HISD mourning death of Elementary School Chief ‘Chip’ Zullinger

Sidney "Chip" Zullinger

HISD is mourning the loss of one of its key administrators today. Dr. Sidney “Chip” Zullinger, chief elementary school officer, died Tuesday night after suffering a heart attack Monday.

“We have lost a good friend, great person, and champion for all children,” said Superintendent Terry Grier, in making the announcement to staff.

Dr. Andrew Houlihan, HISD’s chief schools officer, said Zullinger’s death will leave a void among his colleagues. “This is a strong, interconnected team, and all Chip’s fellow chief school officers, school support officers and principals will miss his innovative ideas, collaborative spirit, and good nature.”

Zullinger earned his B.A. in 1973 from Mars Hill College in North Carolina, his M.A. in educational administration from Western Carolina University in 1979; and received a doctorate in educational administration from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro in 1991.

He joined HISD in 2010 after serving as superintendent for school systems in North Carolina, South Carolina, Wyoming, Virginia, and Colorado, and executive director of an educators’ union in South Carolina.

In his position with HISD, he was the face of the district at 147 elementary schools serving more than 100,000 youngsters –interacting with educators, students, and members of the community in a personal way.

Colleague Audrey Gomez described him as “a universally loved individual…a respected educator who applied out of the box thinking.”

Funeral arrangements are pending, and Grier said the district would hold a memorial service.

63 thoughts on “HISD mourning death of Elementary School Chief ‘Chip’ Zullinger

  1. Judy Ricks, RN School Nurse

    I just saw him on Monday at Park Place and complimented him on his attire. He had on such bright colors and his personality was even brighter! He was always pleasant and very approachable. HISD will miss him!

  2. Norm Uhl

    Chip was a great guy. We kept in touch after I left HISD. He even used to come out to hear my band. I always enjoyed my conversations with Chip. He will be greatly missed.

  3. Ruth C. Garcia

    Mr. Zullinger will truly be missed! He was a true servant to teachers and students. The last time I spoke with him he was at an inservice on a Saturday serving breakfast to teachers with his grandson. What a beautiful way to remember him.

  4. Nancy Argueta

    I had the pleasure to work with this wonderful person for about 3 years. Today that I receive the news my heart just broke to know that we have lost a truly great person, a great boss, a great friend. Mr. Chip your will truly be missed. I still remember the great days that I had at HISD working with you and the great food that you will cook for us. My Condolences.

  5. Samantha Thompson

    I will truly miss “Chip” he was a very down to earth person, always spoke and had a smile on his face.

  6. Denisse Cantu

    I absolutely enjoyed working with him during my time at HISD. He would always come by my office to share articles on educational topics he thought I would enjoy. Other times, he would just make it a point to come by a say Hello. He will be truly missed!

  7. Steven Gourrier

    My heartfelt sympathy and prayers go out to Chip’s family at this time. I met and talked with him for the first time last month at the Rice Marketing training. A great guy with a great heart for kids. May his soul rest in peace. HISD will miss his presence.

  8. Rachel O'Neil Johnson, R.N., BSN

    Thank you, Dr. Grier for selecting Mr. Zullinger, he cared about the well-being of our children’s safety, health and wellness. He was an objective boss. Mr. Zullinger truly exemplified the meaning of integrity and investigating the facts and acted upon the findings. I am still a part of Team HISD inspite of the media coverage regarding the quality of air here at M.E. Foster Elementary 3/6/2013. My prayers of peace and comfort will go forth for his family and all that were connected to Mr. Zullinger. Again, thank you.

  9. Rose Maldonado

    He was a wonderful cook, the first year he was with HISD his office was located next to Multilingual and I think we all gained a couple of extra pounds! He was so friendly and a very giving person, Chip thank you for those wonderful memories!

  10. Sue Ann Payne

    “Chip” was one of the best… He knew his business and he knew how to work with people. I will miss him very much. God has a NEW ANGEL on board.

