Courtesy of Lee County Schools

By Richard Sullins |

Six weeks after Lee County High School principal Betsy Bridges announced her retirement, her replacement has been named.

The Lee County Board of Education hired Karen Barnhill, who has served most recently as principal of Enka Middle School in the Buncombe County School System in Candler, North Carolina. Barnhill’s 15 years of experience at the administrative level include nine years as a principal and six years as an assistant principal.

As part of her Master’s of School Administration program at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, she completed a year-long internship at the high school level. She is currently seeking a doctorate degree from the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky.

Interim Lee County Superintendent Dr. Chris Dossenbach believes Barnhill’s academic success was a strong selling point for her selection.

“Barnhill has been a principal for nine years and has a proven track record of positive academic performance,” he said. “Schools under her leadership have met or exceeded growth in five of the seven years during which performance grades were awarded.”

Barnhill’s initial contract with Lee County Schools is for two years.

Barnhill lived in Lee County briefly as a child and returned to Sanford years later, spending five years here with her husband as she began her higher education experience as a college transfer student at Central Carolina Community College. Barnhill says she has maintained friendships from those days as she began the years of study that now have brought her back.

Those kinds of relationships are the sort that she hopes to build as the principal at Lee County High.

“I am humbled to have been selected as the principal of Lee County High School and look forward to all things ‘Yellow Jackets,'” she said. “I have heard wonderful things about both the students and staff and have no doubt that we will make a great team. I look forward to working with our students and their families, along with the community, to promote student success so they can become contributing members of society in a globally competitive world.”