Chapel Hill News

McDowell school leader named Orange County Schools superintendent

Educator Gerri Martin was named the next superintendent of Orange County Schools Thursday in Hillsborough. Martin, a North Carolina native, is currently superintendent of McDowell County Schools and will take office in Orange County in October.
Educator Gerri Martin was named the next superintendent of Orange County Schools Thursday in Hillsborough. Martin, a North Carolina native, is currently superintendent of McDowell County Schools and will take office in Orange County in October. hlynch@newsobserver.com

The superintendent of McDowell County Schools was named Orange County Schools superintendent Thursday night.

Gerri Martin will succeed Patrick Rhodes, who retired in June. Del Burns has been interim superintendent.

Martin will take office in October. She has led McDowell County Schools in the west central section of the state since July 2012.

“I am extremely excited for the district,” said Donna Coffey, chairwoman of the county board of education. “I am excited at Dr. Martin’s passion and drive toward public education.”

Coffey said 30 candidates were considered for the position. “It was a long, thoughtful process,” she said. “We got to hear a lot of different voices.”

The board was unanimous in choosing Martin, she said.

Martin has nearly 27 years experience in education. She holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Appalachian State University and a doctorate of education leadership and cultural foundations from UNC Greensboro.

“I stand before you today as a proud product of public education,” Martin said at Thursday’s meeting when the board of education made the announcement.

Martin is bilingual, fluent in Spanish and English. She taught English to Spanish speakers in Salamanca, Spain, and has taught English as a Second Language classes in community colleges.

Coffey said Martin’s fluency is an asset, providing an opportunity for clearer communication with Hispanic parents. Martin said the diversity of Orange County Schools was a selling point for her – 14 percent of students were Hispanic last year.

“I love diversity, and I think it’s an asset to raising my family,” Martin said in an interview. Her husband is from Spain; they have three children.

Martin said she was driving when she got the call offering her the job.

“They had me pull over, which was a good thing because it was such a humbling moment,” Martin said. She said she got teary-eyed. “Orange County Schools has a legacy of excellence, and I feel fortunate and proud to get to take this responsibility,” Martin said at the meeting.

Debbie Piscitelli, a board of education member, said she hopes Martin embeds herself in the community and continues a focus on student achievement in the district.

Both McDowell County Schools and Orange County Schools have 13 schools. McDowell has about 6,500 students, and Orange County about 7,600 students.

McDowell County Schools has a budget of $40 million, and Orange County Schools has an operating budget of $65 million.

“Certainly there are far more people in the area,” Martin said of the Orange County district. “We’re far less isolated” here.

The details of Martin’s contract are being finalized. Her base salary as McDowell County superintendent was approximately $121,600.

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