Heath Cartwright will begin his duties as the interim superintendent of the Caldwell County School District on Tuesday following Superintendent Nate Huggins’ resignation at the end of the month.
Cartwright is no stranger to Caldwell County schools, nor is this his first experience as an interim superintendent having served in that capacity for the McCracken County School District from March through June 2019.
Cartwright’s experience in Caldwell County schools began as a student when his family returned to the hometown of his father, Bill Henry Cartwright.
“My family is all from here,” he said. “My dad played football here in 1963 when they won the state championship here in Caldwell County. He went on to play for the University of Kentucky, so I was actually born in Lexington.
“My dad’s first jobs out of college were up in that area, Lexington and Louisville. We moved back home to Princeton when I was about 5.”
Cartwright attended kindergarten at St. Paul, then went to East Side Elementary School, Fredonia School and Caldwell County Middle School.
Cartwright’s brother Hunter graduated from CCHS in 1986, and his brother Jordan Belt graduated from Caldwell County in 2000.
His father’s coaching jobs brought the family to Paducah, where he coached at Heath High School before getting a coaching job at Fulton High School.
Cartwright graduated from Campbellsville University in 1992 with a degree in secondary education and began his teaching career in Adair County. He said that becoming a teacher was more genetic than anything else.
“I don’t think I had much of a choice,” he said. “When I look back at the generations and generations of teachers in my family, it’s everything I knew. It’s what I grew up around. Combine that with the great experiences I had growing up as a kid in schools, and you can see that I had little choice.”
Cartwright was a social studies teacher and coach at Adair County before taking similar positions at Paducah Tilghman High School.
Then, Cartwright entered education administration, becoming the principal at Ledbetter Elementary School in Livingston County and at Heath Elementary.
Cartwright then became the technology coordinator for the McCracken County School District from 2008 to 2010, then the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for the school system from 2010 to 2019.
The MCSD board voted him in as the interim superintendent following the resignation of former Superintendent Brian Harper in March 2019. Steve Carter was named the next superintendent and began his duties that July.
Cartwright retired after serving as the interim superintendent for McCracken County, but then a similar position opened in what he considers his home county.
“It’s great to be home,” he said. “My wife and I had always planned on moving back here when we retire. That was our plan for this coming spring.”
Cartwright said that there is little difference in duties of being an interim superintendent and being a full-time superintendent.
“The commonalities (of the two positions) have to be that you do what’s best for the kids,” he said. “If you’re doing the job for three months or a year or 30 years, you always have to be guided by what’s best for the kids.
“With ‘interim,’ I think you have more work to do in the area of communication because you’re not in the position for a long period of time for people to get to know your position on things. So, I think that the more you can get to know people and organizations and let people get to know you, the better, especially when you’re not going to be in the position for a long time.”
Cartwright assumes his duties at a time when school attendance is a double-edged sword. Going to school may expose students, teachers and staff to the spread of COVID-19, although school officials have followed health protocols to prepare for school opening. Taking non-traditional instruction at home limits the amount of time spent in a classroom environment, which increases learning opportunities and socialization.
“I’ve got to be prepared to make decisions to help out our kids in a very short period of time,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that we’re following guidance and do everything we can to make everybody safe, but we also have to be sensitive to the fact that kids need to be in school.
“Families need their kids to be in school in most cases, and we need to be sensitive to the fact that some families aren’t comfortable with their kids being back in school right now. I’m very respectful of all of those positions in our community.”
Caldwell County schools opened Monday with all students taking non-traditional instruction. The current plan is to do that through Sept. 25, as Gov. Andy Beshear recommended earlier this month and begin the district’s hybrid plan on Sept. 28.
Cartwright will remain the interim superintendent for the Caldwell County School District until a board-approved superintendent begins his duties, which is likely to be July 1.
Cartwright has said that he is willing to serve as the interim superintendent beyond that date if needed, but has no interest in becoming the full-time superintendent.
Cartwright is married to his wife, Ronda, whom he met as a student at Heath High School. She is a retired elementary school teacher. They have been married for 27 years and have three children.