  11. Nancy Cintron

    Words seem inadequate to express the sadness I feel about his passing. What a kind and sweet individual he was to me and to everyone who had the chance to know him. Chip is going to be missed immensely, he will forever be in our hearts. Rest in peace Chip, may your soul be in a better place!

  12. Natasha R. Smith

    Great person! He was so bright, helpful, and cheery…someone you could talk to…great spirit!

  13. Anne Boothe

    Chip was a true gentleman, passionate about student achievement, and doing what is best for kids. Losing him creates a huge void in the hearts of many people here in HISD. His family is in our hearts and prayers.

  14. LaGatha Wharton

    Chip was a gentleman and genuinely kind – to everyone. He will be missed, but not forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

  15. Shanda Walker

    Dr. Zullinger was a great individual! He was always willing to listen and had a smile for everyone!!! The news of his passing is unbelievable and he will be sorely missed.

  16. Deitra Ford-Robinson

    “Chip” was a man with integrity and wore a welcoming smile every time I saw him (2013 District Advisory Committee Meeting). He will be truly missed. I am praying for comfort of his family during their time of bereavement.

  17. Elizabeth Galvan

    Please accept my deepest condolences. I am praying for strength and comfort for his family in this difficult time. Those we love who pass away live on in us through our memories and our character.
    Chip was a very kind, respectful person who gave me very good advice in certain situations. I will always remember his good character and advice. I loved how he gave individuals his undivided attention when one spoke to him.

  18. Marco I. Morales

    I want to thank Dr. Zullinger for believing in me and taking his SSO’s words on their belief and faith in me to lead an HISD campus. He was a great man and always had children’s best interest at the forefront. I learned much from him and will continue to do my best to make him proud. This is a terrible loss.

  19. Lynne Perez

    To All of HISD,
    Please accept our heartfelt condolences on the passing of Dr. Chip Zullinger. We are deeply saddened by your loss. Chip was an amazing man – a true leader, a passionate educator, a great storyteller, and a warm and caring colleague. We wish you comfort during this extremely difficult time.
    All of us at the National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST)

  20. Sarah Greer Osborne

    Chip was smart, funny, kind, generous, and supportive to his staff, his friends, and to everyone who came in contact with him. I have never met someone who was more dedicated to ensuring every child gets a quality education. HISD has suffered a great loss and all of us who called him a friend will miss him dearly. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

  21. Frances Marks

    It just broke my heart my heart to hear on the passing of Dr. Chip Zullinger., and I just know that his is in a better place, he was a wonderful person to know.
    We will be miss you Immensely. God be with you.

  22. Melanie C. Crawford

    Reading the many great posts about Dr. Zullinger really confirms my personal feelings about him: Courteous, polite and thoughtful. Dr. Zullinger is truly a role model for human approach. His spirit of kindness will be missed.

  23. Mark Shenker

    I only go back a few years with Chip but certainly feel the richer for having known him. I got to know him first when he would come into my office and innocently ask me what my position was on a specific educational issue. It didn’t take long to recognize the passion behind the innocent question. But what came across even more strongly was that sense of decency and fairness. I will miss his different way of looking at things and his ability to always say things in such a quirky and humorous way. Just a couple of weeks ago I was teasing him after a meeting that he had told a story and there hadn’t been a single mention of a snake, bear, or ‘gator. We’re a richer organization for having had him as part of us and a poorer one now that he is gone.

  24. Sara B.

    Chip was incredibly easy to work with and so focused on the task at hand — supporting schools and students. He never hesitated to offer his assistance or advice. He will be missed! My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

  25. Sarah Hill

    He was at Park Place Elementary on Monday and he was very radiant. He always had such a sweet spirit with a beautiful smile! Everyone always had such positive things to say about him. He was a great leader and will be missed by many.

