Inspiration for Challenging Times
Moore County Schools Superintendent Bob Grimesey
By Crissy Neville » Photos by Brandon Williams
In the reads that are one’s life, Superintendent of Moore County Schools Robert P. “Bob” Grimesey, Jr.’s, is a textbook of success, containing many pages — long, storied and goal-driven. The elements of the educator’s tale ebb and flow with tenure — reflecting change of setting, characters, conflicts and even plot — but the theme remains the same.
Grimesey sets his cap on creating a culture of inspiration among students and staff, regardless of demographic, performance, curriculum or even the challenging circumstance of a global pandemic. With 39-plus years in public education as a superintendent in three school districts in North Carolina and Virginia since 2001 and a principal, assistant principal, district-level director, teacher and coach before that, Grimesey’s tether to theme is tight.
“Student achievement and success is what we aim for,” says the popular superintendent, also known as “Dr. Bob.” “That is what I, and my fellow educators, look to achieve every day. However, there are variations in how you get there. With me, the one thing I believed at the beginning of my career that has been validated over my years in public education is the takeaway of it all. The most enduring principle to me after all of these years is inspiration. I believe firmly that children learn best and at higher levels when inspired and engaged on a personal level.”
Engagement since March of 2020 — the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — required virtual learning sans the last three months of the 2020-21 term when the entire Moore County Schools (MCS) student body — more than 12,500 strong —returned. Elementary students were brought back after Christmas and secondary pupils in March. While Grimesey said his teachers learned much about delivering effective instruction in the remote learning environment, in-person learning is most desirable — and needed.
Of teaching during the pandemic, he said, “There is a story every individual teacher could tell. Our teachers have done a magnificent job — parents and students, too — of making the best of this situation since March 18, 2020.” Looking ahead to the current year, he shared his excitement “to now move forward to back-to-normal operations with in-person learning.”
In leading the school system in what he called a “historic disruption to our educational process,” he summed up his approach in three words.
Patience, persistence and perseverance.
Patience is again needed as the system and world face increased COVID viral transmissions and the Delta variant. MCS reopened following the protocols required by the NC Department of Health and Human Services StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit for grades K-12 summarized in what is known as The Three Ws — Wear a Mask, Wash Your Hands, Watch Your Distance — regardless of vaccination status. A state-funded diagnostic testing program is a new campus resource this year for parents to utilize “say if their child is showing symptoms and want testing performed at school,” Grimesey explained.
Persistence in following state directives and the recommendations of the ABC Science Collaborative — a program coordinated by the Duke University School of Medicine and the Duke Clinical Research Institute of which MCS was among 11 participating school districts last fall and 13 in the spring — percolated under Grimesey’s supervision last year. This track record is one he is confident
“We had a very successful vaccine campaign with our employees in the last two weeks of March — 80% of the staff participated. Notably, MCS was among a small number of school districts in the state that have not only participated in some of the intensive data tracking and reporting but were part of two studies that received national attention for demonstrating that when adhering to Three 3 Ws, secondary transmissions in schools could be eliminated. This paved the way for in-person instruction statewide. It was one of the reasons why we were among the first systems to move to in-person instruction in K-5 and stay there.”
Persevering and staying true to MCS’s mission to Engage, Inspire and Succeed, despite challenges such as mask-wearing, which the superintendent notes the system has “exceptionally been good it” and obstacles like putting an entire school on quarantine, has yielded great return.
“In applying whatever lessons learned, we found out a lot of the things we were doing in the past we really did not have to be doing. The research tells us that vaccinations and masks stop the spread of COVID-19. There is a lot of argument among a lot of people about this. Still, I am persuaded that it’s true and the best way for us to ensure that we can continue with in-person learning — which is in the best interest of the kids and of student and employee safety.”
Persevering also means dealing with gaps in learning that occurred during the pandemic. Of this, Grimesey said, “The main task now at hand is to recognize where our students are at, where they need to be and address our students’ needs for learning recovery.”
Grimsey’s commitment to meeting the needs of MCS students and staff during challenging times and beyond harkens back to his educational philosophy. Elaborating, he said, “Sometimes students don’t know their needs; we have to help them discover those. But, in my view, students need to see the what and the how of learning — the curriculum, content and the instructional method — as relevant and satisfying to some fundamental need. Likewise, employees perform at higher levels when they are inspired, have a great sense of satisfaction, feel valued in their organization and are trusted by their leadership. It is true for students and teachers.”
With a higher-than-state average of 87% of MCS teachers reporting job satisfaction on the 2020 North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Survey, above-average capstone outcomes regarding the system’s graduation rate, CTE workforce credentials, student participation in college courses before graduation and the construction of five facilities in the last 24 months — four new elementary schools including the just-completed Pinehurst Elementary and a sizable addition at North Moore High School, Grimesey sits poised for a successful sequel. It’s a great local read — one to be continued.