After spending 34 years in Johnston County schools, Robin Little said it’s time to step away.
Little, who started her career as a science teacher at Clayton High, will retire as the district’s human resources director on Dec. 1.
In addition to her long tenure with Johnston County Schools, Little, 55, said several other factors played into her decision. One is that she wants to spend more time with her family, including her father, Herbert Cannady.
Little said she also wants to clear the way for the next director, who should decide how the district deals with potentially long-term governmental mandates like the Affordable Care Act.
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“It wouldn’t make sense for me to develop procedures for these things, only so that someone else would have to come in and re-do them to fit their leadership style,” Little said.
A native of eastern North Carolina, Little said she took a teaching job in 1980 at Clayton High. It wasn’t far from where her husband was working in Raleigh.
She moved to town in 1982 and taught at the school until the mid-1990s, when she went on loan to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. A year later, she returned to Johnston County Schools and started working in human resources.
The district appointed Little as the chief personnel officer in June 2009. She replaced Joyce Wade, who school board members like Butler Hall said left big shoes to fill. But Little met the challenge, Hall said.
“One of the things that impressed me the most is that she not only worked hard to get quality people but worked just as hard to make sure that the people who didn’t meet expectations were dismissed,” Hall said during the Johnston County Board of Education’s regular November meeting.
During the meeting, Little fought back tears as Superintendent Ed Croom presented her with the Order of the Longleaf Pine, one of the state’s top civilian honors.
Board member Mike Wooten praised Little for her fairness and being thorough in the hiring process.
“You are the bus driver, and you have everybody in the right seat,” Wooten said. “We are blessed with that.”
With about 4,000 employees, not counting substitute teachers, Johnston County Schools is the largest employer in the county. That makes for a busy human resources department, which has a staff of 16.
“The most difficult thing anyone in human resources has to do is make the tough calls when someone is not performing,” Little said. “Whether that is a teacher that has put in the financial commitment for four years of college and this has been what they always wanted to do or whether it’s a facilities services employee with years of experience, it’s always difficult when that occurs.”
As for retirement, Little said she’s looking forward to traveling more and spending time in the yard.
“Hopefully my yard will look like someone lives there in the future,” Little said. “We enjoy hiking and hopefully we will be able to get out and do more hiking in the future.”
Brian Vetrano, who has worked in the human resources department for about five years, will take over for Little next month.