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Wray leaving East Bladen for Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy superintendent post

Bladen Journal - 11/16/2021

Nov. 12—ELIZABETHTOWN — The six-member board of trustees for the Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy did not have to look too far to find its next superintendent.

Dr. Jason Wray, a military veteran and current principal at East Bladen High School, has been selected as the third superintendent in the eight-year history of the charter school on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Elizabethtown.

The decision was made "a few weeks ago," said Leroy Purdie, the president of of the academy's board of trustees.

This marks Wray's seventh year at East Bladen.

"I did a couple of interviews for superintendent positions over those seven years. Unfortunately, I was not selected. I was kind of apprehensive because I know I wanted to be a superintendent," Wray said. "I also wanted to stay close to the student population, those day-to-day interactions with the students. This opportunity at Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy definitely gives me that. The superintendent is right in the building with the students, with the staff. I can maintain those day-to-day operations, have those influences working with the cadets on a daily basis. It was just a great opportunity and the perfect situation for me to move on to be superintendent."

Wray, who is 53, said his last day at East Bladen will be Dec. 31.

Dr. Jason Atkinson, the superintendent of Bladen County Schools, could not be reached for comment on Friday on the upcoming principal vacancy at East Bladen Hogh School. The district's administrative offices were closed Friday.

Academy students return from the Christmas holidays on Jan. 3.

Just before the school opened this year, former superintendent Keisha White gave her notice. She needed to spend more time with her family, Purdie said.

Lt. Col. Carl Lloyd, the academy's commandant of students, has been serving as superintendent in the interim.

"We were just happy to have someone highly qualified to be here at our academy because we are looking for successful cadets, and Dr. Wray was the best one for us, we felt. And we still believe," Purdie said.

Besides his qualifications, Purdie said, the decision was made based on Wray's background and experience. Plus, Purdie added, "He interviewed very well."

The vacancy was advertised for at least 30 days, according to Purdie, and "then we got a couple of folks that came in to interview. He was our best candidate."

The Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy, at 1300 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, has approximately 118 students in grades 6-12. It was the first charter school to open in the county, Wray said.

Emereau: Bladen Charter School followed.

"We are a very good school," Purdie said.

The academy has received a poor report card from the state: The 2021-22 school year ranking places the academy in the bottom 50 percent of all schools in North Carolina for overall test scores, according to Public School Review.

Obviously, that did not dissuade this educator from coveting the job.

"When I took over East Bladen High School in 2015-16, we were a low-performing school. The worst in the school district," Wray recalled. "And we implemented certain strategies and processes. In 2019, we were three points away from being a B school."

At Paul R. Brown, he said, "We're going to use what we call the 11 High Probability Instructional Strategies — a process from Dr. Kathy Kennedy. That's what I implemented at East Bladen High School. We did it as a district. That was our point of success.

"I'm very excited we can turn this thing around," he said of the academy's low-performance rating.

Wray was named Principal of the Year for 2020-21 by Bladen County Schools.

"This is not a place for troubled students. This is a school that's open for everyone," Purdie said. "We want the opportunity to help all the students in the community of Bladen County."

Wray added, "Anybody can apply for their student to attend. Bladen County. Cumberland County. Robeson County. Other near-by counties. It's not just for at-risk students. There are some at-risk students there. We have a lot of students whose parents want their child to be in a smaller setting, and I think Paul R. Brown provides that for them."

A native of Portsmouth, Virginia, Wray came to this area following a 22 1/2-year stint in the Army that brought him to Fort Bragg.

He started his career in education in 2007, one month after retiring from the service. His first stop was Goldsboro High School, where he served as the Junior ROTC instructor. He later held the job as assistant principal at Goldsboro for two years before his appointment as principal of East Bladen for the 2015-16 school term.

Wray said he's thankful that East Bladen put him in position to get the academy post: "I want to make sure I give that staff credit, allow me to ascend to the superintendent position. I always told the staff ... at some point, we're all going to leave. Just the way the business is. I know I'm going to miss it, but it was my time to leave. God put me on this path, and I think they understand that."

This story authored by Michael Futch of the Bladen Journal. Contact him at 910-247-9133 or


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