CABARRUS COUNTY — John Kopicki was sworn in as the new superintendent of Cabarrus County Schools on Monday, Aug. 16, and he can hardly wait to lead a district he counts as one of the “best of the best” in the state.
“When I did my homework and research on the Cabarrus County Schools system I was impressed,” he said in a video interview with the Independent Tribune on Friday. “I know the area a little bit having traveled through here over my lifetime, so it piqued my interest. The more I read about it, the more I did my homework on the district, the more I inquired about the position, the more that I had an ambition to try and seek the position.”
He continued: “As I said to the folks as I was interviewing, ‘Who wouldn’t want to lead this system?’ You’re working with the best of the best and then you get to impact people, and most importantly you get to inspire and be part of impacting kids in a positive manner.”
Kopicki comes to North Carolina by way of Pennsylvania having served as the superintendent of the Central Bucks School District since 2016. Before joining the Central Bucks district, Kopicki spent a total of five years as superintendent of Altoona Area School District and Forest City Regional School District. In addition, he previously served as a principal and assistant principal for Scranton School District (1999-2011) and an assistant principal for Western Wayne School District (1998-1999). He began his career in 1992 as a high school social studies teacher in Scranton School District. In addition to his K-12 experience, he has also worked as an adjunct professor at Keystone College. He received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in school leadership from Marywood University and went on to earn a doctoral degree in educational administration from Temple University.
Kopicki will succeed Brian Schultz as the district’s superintendent after Schultz took over for Chris Lowder following his retirement in February. The new superintendent was highly complimentary of the work Schultz did during his time as interim superintendent and how he has helped him in his transition into the position.
“Brian’s done a fantastic job over the last six months,” Kopicki said. “I think Brian is an outstanding leader in his own right. Brian has been nothing but supportive to me, has been a great resource, has fantastic institutional knowledge and he’s just been engaging and wonderful to work with. I’m lucky to be able to call Brian a colleague for as long as he’s here and anywhere else he goes. I see that as being one relationship that I will certainly keep. He’s been a great asset, and I commend him for his leadership. I think he’s done a great job with this school system under his leadership. I think they’ve done a great job under very trying, difficult times I might add.”
Schultz will return to his position as deputy superintendent of Cabarrus County Schools following the hiring of Kopicki.
The first week for the new superintendent was an eventful one as he was asked to give a recommendation to the Board of Education on whether or not masks should be required due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the state, but the way he went about giving his recommendation very much reflects how he will approach his new position in the district.
He said at Monday’s meeting after listening to the medical experts at the Cabarrus Health Alliance as well as information from Schultz on recommendations for masks and quarantines under the North Carolina Toolkit, he believed recommending masks was the right way to go. He listened to what others had to say and made his decision based off of that rather than his own personal feelings.
“I think the first thing for any superintendent entering a system, especially a new system, you want to listen, you want to observe and you want to learn, and you want to learn as much as you can about the system and the community,” he said Friday.
He continued: “A school system is only as good as the community around it and the people that are involved in it, and the more that your superintendent understands that his or her job is to serve the community and to always be seeking to understand what is going on within that school community … and talk with people and truly listen — I think listening is an art and if you apply that well you’re going to get a lot out of information — but you’ve got to be inquisitive. You have to inquire.”
The Board of Education said they were highly impressed with Kopicki in the interview process and spoke highly of him when he was sworn in Monday.
“I’ve been nothing but impressed every time we’ve gotten the opportunity to talk to you,” Laura Blackwell said. “It’s nice to finally get to see you in person. We are happy that you are bringing your wife down here and you guys are going to start life in Cabarrus County and we are happy to introduce you to all the folks around the county and get you involved.”
“During the search process, the board carefully reviewed applications from a diverse field of 14 excellent candidates,” the district wrote in a press release announcing his hiring. “Although many qualified candidates applied, the board felt that Dr. Kopicki’s experience, leadership, and dedication to students and staff would best serve CCS students, employees, and the community for years to come. The board is confident Dr. Kopicki will lead the school system to even higher achievement.”
Kopicki understands the bar is already set high in the district.
“I understand that I’ve walked into an outstanding educational system, high quality people, fantastic community, the Cabarrus County Schools system is an exemplar that others follow and we lead,” he said. “So I’m very aware of the excellence that I’ve walked into, so I don’t really feel a whole lot of pressure, a whole lot of stress.”
He is excited to work with not only the talented teachers and administrators the district already has to offer, but also the students and community members who make Cabarrus County Schools as special as it is.
“I’ve been impressed with everyone I’ve met so far,” he said. “Most importantly, the people I can’t wait to meet the most is our students. You have phenomenal students and the things that they achieve and the levels of achievement that they reach are astounding and we need to always be focused on that and we need to be promoting that and always be encouraging our kids to continue to reach for whatever goal that they’re trying to get to.
“But also to be focused on when they leave here they’re going to be changing the world. They’re going into an environment prepared to do anything they want to do.”
Giving students chances to do the best they can will be priority No. 1 for Kopicki.
“I think we just have to continue to focus on building all of those things that I talked about,” he said. “Really, it just comes down to making sure that we’re providing the right access for the right opportunities for the right resources so that our kids can do anything that they dream to achieve and support that.”
He continued: “Our goal is to constantly, consistently improve and grow this system, so that we can continue to be as I said earlier, an example other people look at to follow. We should be leading, never following.”