  26. Kenneth Perry

    Dr. Zullinger will always be an extraordinary leader, friend, and person. His family will surely miss him but I will miss him as a brother as well. I served as his associate when he labored in North Carolina and I learned so much about how to best ensure the development of children. Working with him is worth more than earning a doctorate simply because of his vision and his willingness to share. His passing is a dark day for education and humanity. Chip you have run your race well now enter into the green pastures and rest well you faithful servant.


  27. Ricky Oliphant

    Chip Zullinger was a PHD who carried himself with the humility of a first year, first grade teacher. I had the privilige of working with him on the District Advisory Committee. To us he was just Chip a member of the DAC. He was the facilitator but he did his job with a velvet glove. I will miss Chip but, I’m sure he has gone home to be with the LORD. We were all made better by witnessing his example.
    God Bless Godspeed

  28. Michael Cardona

    The measure of a man is how you treat someone who doesn’t matter in your life. Chip treated all with respect, kindness, fairness, and objectiveness. Chip was a colleague, a friend, and a mentor too many. HISD has truly lost a special human being, a light in a world of darkness. I am thankful that I was able to learn from such a truly caring and passionate individual who embodied character and integrity with a touch of humor.

    I will miss your phone going off in our meetings but I know you will guide us in other ways.

  29. John H. Davis

    Chip or Dr. Z as he was known in Bertie was one of the best leaders I have worked with in any organization across my life of almost 60 years. He integrity and love for all people is something I will remember for the rest of my life. He is one of those leaders who made the people around him believe they could do more that they thought and he helped them make that true.

    What I witnessed him do for education and quality of life in less than 3 years in Bertie County was beyond our capacity to accept and understand.

    Please post arrangements so we can share our sympathy with his friends and family. Thank you Dr. Z. We will raise one to you on the back porch many days until we see you again. Godspeed.

  30. Dora Arzola

    Dr. Zullinger was a wonderful man with a heart of gold. He was a humble and caring person. I always admired his willingenes to help and share with others when needed. I will always remember all the good advice he gave me on different occassions. I thank God for having had he opportunity to have worked with him at the Hattie Mae White Building.
    My deepest condolences to all his family members.

  31. Gregory Finora

    I met Chip for the first time during the 2011-12 school year. We hit it off from the start. I am sure everyone would agree and could say the same thing. He was just that kind of person; humble, passionate, generous, intelligent…I could go on and on. He made connections with people because he was genuinely interested in getting to know you; both personally and professionally. Chip was a great friend and colleague. He will truly be missed. My condolences go out to his family.

  32. Mack McCary

    What a great loss. I had the pleasure of supporting his innovative efforts in Bertie Count and the amazing Studio H designers he brought to Bertie. Like them, he was ahead of his time but his legacy lives on in a regional biotech school he began organizing and the people he inspired. Rest easy Dr. Z, you made a difference in people’s lives.

  33. cindy cummings

    heaven has another angle today DR Z was the best thing that ever happen for BERTIE COUNTY schools .hated to see him leave but i will see you again

    cindy cummings

  34. Thoughts & Prayers

    My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Zullinger family! I only met Chip for a brief period; he appeared to be a very honest and dedicated educator. May God smile on him and bless his family!

    Thoughts and Prayers

  35. Lynn Woodard

    I was so shocked to hear about the passing of such a great friend!!!! He was a true leader, friend and mentor to me and many others!!!! He did so much for our students and community in Bertie Co.,NC!!!! He will truly be.missed!!!

  36. Elaine Gordon

    “Chip” graced my path only on a few occasions, but had a lasting impact! In his busy life, he took the time to speak to me and listen to my concerns as a teacher. He had a charisma that was both sincere and caring. He was a passionate and relevant person regarding the needs of today’s Urban Educational Systems. He had a hands-on approach and a servant’s heart. I was looking forward to seeing his “Vision” come to fruition. He will be greatly missed in HISD! My prayers will go forth to cover his family in the upcoming days. And just know that God is in control…

  37. Gabby Gutierrez

    It has been an honor working with Dr. Zullinger on a project he was currently working on. His legacy will live on as we continue his work to find justice for all children. At the campus level and at the district level.
    My heart felt condolences and prayers to his loved ones…. families and friends. I know you are all very proud of the work he did!
    It is so very shocking! He will be missed by many.

