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  • The Mount Airy News

    Former school leader receives top state honor

    By Tom Joyce,


    Although Dr. Kim Morrison has retired from Mount Airy City Schools, her longtime dedication to the educational profession continues to attract notice with the former city superintendent garnering what is considered North Carolina’s highest civilian honor.

    Morrison is one of the latest recipients of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, which occurred during a dinner at Cross Creek Country Club recognizing those who have retired from the school system this past year.

    Dr. Phillip Brown, who took over as superintendent after Morrison’s departure, presented her with a framed Order of the Long Leaf Pine certificate.

    It recognizes citizens such as Morrison for exemplary service to North Carolina and their communities which is considered above and beyond the call of duty, has made a significant impact and strengthened the state as a whole.

    The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award has been given since 1963.

    Among its past recipients are Maya Angelou, Dale Earnhardt, Billy Graham, Richard Petty, Michael Jordan, Andy Griffith and others.

    The award is bestowed by the governor after a nomination process that typically involves recognized experts in one’s field attesting to the nominee’s body of work.

    “It’s a great honor to be nominated, but an even greater honor to receive this award,” was Morrison’s reaction to that outcome. “Thank you to those that had a part in this.”

    The award promotes the ideals of civic leadership, service and accomplishment.

    Distinguished track record

    The former superintendent’s name is now enshrined with the ranks of Petty, Jordan and others due to an educational career that has spanned more than 30 years — and counting — after her retirement from Mount Airy City Schools, announced in January.

    It was effective on March 1, and on March 18 Morrison began work in another full-time position, as senior project director for The Innovation Project (TIP). It implements cutting-edge practices with superintendents from 23 school districts across the state which support students in their communities.

    Morrison holds degrees from Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she completed PhD requirements in curriculum and instruction.

    Her professional roles have included those of band director, magnet school lead teacher, magnet school director, strategic planning director, chief officer for academics and innovation and superintendent.

    Morrison’s career has been spent in two different educational districts, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools for eight years and Mount Airy City Schools for more than 22 years.

    This included becoming the latter system’s first-ever female superintendent in 2016.

    In listing highlights upon her retirement, Morrison credited a team including the city school board and staff with spearheading workforce-development, career-minded and other initiatives that have exposed students to technology along with apprenticeship and mentoring opportunities.

    “I have loved all of it and know that my purpose and passion have always been education,” Morrison commented earlier regarding her work.

    In addition to the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, Morrison was a finalist for the national American Association of School Administrators (AASA) Women in Leadership Award, for North Carolina Regional Superintendent of the Year and was one of three finalists for State Superintendent of the Year.

    She also is active in the community, including serving on the governing boards for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce and Surry County Economic Development Partnership, along with others.

    Other Order of the Long Leaf Pine honorees locally have included Betty Lynn, the late actress who played Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show” and lived in Mount Airy during her later years; downtown business icon Flip Rees; David Beal, who was Surry County’s clerk of court, a former State Bureau of Investigation agent and also served as a commissioner and police chief in Mount Airy; and in March, longtime local attorney Fred Johnson, whose legal career has encompassed the educational field.

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