Former Wilson County Schools administrator Dr. Lane B. Mills was hired as superintendent during a called meeting of the county Board of Education Sunday evening.
Mills, who is currently superintendent of Craven County Schools, will start work July 1. Board members voted unanimously to offer him the position following a half-hour closed session. Chairwoman Christine Fitch then invited him to sign his contract at the board table.
“It’s nice to see some friendly and familiar faces,” Mills said, addressing the board members. “My family and I are excited about coming home to Wilson. This is home for us. We have some deep roots here...We’re excited about it. Thank you for this opportunity. It’s good to be home.”
A native of Monroe, Mills was hired in August 1997 as Wilson County’s assistant superintendent, a post he held for 10 years. He accepted a professorship at East Carolina University in 2007 and started work as Craven County’s superintendent in February 2012.
“We are absolutely delighted to have been able to conduct and conclude so quickly our search for the next leader of our school system,” Fitch said in a prepared statement. “Dr. Mills is no stranger to this Board of Education or our community. He was very successful and well-respected as an assistant superintendent in the system for 10 years, and since he has left us, we have watched him grow as an associate professor at East Carolina and as the superintendent in Craven County.”
Mills signed a four-year contract and will receive a starting salary of $205,000, plus a $650 monthly transportation stipend and a $100 reimbursement for his personal cellphone and home Internet service.
The county Board of Education conducts an annual performance evaluation of the superintendent and will notify Mills if it intends to renew his contract by March 1, 2020. The board agreed to pay a maximum of 18 months’ salary if it unilaterally chooses to terminate the contract.
Mills replaces Dr. Sean Bulson, who announced his June 30 resignation in February. The departing superintendent, who has led Wilson County Schools since July 2011, had high praise for his successor.
“He’s as fine an educator as I have ever encountered, and Wilson County Schools will be in good hands under his leadership,” Bulson said.
Bulson had accepted a position as senior vice president of North Carolina New Schools/Breakthrough Learning, an educational nonprofit, but The Associated Press reported last week the organization was shutting down due to financial issues.
After Bulson announced he would be stepping down, the school system formed a search committee that contacted Mills about the position.
“This is one of those opportunities that’s just been a little bittersweet,” Mills said. “I’m very happy where I am and I was not looking to make a change, but Wilson is home for us.”
Mills and his wife, Melissa, live in New Bern and have two daughters, Grayson, a high school freshman, and Emerson, a fifth-grader. Melissa Mills works as a school media coordinator. Both children were born while the Mills family lived in Wilson.
After graduating from the Union County Public Schools, Mills earned a bachelor’s in psychology from East Carolina and received master’s and doctorate degrees in school psychology from the University of South Carolina.
Mills served as a school psychologist at Edgecombe County Schools, later becoming the district’s data analysis and research supervisor and finally serving as director of information and accountability systems before coming to work in neighboring Wilson County.
The public school systems in Craven and Wilson counties are similar in size. Mills now oversees education for 14,100 students in 25 schools, while in Wilson County, he will serve roughly 12,000 students in 23 schools.
In a prepared statement distributed following his hiring, Mills said he would engage students, staff and community members “to create a relentless focus on success.”
“My focus is on working with and through people to achieve success,” Mills said. “I intend to be approachable and available to the community and schools in every possible way. This is not a job for me, but a calling.”
The Wilson County Board of Education will hold a public reception for Mills at 6:30 p.m. May 11. The location had not been determined Sunday and will be announced at a later date.