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PCS Supt. Ethan Lenker Talks Leadership

By Rob Goldberg Jr.
PCC Media Relations Director 

WINTERVILLE—Pitt County Schools (PCS) Superintendent Ethan Lenker visited the Pitt Community College campus Wednesday to share his views on leadership with employees participating in the college’s Community College Leadership Preparation Program.

Lenker, who was hired to oversee Pitt County’s school system in 2013, has more than 25 years of experience in education. Through various administrative roles with school systems in Sampson and Jones counties prior to his current position, he has determined that actions speak louder than words when it comes to leadership.

“My version of leadership … is to lead and not to tell someone where to go and certainly not to tell them how to get there,” Lenker said. “… You’ve got to get people focused on what’s important.”

As PCS superintendent, Lenker says he utilized a team approach to create a vision for the school system’s future. Rather than rely entirely on his personal educational views, he opened the lines of communication to receive valuable input from faculty and staff.

“I really don’t try to pull rank very often,” he says. “I think that’s a killer for a leader. … That doesn’t get people involved, and it doesn’t get people to buy into what you’re trying to do.”

Lenker says that in order for PCS to take students where they need to go educationally, it is important for the county to have a “school system” rather than a collection of schools. He says he is cultivating a professional learning community in which, for example, it is common for a teacher at D.H. Conley High School to share learning ideas with a peer at J.H. Rose and to congratulate each other on successes.

Ultimately, Lenker says, the school system’s role is to create educational opportunities for Pitt County students, be it a virtual academy, an open enrollment policy, or technology that enables outstanding faculty to teach at multiple schools simultaneously.

“It’s not about a simple test score,” he says. “It’s about moving the whole school system forward.”

Lenker says he has also emphasized building educational partnerships with PCC and East Carolina University.

“Trying to align all of our educational institutions, I think, is what is … going to make Pitt County, I think, very unique,” he said.

For the past 18 months, Lenker says PCS and PCC administrators have worked together to support existing programs, such as the VISIONS Career Development and Scholarship Program, and develop new learning opportunities. Already, he, said, PCC instructors are teaching courses to Pitt County students on campus and at several county high schools through the Career and College Promise initiative.

Later this year, 75 Pitt County high school students will become the first to enroll in a new Early College High School on the PCC campus.

“It’s just a matter of getting out there, getting the roadblocks removed (and) opening more doors,” he says. “It’s always about continuous improvement.”