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From long line of educators, Caldwell takes the top job

Hardy R. "Bo" Caldwell III takes the oath of office as schools superintendent from Clerk of Court Kim Gasperson Justice as Ellie, Jackie and Bryce Caldwell look on. Hardy R. "Bo" Caldwell III takes the oath of office as schools superintendent from Clerk of Court Kim Gasperson Justice as Ellie, Jackie and Bryce Caldwell look on.

Joking beforehand that he’d rather he sworn in than sworn at, Bo Caldwell took an oath to become Henderson County schools superintendent on Wednesday morning. Getting serious afterwards, Caldwell thanked everyone from his family to his first mentor and declared he was ready to go to work for a school system he loves.


In elevating Caldwell to the top job, the School Board has for the second straight time installed a longtime county schools leader with deep roots in the county and a family tree filled with educators.He succeeds David Jones, another native, who retires on Thursday after serving 38 years in the county schools.

Caldwell’s own family roots here go back to when his father, Hardy Robinson Caldwell Jr., and his mother, Bobbie Lou Penland Caldwell, moved east from North Carolina mountain counties. His father “came from the Cataloochee Valley Caldwells” in Haywood County, Bobbie Caldwell said. She grew up in Hayesville.
“My mother taught school and my grandfather taught school,” said Mrs. Caldwell, who taught at the old Fletcher High School and retired from Rugby Middle School.
The new superintendent is Hardy Robinson Caldwell III but everyone calls him Bo. His wife, Jackie, is a schoolteacher. Her mother, June Barnwell, taught school and her father, Bill Barnwell, was a longtime assistant schools superintendent.
A graduate of West Henderson High School, Caldwell earned a degree in math from Mars Hill College in 1984 before coming home to teach math at Edneyville High School. In 1990 he became assistant principal at Flat Rock Junior High. He also earned a masters of arts in education and an educational specialist degree from Western Carolina University.
He served as principal at Atkinson Elementary from 1993 to 1996, then principal at Apple Valley Middle School before moving to the central office in 2002 as senior director of facility management. He was named senior director of human resources in 2010 and promoted to assistant superintendent of administrative services in 2014.
His wife and children, Ellie, a rising sophomore at Wake Forest, and Bryce, a rising senior at Western Carolina University, stood beside him as Clerk of Court Kim Gasperson Justice administered the oath of office.
“I’m ready to go to work and I’m honored to be your superintendent,” he told the audience made up of family members, his minister, School Board members and county officials. “There’s nothing more exciting than being superintendent of a school system that I love.”
He singled out Dot Case, the beloved civics teacher at North Henderson High School, for her influence in his early teaching days.
“There’s nothing you can possibly learn more from than teaching beside Dot Case,” he said. His math class at Edneyville High was next door to her class. “What she taught me in six months was more than I learned in six years of higher education,” he said.

He thanked the School Board for hiring him.
“To my leadership team, I thank you, I need you,” he added. “I appreciate my preacher being here. It’s a big part of my life, my faith in Jesus Christ.”
If Dot Case taught him how to teach school, “my mother taught me the values of life — what’s right and what’s wrong,” he said.

Bo's father, Hardy, who died in 2006, "would have been proud," said his wife. A produce buyer for Gerber Baby Food Co. for 30 years, Hardy Caldwell served on the Henderson County School Board from 1979 to 1994.

Once when he received an award as principal of the year, Bo Caldwell addressed the family connection head on.

"I know a lot of you think I'm here because of my dad," he said. "You're right, I am, because my dad taught me to work hard."