McManus Gets High Marks for First Year on the Job

Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Tricia McManus

Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Tricia McManus
When most folks start a new job, they expect to enjoy an uneventful period of quiet transition, with plenty of time to settle in. Not so for Tricia McManus, who is just now winding up her first year as superintendent of the Winston-Salem Forsyth County schools. And what a year it has been. From day one she was faced with transitioning students from pandemic-related at-home learning, back to the classroom, all the while keeping an eye on COVID surges and variants that could affect who could return and when. Then came heated debate over mask mandates, followed by politically fueled battles over vaccines. McManus then had to deal with the fatal shooting of one student by another, while keeping an eye on TikTok challenges that encouraged vandalism and assault. I kept waiting for things to settle down so I could invite her to appear on Triad Today, but even on the day we scheduled our interview, she first had to avert a strike by school bus drivers, and then meet with students. Fortunately, Tricia McManus has boundless energy, and a genuine positive attitude about everyone and everything. It’s no wonder that school board member Dana Caudill Jones said of McManus, “She’s the perfect leader for our district.”

I caught up with Tricia recently at the WSFCS Cable 2 studio, and we taped a segment for Triad Today. Here are a few highlights of our conversation.

 


JL: You graduated from the University of South Florida, and later became assistant superintendent of Hillsborough schools, so I’m assuming you have deep roots in Florida.

TM: [smiles] Born and raised in Tampa.

JL: Who or what led you to a career in education?

TM: Both of my parents had degrees in education, and my father was a physical education teacher for his entire career, that was over 40 years. He was also the winningest high school football coach in Hillsborough County up until the time he passed. But he was an amazing educator, and the stories he would tell us, the summers we spent with him at the gym, education was just in our blood. As a result, five of the eight children in our family are educators.

JL: You were named interim superintendent last November, then took over the post officially in February of this year, and had to hit the ground running because of the pandemic. We’re still not out of the woods yet, but give me your assessment of how the school system has weathered the COVID storm thus far.

TM: Last year our district staff really rose to the occasion with response to everything from feeding our families when we were not in school, to making sure our schools were equipped to return in a safe manner. They responded to every single protocol, from removing furniture, to our custodians keeping buildings clean. There was a huge amount of work, and our staff were absolutely amazing. Still, it was not an ideal situation. Many of our students struggled last year with the isolation and not being in school the full year, and so our academic results have declined.

JL: But you need to put an asterisk behind those statistics because what happened was nobody’s fault.

TM: Absolutely. It happened everywhere across the country, but it is still impactful to our students. There have also been a lot of issues around trauma and mental health, and families dealing with loss, and all of the changes that occurred are real for our students as they returned this year. And so yes, as you said, it’s not over. We’re still dealing with COVID, and with all of the protocols and procedures that come with that. But I will say that even with all those challenges, we are educators, and educators are strong and resilient, and we are here for our students. So that keeps us moving forward even amidst the challenges.

JL: As you know, there are more guns in circulation in America than there are people, so it’s not surprising that kids have access to guns. Nevertheless, what steps are you taking to at least keep guns out of schools?

TM: Sadly those are not new statistics. Guns have been in schools for a long time, but the good news is that every time we’ve had one, they’ve been reported, and so when kids know something, they’re saying something, and that’s amazing.

JL: What’s the most gratifying thing about your job?

TM: It’s being in a classroom with kids. It’s seeing our students smiling. It’s seeing them engaged in learning, and it’s seeing them interact with staff in a positive way. It’s seeing our students be successful. That’s what it’s all about.



 

 
 

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