghany Mountaineers, going on to receive a football scholarship with the University of Virginia Cavaliers and making his mark both on the field and in the classroom.
“Athletics and my rural roots taught me the importance of teamwork and recognizing the value that each person possesses,” he said. “All of the coaches and teachers who saw something in me when I was young and those who later created opportunities for me in the early stages of my career are the reasons that I have been given this opportunity.”
Before he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UVA in 1995, Hicks was a member of the ACC Academic Honor Roll from 1992 to 1995 and was awarded the national “Hitachi Promise of Tomorrow” teaching scholarship after his senior year.
“After graduation, I was hired to teach and coach at Northside Middle School and after just my second year of teaching, I was encouraged by my principal and the director of human resources to pursue a career in administration,” said Hicks. “They recommended me for the Principal Preparation Program at Virginia Tech.”
He earned his Education Specialist degree and completed Tech’s Educational Leadership program in 2000, but Hicks actually started his administration career long before the requirements were completed.
“Even though I had not completed the program and did not yet hold an administrative endorsement, I was hired to be an assistant principal at Floyd County High School,” he said. “Floyd County is where I learned how important empathy and compassion are when dealing with students, parents, and staff who are going through difficult situations. I also learned the importance of creating relationships based on genuine care and concern for students and their families.”
After two years in Floyd County, Hicks returned to Roanoke County and served as an assistant principal at both Hidden Valley and Cave Spring High Schools for the next two years. Then, in 2003, he was named the principal of Glenvar High School at the age of 30.
“This was an awesome responsibility that I took very seriously,” said Hicks. “I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure that each one of the 600 students reached his or her full potential, and that both the students and their families had a positive experience with our school.”
While at Glenvar, Hicks implemented several impactful programs, such as a study program that reduced failing grades and significantly improved student achievement, as well as the Highlander Day of Caring initiative, which taught students the importance of community service.
“Leaving Glenvar was a difficult decision,” he said. “At that time, I wanted to be more involved with my children’s education and extracurricular programs, and I knew I could have an impact on even more students by implementing and improving programs in grades K-12.”
Hicks joined Salem City Schools in 2007 as the director of secondary instruction before he was promoted to assistant superintendent for instruction in 2014. In fact, since Mike Bryant’s retirement in 2017, Hicks has served as the division’s only assistant superintendent.
“Dr. Seibert entrusted me with many responsibilities, and I am very proud of the strides we have made when it comes to the division’s alternative education and recovery programs, the Random Drug Testing Program for student-athletes, our job shadowing and apprenticeship programs and our use of grant funding to support innovation,” said Hicks.
Continuing his education, Hicks went on to earn his doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Arkansas in May 2020.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Salem says Hicks has served as the point person for the school division with regard to handling interactions with health department officials, school staff members, community leaders, and parents.
“As a school division and a community, we are still facing lots of uncertainty related to the pandemic,” said Preston. “The appointment of Dr. Hicks should give our teachers and our parents a sense of security and reassurance. He is a natural leader, who knows our schools and our personnel as well as anyone.”
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