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Payroll specialist, retiring principal honored by EOP

Two women who have risen to the top of their respective areas in public education have been honored as the 2021 winners of the annual awards presented by the Lenoir County chapter of the N.C. Association of Educational Office Professionals.

Lori Bryan, the payroll specialist in the school district’s Finance Department and a perennial leader of the county EOP chapter, was named Educational Office Professional of the Year; and Diane Heath, a 31-year educator with LCPS and retiring principal of Lenoir County Early College High School, was honored as Administrator of the Year during a luncheon May 27.

Two white women pose holding plaques in front of a white wall.Like the national and state organizations of AEOP, the local chapter strives to provide professional growth through leadership, education, achievement, recognition and networking opportunities for educational office professionals.

An employee of Lenoir County Public Schools since 1998, Bryan is responsible for seeing the district’s some 1,100 employees get paid. She has the acumen and attitude for the job, according to Finance Director Eric Adams.

“Mrs. Bryan is an individual who shows up earlier than asked, works hard and carries herself in a polite, respectful manner,” Adams said. “In addition, she is a family person who has always accepted the challenges of work and life with grace.”

When not working, she enjoys gardening and taking weekend trips to the beach.

Bryan has been a member of the county and state EOP organizations since joining LCPS and has served multiple times as local chapter president and vice president. She holds a business degree from Lenoir Community College, and through EOP’s professional development program, has attained Advanced Association III Certification.

“I do love our organization and try to do as much for it as I can,” Bryan said in accepting the award.

Heath, who started with LCPS as a middle school teacher, moved into school administration as an assistant principal and eventually served as principal of Pink Hill Elementary School, Woodington Middle School, Sampson Alternative School, Lenoir County Learning Academy and Lenoir County Early College High School.

It was at Early College, her home for the past five years, that Heath really made her mark. The school is rated an “A” on the state’s academic report card, has recorded a 100 percent graduation rate the past four years and for four years has appeared in U.S. News & World Report’s listing of “Best High Schools in America.”

She was named LCPS’s Principal of the Year in 2006.

“As a new principal in 2007, I had the opportunity to lean on the support of mentorship of Mrs. Heath to navigate my beginning stages of school administration,” said LCPS Assistant Superintendent Nicholas Harvey II, whose role as Early College principal Heath assumed when Harvey moved into district administration.

“Her calm yet deliberate demeanor towards school leadership has always been her greatest trait,” Harvey said. “Her passion for student success and their well-being beyond LCPS is what drives her.”

Heath has been an active supporter of the county EOP chapter since becoming an administrator in 1997. She has been a member of the North Carolina Principal and Assistant Principal Association, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum and was a Southeast Regional representative for its Alternative Education Committee from 2013 to 2016.

Away from work, she lives to fish, has served as music director for Southwest Christian Church for 23 years and is a past member of the Wyse Fork Volunteer Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary.

As county winners, Bryan and Heath are eligible to compete for District 12 recognition.

At the luncheon, the EOP also announced winners of its annual scholarships to graduating seniors – Holly Bruner of South Lenoir High School, who is heading to Campbell University to study physical therapy; Brian Martinez-Gonzalez of South Lenoir High, a future engineering student at N.C. State University; and Kahlia Hargett of Kinston High School, who plans to study nursing at UNC-Greensboro.

Sworn in by Superintendent Brent Williams as the new slate of officers for the Lenoir County chapter of the N.C. Association of Educational Office Professionals were President Beth Herring, secretary and data manager at Lenoir County Early College High School; Vice President Sandra Jones, Central Services receptionist; Secretary Ivey Price, Exceptional Children’s Department data manager; and Treasurer Denise Griffin of the district’s Transportation Department staff.

Photo caption:

Lori Bryan, left, payroll specialist in Lenoir County Public Schools’ Finance Department, is Educational Office Professional of the Year; and Diane Heath, retiring principal of Lenoir County Early College High School, is Administrator of the Year. The Lenoir County chapter of the N.C. Association of Educational Office Professionals presented the annual awards at a luncheon May 27.