By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: July 28, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.
Nearly 40 years of Williams’ career spent in Prince George Schools
PRINCE GEORGE – A fixture of Prince George County Public Schools and one of its leading community members was honored last week as Renee Williams, longtime instructor, administrator, and outgoing superintendent, received hugs, kind words, and messages of encouragement as she prepared to retire from the school division.
The ceremony took place during the county school board’s regular meeting last Tuesday evening. Williams, currently serving as transition coordinator for the remainder of this month as she aids in the change in leadership, sat alongside new superintendent Dr. Lisa Pennycuff among the school board as she provided information and insight to Pennycuff, who began her tenure as the school division’s new leader earlier in July.
Among the most recognizable faces in PGCPS, Williams’ time with the school division spans nearly four decades, with a grand total of 47 years in education. In 2015, as she was preparing to submit her retirement papers at that time, she answered the request of the Prince George School Board to serve as PGCPS’ superintendent following the resignation of Dr. Bobby Browder. Williams would lead a new team of administrators, which included Pennycuff serving in the role of assistant superintendent of accountability and instruction.
Four years later, Williams said she was proud of all she had accomplished in the field of education and was ready to take that next step after she confirmed her intention to retire this summer, concluding nearly 40 years of educational service to Prince George.
That fact was shared with the community assembled for the meeting last week by Prince George School Board Chairman Robert Cox, Jr. as he offered some parting words for Williams while also recounting the journey to get to last Tuesday evening and saying goodbye to a beloved educator as she heads off into retirement.
“About four years ago, we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle,” Cox shared. “She had already put her retirement papers in. It didn’t take much coaxing, she pulled them back out and came back to be our superintendent to lead us for the past four years, which she has done an excellent job. We are all sad to get the word that she was ready to retire but, we all understand.”
He continued, “Renee is a very fortunate person with her health, her husband’s health, her mom is still with her, she has two daughters and one that loves to travel with her so, we wish her well. We hate to see her go, but we wish her well in her endeavors. We know we will stay in touch. I know I have made a friend for life and it is hard to say goodbye to someone like that, who has been so good to our school system and a mainstay for us.”
Those sentiments were echoed by vice-chair of the school board Lewis Stevenson, who thanked Williams for staying on to serve as superintendent when she had planned to retire back in 2015.
“We were in a tough spot but, what happened when Renee came in was, what we got the sense of as a board, that instant respect was restored back to the school board office and the office of superintendent,” he remarked. “She was home team player so, a lot of folks rallied around her and we would not be where we are now if it wasn’t for her. Her time here has led to the hiring of some really wonderful people. I regret that she is leaving but I know the staff that she has put in place will do the job that we need done and we will miss you.”
While fellow longtime school board member Kevin Foster was not present for last week’s meeting and retiree ceremony, relatively new board members Rob Eley and Chris Johnson also shared their appreciation and well wishes to her as she embarks on the journey that is retirement.
“I thank you for everything you have done, not just for the school system but Prince George County,” Eley remarked. “You have been a stable point of this county for 39 years and there are not many people that have been a staple of this county for that long and to be in education for 47 years, that is amazing in itself. With everything that goes on in society and the changing of culture, that is a blessing and you are an angel to the education system.”
“Renee has taught me and mentored me well,” Johnson said. “I will cherish the instruction she gave me.”
Following the remarks from the board, the floor opened to Williams, joined by her husband Jimmy, she took a few moments to reflect on what has a myriad of moments across nearly fifty years in education, with the vast majority of that time spent within the confines of Prince George County Public Schools’ classrooms and offices.
“I have enjoyed my teaching career and I have been humbled by the fact that our board saw fit to put me in the superintendent position,” Williams shared. “That is something that a little girl from Bessie H. Mason Elementary School never dreamed of. All I knew in fifth grade was that I wanted to be a teacher. That was my goal and to be the very best I could be. To say that this journey would take me to this position, I never dreamed of it.”
She continued, “The children of Prince George County deserve the best all the time – from the bus drivers, to the cafeteria workers, to the instructional staff, they deserve the best we can give them. They deserve the best facilities we can give them so, I would like to see all of us work hard to provide the best for the education of the children of Prince George County because they are our future.”
The transition from career life to retired life draws some parallels to the transition hundreds of Prince George High School students underwent a month earlier during their graduation exercises, heading toward the unknown with trepidation. For Williams, leading up to her final graduation, she said she likely shared some of the same feelings the Class of 2019 did – proud, sad, and excited.
“Looking back over my 47 years in education and all that has been accomplished, I feel a sense of pride,” Williams remarked. “I also feel sadness at leaving behind the wonderful people I have worked with in this division. I have told my colleagues in other localities I have been blessed with working with such wonderful people in this school division. The teachers, administrators, support staff and the school board have all been supportive and they care about doing what is best for students.”
“But just like our graduates, I, too, am so excited about and looking forward to the future with all its possibilities,” Williams closed.
She will serve the school division as transition coordinator until the end of July.