  38. Natalie Blasingame

    Chip was such a deep thinker. Just like Jesus, he spoke in parables that rendered broad, complex topics human and tangible. Although I lament just a short time of sharing my journey with such a thoughtful and kind man, I am confident Chip has run his race with endurance and will soon hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

  39. Lacy Herald

    This is some very sad news for me. Chip and I were the best of friends when he was Superintendent here in Bertie. We had some good times together.and I will miss him very much. R.I.P “Chip”

  40. Sergio Lira

    I met Dr. Zullinger “Chip” a couple of times. He was always friendly and approachable. There was not a pretentious air about him. He was humble and kind and was always thinking about the students and how to make elementary schools more successful. If you met him in the streets, you would have never known the important role, title or position he held. He was a smart and simple man. My prayers will go out to him and his family. Rest in peace.

  41. Diana Scheer

    I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Chip Zullenger just this school year. I also saw him the same Monday that he had his heartattack at Patterson Elem. He was a hard worker and was just on the brink of bringing unity and justice to our school. Sometimes we don’t know the true extend of what people do until it’s too late. This is indeed a Tragedy. May our Lord bless him all the more for working for the the betterment of our schools for our student’s sake. I pray Peace and Comfort for all who knew and loved him.

  42. Bertha Johnson

    Chip was a wonderful individual, hard worker and a great listener an excellent model for human approach. His welcoming personality was a breath of fresh air. His spirit of kindness will be missed. May God’s peace that surpasses all understanding comfort his family during their time of bereavement.

  43. Marcus Compton, Technology Training - SAP

    Chip Zullinger personality and willingness to share a laugh or two was truly a highlight to all who came in contact with him. His dedication to his job in serving our children is one to be modeled after. There are some people in life who make you wonder why did our paths crossed and then there are some who make you thankful for our paths crossed. Chip was truly an individual who I am truly greatful and thankful for our paths crossing. Chip will definitely be missed.

  44. John H. Davis

    Goodbye and Thanks Dr. Z

    On Tuesday April 1st Dr. Chip Zullinger left this earth to be with his Lord. When I heard the news I cried and thought about what I learned from my friend. In honoring Dr. Z, I want to honor and say thanks to all who work in Bertie trying to educate our children. Dr. Z would like that I know. Thank you to everyone in education here in Bertie. Keep getting up when you fall and keep your face in the sunshine. Keep hoping and expecting us to help. After all we live here too.

    I could use all my words listing accomplishments Dr. Z lead us to. However, I am going to stick with 2 that illustrate his leadership the best. In less than 3 years, he raised test scores in this county by more than 30% and he brought people locally and from across the state back to the table in support of public education in Bertie County. Think how significant those 2 things were and are.

    He treated everyone the same and well. He believed in our better angels. He told me a story I will always remember and I want to share it with you. Once there was a bird given the task to go slay the dragon. On his journey to meet his doom, the bird met other animals with whom he shared his pending demise and his inability to beat the dragon. He told each animal how much stronger they were than he and he was not to proud to ask each animal for help if they felt moved to help. When he arrived at the cave of the dragon, the bird had a zoo full of different animals that were to powerful for the dragon and the dragon was slain. Chip saw the positive in us and we helped because he asked us to and appreciated our help.

    Chip shared his philosophy on life in the following words.

    “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

    “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

    “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

    “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

    “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

    “Given what he went through, I find Nelson Mandela to be a very rare person.”

    Thanks and Godspeed, Dr. Z. We will see you again!

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  45. Fernando Ruiz

    I only got a chance to meet and talk to him once, but right away I could tell that he was a genuine person who truly cared for everyone at H.I.S.D. from the students to the teachers.

