Thanks to Retiring Principals
Thanks to Retiring Principals
Posted on 06/18/2018
From left: Mr. Leland Blankenship, Mr. Eddie Burchfiel, and Mr. Larry Weigel. By Tim Reaves
BCS Communications Department

As the school year ends, Buncombe County Schools (BCS) congratulates three outstanding principals as they head off to enjoy their retirement.

"It is a privilege to serve students alongside such dedicated and experienced school administrators,” said BCS Superintendent Dr. Tony Baldwin. “On behalf of the Buncombe County Schools family, I want to express our gratitude for the decades of service of Mr. Larry Weigel, Mr. Leland Blankenship, and Mr. Eddie Burchfiel. Their commitment to students and public education has been reflected in the success of countless BCS graduates over the years."

LELAND BLANKENSHIP (Enka Middle School)

Leland Blankenship has spent his entire 25-year education career in Western North Carolina with teaching positions in Career and Technical Education and administrative experience in K-12 schools as well as Central Office directorship positions.

Now retiring as principal of Enka Middle School, Blankenship said he is leaving “the best job I have ever had.”

Retiring Enka Middle School Principal Leland Blankenship talks to a student in the computer lab.“It’s not always an easy job, but it’s certainly the most rewarding,” he said. “Enka Middle School is a great school with a caring, dedicated and hard-working faculty and staff. We have the best students in the world and a great community.”

As principal, Blankenship added to and encouraged that school-wide passion for student success. Enka students met expectations for growth last school year and were in the top 50 percent in the state to do so. Enka has been an Exemplar School for Positive Behavior for the last four years in a row. With support from the United Way, Enka has developed its Community School program, which includes Homework Diners and other collaborative community efforts toward student success. The school also holds conference and tournament championships in many sports and boasts an outstanding performance and Visual Arts program.

“We are a school that is moving in the right direction but we cannot be complacent,” Blankenship said. “I greatly appreciate the support of our school system, our community partners and especially our faith-based community as we all work together to serve our students and our community.”

Blankenship thanked his family for his success, including his wife Lynn and his two children, Logan and Lacie.

“You can't work the 12-15-hour days without help on the home front,” he said.

EDWARD BURCHFIEL (Valley Springs Middle School)

Edward Burchfiel has been the principal of Valley Springs Middle School since 2009. He has been a P.E. teacher, basketball coach, athletic director, and assistant principal in other systems. He served as principal at Clyde A. Erwin High School from 2001-2009.

Retiring Valley Springs Middle School Principal Edward Burchfiel talks to a student.Burchfiel said Valley Springs was already great when he arrived, but he has added an extra layer of empowerment that encourages teachers and students alike to do their best.

“The culture of learning at this school is amazing,” he said. “It is a very positive place to work and learn. I knew that Valley Springs was a great school prior to my working here, since my daughter attended here. But I am continually amazed by the dedication and talent of our staff. The parents are very supportive and we have amazing students! I have said many times that my goal when I came to Valley Springs was to ‘not mess it up.’ I hope I will be remembered as a principal that maintained high expectations, while also being fair.”

The students at Valley Springs are talented and hard working, he added.

“I appreciate the fact that the vast majority of our students have a very important attribute that I call ‘try,’" Burchfiel said. "They work for success consistently, and I believe that this, along with an intelligent, caring faculty is the primary reason our students consistently make high academic growth. I believe that seeing these young people achieve more than they thought they could has taught me that I can overcome obstacles in my life as well and to appreciate each day.”

LARRY WEIGEL (Progressive Education Program)

Larry Weigel’s career has run the gamut, both occupationally and geographically. He has worked as a computer analyst in London and a halfway house counselor in California. He completed coursework for a Ph.D. in psychology and spent a few years in the business world before gravitating toward education. He taught special education at North Buncombe High School for 12 years and helped set up the math curricula for the Occupational Course of Study for all six BCS high schools. He became administrator of the Progressive Education Program (PEP) in 2011.

Retiring Progressive Education Program Administrator Larry Weigel works with a student.“Working at PEP has been the highlight of my 31-year career in education,” he said. “I have learned patience, trust, perseverance, appreciation, and so many more qualities from everyone – students and staff.”

The staff at PEP is “dedicated and professional,” he said. “I have seen my wonderful teachers draw out information and communication from students that I never thought possible. These students understand so much of what goes on around them, what is being said and done. They just don't have the ability to respond verbally, in ‘normal’ ways. The PEP speech therapists and teachers are able to help them find ways to express themselves in creative and innovative ways – with ‘low-tech’ means from eye gaze, to head tilts, or picture symbols to ‘high-tech’ apps on an iPad or a more sophisticated augmentative communication device.”

PEP staff supported Weigel through the darkest moment of his life, when his son, Eric, died in 2013.

“They were there for me then, and they continue to be now, five years later,” Weigel said. “And I will support them in any way I can. The program is stronger and more vibrant than ever. There is more cohesion with staff from all three PEP sites, a feeling that we’re all on the same team. And teachers feel appreciated for the outstanding work they do every day.”
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