TRENTON, N.C. (WNCT) — Jones County Schools Superintendent Dr. Ben Thigpen announced he will be retiring.

Thigpen made the announcement at Monday’s school board meeting. His retirement is effective Jan. 1, 2024. He has served in the role since January 2020. Before that, he worked for 30 years in the Duplin County Schools system.

His career began as an English teacher and coach at East Duplin High School. He later became a school administrator and was the principal of Chinquapin Elementary and East Duplin High School before spending 10 years in Duplin County’s central office as a high curriculum director, county athletic director and assistant superintendent.

“I would like to thank the Jones County Board of Education for their trust in me and for allowing me to lead Jones County Schools,” Thigpen said. “I am most proud of the team we have in place and the collaborative way we lead and work together to improve the outcomes for our students. We are thankful that we have built relationships with our community and parents as we have moved the district forward.”

Thigpen plans to continue his work with East Carolina University as an adjunct faculty member in the Pirate Leadership Academy. He also looks forward to spending more time with his wife, Shelly, his children, and eight grandchildren and more time to enjoy golf and fishing.

Thigpen and the leadership team in Jones County made significant progress during his four-year tenure as superintendent.

· Moved the curriculum to a digital platform before COVID-19, vital to delivering remote instruction during the pandemic.

· Maintained face-to-face in-person instruction for students during the COVID-19 pandemic to the fullest extent possible.

· Implemented Leader in Me districtwide in Jones County Public Schools.

· Provided extensive professional development for all principals, directors, and teachers on leadership to develop a congruent leadership paradigm with the 4 Roles of Leadership and Leader In Me to create a common leadership paradigm throughout the district.

· Revised and improved the district and school safety and crisis protocols.

· Jones Senior High School was recognized as a top ten high school in North Carolina for its graduation rate in 2020 and 2021.

· Marketed and promoted Jones County Public Schools via social media outlets to recognize student achievement and accomplishments, outstanding employees, and quality service and outcomes within the district and keep parents abreast of important information.

· Sustained, enhanced, and expanded a 1:1 technology program for all students in grades PK-12.

· Brought telemedicine to Jones County Schools via a collaboration with East Carolina’s “Healthy Children at School and Beyond.”

· Was one of eight counties in North Carolina with no teacher vacancies as the 2022-23 school year began. Was one of 13 counties with 0-1 vacancies for 2023-24 school year.

· He and his leadership team developed and implemented a district strategic plan through collaboration with parents and the community, focusing on a whole-child approach to academic improvement.

· Jones County Public Schools saw academic gains at all schools in the 2022-23 school year. Jones County Schools was one of the few districts in North Carolina to exit low-performing district status in one year. Every school within the district met expected growth, and Jones County Public Schools scores are among the top-performing districts in the region.

· Dr. Thigpen was recognized nationally as a Leader to Learn From by Education Week in 2022.