KANNAPOLIS — Chip Buckwell, who has been at the helm of Kannapolis City Schools since 2016, will retire at the end of this school year.
Buckwell has spent more than 37 years in public education, with 35 of those working for KCS. He was hired as superintendent in 2016 and described the previous year as one of the most challenging of his career.
Buckwell came to the district as a teacher and athletic trainer in 1985. There was no plan at the time to eventually become superintendent, but other people saw something in him. He kept going back to school and eventually found himself in the district’s top spot.
Before before coming to Kannapolis, Buckwell was a teacher and athletic trainer in Kinston. On his road to becoming superintendent, he served as a teacher, dropout prevention coordinator, director of student services, director of testing, principal and assistant superintendent.
He expressed his appreciation for everyone he has worked with over the years. He described his legacy as being about the people he interacted with over the years
“When you get the right people, the right culture together, you can make really good things happen for kids,” Buckwell said.
Buckwell said Monday felt eerily like a normal day of school until the announcement was made internally that afternoon. School leadership was gathered before he made the announcement. People realized what was going on.
“Then it got real,” Buckwell said.
The rest of the afternoon, Buckwell was inundated with people getting in touch about the news.
Buckwell said he does not know where his retirement will lead. He thinks he still has more to give to the community, but he will take some time to himself.
“I’ve been very busy for 38 years,” Buckwell said.
KCS Board of Education Chair Todd Adams said Buckwell has made a difference in Kannapolis and has been in the the city so long that he understands the needs of the community.
“That’s part of what makes him special,” Adams said. “He knows this district from every angle.”
Adams said the move was not entirely unexpected. Buckwell had discussed the possibility of retiring with board members in the recent past. Buckwell said he was considering retiring last year, but he did not think it would be right to retire in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Buckwell said he hopes students will be back in classrooms like pre-pandemic times soon.
“There’s a lot of things out of our control,” Buckwell said, adding he hopes the near future has plays, ball games, groups of students and concerts.
The board will begin its search for a new superintendent this month.