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Dr. Zoe Locklear returns as dean of UNCP’s School of Education


Dr. Zoe Woodell Locklear, a 30-year veteran educator, has been named dean of the School of Education at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Dr. Kenneth Kitts, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, has announced.

The UNCP Board of Trustees gave their endorsement of the appointment in a specially called meeting.  Dr. Locklear had served as interim dean since May 2012.

Dr. Kitts said Dr. Locklear’s experience in the public schools and in higher education will serve the university well. 

“Zoe has tremendous stature in the education community,” said Dr. Kitts. “She is a passionate and effective advocate for UNCP, her faculty colleagues, and our partners in K-12 schools. Our School of Education will continue to benefit from her insight and leadership.”

Dr. Locklear said when she accepted the position of interim dean, she had no intention of making it permanent. She was the School of Education’s first dean in 1999.

“I was surprised and flattered about this opportunity,” Dr. Locklear said of the turn of events. “When the faculty and administration - who know the good, bad and ugly about you - ask you to serve, it’s a great professional honor. It’s very humbling too.

 “This comes at an important time for public education and teacher training here in Pembroke, the region and nationally,” she said.

If the university and public school community know Dr. Locklear well, she knows public education from the inside at all levels. She is focused on the 11-county region that UNCP serves.

“Outreach to this region is so important for this institution and for the school systems,” she said. “We have always had great partners, and we’ve always tried to be the best partner possible. Building collaborative relationships is a lot of what this job requires.”

The week before the announcement, groups of classroom teachers, school counselors, principals and superintendents came to campus, along with 1,100 students at the Very Special Arts event.

The bottom line for a regional university that was founded to train public school teachers is working collaboratively with good partners, Dr. Locklear emphasized.

“When you make the choice to live and work in higher education in a region, it’s important to know what our stakeholders think about what we’re doing,” she said. “We try to meet the needs of all the schools.”

Dr. Locklear’s career began in a public school classroom. After completing work on a Ph.D. in special education at UNC-Chapel Hill, she joined UNCP’s faculty in 1988.

In 1999, Dr. Locklear was named the first dean of the newly created School of Education. In 2002, she stepped down to become an assistant superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County and then associate superintendent for the state Department of Public Instruction for leadership development and special services.

Dr. Locklear returned to UNCP in 2004 to teach and direct the Master of School Administration program. In 2005, she was named dean a second time and led the successful reaccreditation with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education or NCATE.

High on the dean’s list of priorities this fall and going forward are the changing state and national standards for accreditation. Currently, Dr. Locklear and the faculty are working on the initial accreditation of the School Counseling Program with the Council for Accreditation for Counseling and Related Programs or CACREP.

 “We have completed the site visit and are moving forward to our initial CACREP accreditation,” Dr. Locklear said. “It is a very rigorous process with exacting standards.
 “This is a major milestone for our Clinical Mental Health and School Counseling programs,” she said. “Our faculty should be very proud. They did a great job.”

Looking ahead to the 2015 reaccreditation with NCATE and the state Board of Education, there are many challenges, Dr. Locklear said. “This is always a top priority,” she said. “It’s all the more challenging because of changes in state and national requirements. We have a short window to accomplish this before fall 2015, but together, we can do it.

“If I have been successful in this job, it’s because we, as a Teacher Education Program, have been successful,” she said.

An active scholar, Dr. Locklear has presented at dozens of conferences and served on many university, state and national committees for programs ranging from Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation to the UNC Dean’s Council on Teacher Education and the National Indian Education Association.

One project she is especially proud of happened after she stepped down as dean in 2010. Dr. Locklear was co-developer and principal investigator for her third successful FATE grant application The First American Teacher Education grant is for $1 million and nurtures American Indian teachers.