Suite of school leadership changes announced in Haywood

The summer ritual of naming new principals and assistant principals before the start of the next school year wrapped up in Haywood County this week.

The annual shuffle is usually trigged by a couple of principals somewhere in the school system retiring or moving on. A ripple effect follows, as each principal or assistant principal moving up the ladder to a bigger school leaves a vacancy of their own in their wake.

The Haywood County School Board made the following changes in school administration during its June meeting, with a handful more announced at the July meeting this week.

First, the two vacancies that started it all: 

• Dale McDonald retired as the principal of Tuscola High School. 

• Jill Barker left the principal post at Bethel Elementary for a position in the central office.

And then:

• Travis Collins is the new principal of Tuscola High. He was the principal at Canton Middle.

• Todd Barbee is the new principal at Canton Middle. He was the principal at North Canton.

• Belinda Trantham is the new principal of North Canton. She was the assistant principal at Clyde Elementary

• Danna Knight is the new assistant principal at Clyde. She was previously an instructional coach for Buncombe County schools.

• Kim Shipman is the new principal of Bethel Elementary. She was the assistant principal of Waynesville Middle.

• Kiffin Queen is the new assistant principal at Waynesville Middle. He was the lead teacher at Junaluska Elementary and had also worked as the exceptional children teacher at Jonathan Valley Elementary.

“I hire the things I cannot teach or cannot give someone. So I try to hire someone who is very intelligent, very hard working, and most of all loves kids,” Trevor Putnam, the principal of Waynesville Middle, said when announcing Queen’s new position at the school board meeting this week.


Tuscola gets new head football coach

Tommy Pursley, who spent two decades as the head football coach at Northeast Guilford High School in Mcleansville, has been hired as the new head football coach at Tuscola High School in Clyde. He is known for the third longest winning streak in high school football in the state. His team regularly made it to championship games, he has 226 wins on his record as a head coach and has a collection of Coach of the Year awards.

Pursley had recently retired from a one-year stint as the defensive coordinator at Brevard College.

“This is one of the few places that would drag me out of retirement,” Pursley said at a school board meeting where the announcement was made this week. 

Pursley added that he began his football career as a player at Appalachian State — so he’ll feel right at home with Tuscola’s team colors of black and gold and Mountaineers nickname.

Tuscola’s previous head coach announced a surprise resignation recently to take a job at a bigger high school down east.

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