Today we celebrate a longtime leading lady in our community whose gentle and quiet demeanor makes her a true unsung hero worthy of recognition, especially during women’s history month.
Richmond Senior High School Class of 1981 graduate and former teacher and current principal of Washington Street Elementary, Willette Surgeon, has been a dedicated educator in the Richmond County school system since she was hired in 1994 as a teacher after teaching outside of the county since 1986.
Surgeon began her own educational journey attending the former Ellerbe Primary and Mineral Springs schools. After graduating from RSHS, she received a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education in 1985 from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a master’s degree in elementary education from North Carolina A&T State University in 1991, and a master’s degree in school administration in 1998 from Fayetteville State University.
Immediately after earning her administrator’s license, Surgeon was appointed as the assistant principal at Monroe Avenue Elementary School for two years, during which time she was awarded the RCS 2000-2001 Assistant Principal of the Year. She moved to the former Richmond Primary School as assistant principal and was soon promoted to the principal at the former Cordova Elementary School in 2001, where she was named RCS Principal of the Year during her final year at the school in 2008. She began the 2009 school year as the leader of West Rockingham Elementary and was named RCS Principal of the Year again for the 2016-2017 school year. She remained at West Rockingham until she took over her current post as principal at Washington Street Elementary for the 2021-2022 school year.
Surgeon was named a NC Principals Fellow in 1996, per the encouragement of her pastor and also from her former principal, the late Barry Ridley.
In addition to being a guiding light in our local education system who advocates for her staff, students and community, she is a devoted mother of two girls, Andria and Kristen. She is also a longtime active member of Sidney Grove Church of Deliverance in Ellerbe, whose leader, Bishop Arlester Simpson, was featured in our 2022 Black History series. Additionally, Surgeon was inspired to be an educator by her mother, who retired with 37 years as a teacher.
Join us today in celebrating this leading lady for her continued dedication to Richmond County Schools, our youth, and community!
Meghann Lambeth is executive director of the Richmond County Tourism Development Authority. Republished from visitrichmondcounty.com. Throughout March, Visit Richmond County will feature a local leading lady in honor of Women’s History Month.