Phipps to take helm of Abbeville Schools

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By Reece Murphy

Lancaster County School District Director of Secondary Education Dr. Jonathan Phipps has a new job – superintendent of schools for the Abbeville County School District.

Phipps said though Lancaster school district officials knew he’d been offered the position, he tendered his resignation officially Tuesday, June 10, during a special called school board meeting to hire new teachers. His last day was Thursday, June 12,

Phipps said he’s scheduled to begin work at the 3,160-student, nine-school district early next week.

“I guess I’ve been so busy moving I haven’t noticed it,” Phipps said of any new job jitters. “I guess It will hit me Monday morning in Abbeville. I’m just very excited.”

Phipps’ move brings to an end a 19-year career with the Lancaster County School District that began as a teacher at Barr Street Middle School in fall 1994.

Phipps’ move up the administrative ladder began in 2001 when he was chosen to serve as assistant principal at Indian Land Elementary and Middle School.

From 2005 to 2007 he served as principal of A.R. Rucker Middle School before becoming principal at Buford High School in 2007, a job he held until his appointment to the district office.

Lancaster County School District Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore said he and the district are going to miss Phipps. He said Phipps has done an excellent job in every role he’s had with the district, which makes his leaving bittersweet.

“I’m happy for him and confident he’ll do an excellent job as superintendent in Abbeville,” Moore said. 

“While we’ll miss him, we wish him well. I think he has a bright future ahead of him.”

Phipps said the new job is the realization of a long-pursued dream that became feasible after earning his doctorate in Leadership in Educational Administration in 2012.

Still, he credits his experience at all levels in the local school system, and the opportunity to work with its educators, students, parents and community, with having properly prepared him the most for his new position.

“Up until this point, I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else, as far as the level of support our district gives principals and teachers,” Phipps said. “I think a lot of people don’t realize there’s not a lot of bureaucracy here.

“We have a superintendent and administration that’s accessible, and I hope they (in Abbeville) will see me as very approachable,” he said. “I think those things are among the most important things to making a district work.”

Bobby Parker, chairman of Lancaster County school board, said there’s no doubt Phipps will succeed in Abbeville.

He said Phipps has a unique mixture of competence, professionalism, attitude, personality, people skills and humility that will take him far.

“He’s one of those kind of people that if you had a problem of any kind you could go talk to Jonathan,” Parker said. “He could put out a lot of fires ... one of those guys who could smile at you and make you feel good about getting fussed at.

“He did a heck of a job while he was here and I, and the board, wish him well,” he said. “I know the school board chairman down there and when I heard they’d hired him, I called him and told him he’s going to get a good one.”

Abbeville County school board chairman Tom Rhodes said Phipps’ enthusiasm and work ethic stood out above the other candidates.

Rhodes said he and and his fellow board members looked forward to having a “new set of eyes and new ideas” focused on their schools.

“It just seemed he was on top of everything. He had a real good knowledge of schools and was really enthusiastic,” Rhodes said, “and we thought he would be a good fit for our district.

“Our school district seems to be doing very well, and we look to continue on that path and get better as we go,” he said. 

“I feel he’ll fit right in and be able to do that for us.”


Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151