    Prayers to his family.

  46. Anonymous

    What a wonderful human being! He was able to bridge the gap between adminstrators and teachers. He was so fair. I can’t imagine how many carreers he saved becasue he knew right from wrong. Blessings and prayers to his family! He will be deeply missed!

  47. Taytiana B. Bell

    I didn’t really know who Mr. Zullinger was, but from all these wonderful comments, He seems like a heart-warming man. May he rest in peace.

  48. Blanca Nelly Saldana

    My condolences to his family. The district lost one of its great advocate for our HISD students. I often told Chip he was my angel because no matter what initiative or project I presented to him…all he wanted to know was “will this be a benefit for my students”…..and they did. Chip shared the passion for collaboration and gratitude that I do and I always reminded him of it. I told him the first day I met him that I needed his help and support. He never waivered. I am truly heart broken. I lost my angel, but I know that he will make sure to continue his fight for education with the help of a higher power. I will miss you dear Chip. My work will continue to honor your love of education.

  49. Corey C. Cornett

    I met Dr. Z only a few years ago and, as many others have posted, instantly liked him. Chip was warm, real, genuine and down-to-earth. I loved that he drove an old Suburban and kept his feet firmly planted on what was truly important – kids. He wasn’t pretentious, he didn’t put on airs and he spoke directly and with passion for students’ well being. I offer my sincerest condolences to his family & friends – and find peace in knowing he will continue his work in Heaven. I feel blessed to have met him – and am glad he offered his time, experience, patience and warmth to the HISD community.

  50. Fannie Williams

    I had the pleasure of working as a principal while Dr. Z was superintendent of Bertie County Schools in Windsor, NC. As my immediate supervisor, Dr.Z allowed me to think out of the box. I was allowed to implement as extended day program at my elementary school. The result was a 13 point growth in student achievement. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to work with someone who wanted what was best for children.

    Rest in Peace

  51. Beatriz Arnillas

    I echo all the sincere sentiments. Chip was a valued and beloved leader and colleague.

  52. Erica Hilliard

    I’m saddened to hear about Chip’s death. During my time at HISD, he and I would often talk about our shared love for the Carolinas and Charleston, SC, my hometown and the city where he once served as Superintendent of Schools. He was a true Southern gentleman and I would often comment on his seersucker suits, which reminded me of home. Chip truly cared for his staff and students and will be missed.

  53. Nell Pederson

    I am very saddened to hear of Dr. Zullinger’s passing. I can’t begin to explain the difference he made in my life and for our schools. We were blessed in Casper, Wyoming to hire a “stranger” from across the country to come West. He opened up our system and set excellent teachers free. I will never forget his speech to the new teachers at the welcome breakfast, he encouraged them to be creatively insubordinate, and if they were sure they had the best interest of students at the center of that decision, he would support them. This was like a huge breath of fresh air. But more than a professional colleague I consider him a friend and I will miss him immensely. Please post information about services I can share with whomever what an amazing person he was for education, students and the people that work in public schools. Truly there are not very many school administrators like him.

  54. Toby Smith

    The Water is Wide

    There was virtually no mention made of Dr . Zullinger’s passing here in Charleston, except for a little column in The Post and Courier, yet he deserved so much more! What’s ironic is that Charleston didn’t or couldn’t appreciate the seeds he was trying to plant: we used to say that the so wasn’t good, but when I drive by new school buildings I remember how hard he fought to make it happen. I worked on that first bond referendum team and although it didn’t pass, the implementation of it challenged many assumptions about what could be done for all kids. Dr. Zullinger was my friend and mentor and he was way ahead of his time! He didn’t mind stirring up trouble because he believed so deeply in quality education for all children. To him all were worth the fight! Charleston wasn’t ready then but the seeds he planted are beginning to bud. Dr. Zullinger won’t be forgotten.

    Toby Smith
    Public Relations Officer
    Charleston County School District

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