Education

Wake County’s Jim Merrill falls short of National Superintendent award

The newly appointed Wake County School Superintendent, Dr. Jim Merrill speaks with reporters during a press conference at the at Wake County Public School System's Central Services building in Cary on Aug. 1, 2013.
The newly appointed Wake County School Superintendent, Dr. Jim Merrill speaks with reporters during a press conference at the at Wake County Public School System's Central Services building in Cary on Aug. 1, 2013. tlong@newsobserver.com

Wake County school chief Jim Merrill did not win the 2017 National Superintendent of the Year award, which went to a superintendent from Oregon on Thursday.

Matthew Utterback of the North Clackamas School District was announced as the nation’s top superintendent at the School Superintendents Association’s national conference in New Orleans. The three other finalists were Merrill, Stewart McDonald of Kodiak Island Borough School District in Alaska and Barbara Jenkins of Orange County Public Schools in Florida.

“The recognition of the leader is really a recognition of the organization,” Merrill said in a video about being named a national finalist. “The organization’s work results in the community’s support.

“I feel good about leadership in America with the kind of superintendents we have, and so to be somehow winnowed out to be one of four here is pretty much beyond my comprehension.”

Merrill was trying to become the first Wake superintendent since Bill McNeal in 2004 to win National Superintendent of the Year. Merrill was named the 2017 N.C. Superintendent of the Year in November. It was the second time he won the North Carolina title. He also was a past Virginia Superintendent of the Year.

Merrill was hired in June 2013 to become Wake’s superintendent. He replaced Tony Tata after Tata’s contentious firing by the school board in September 2012.

Merrill called public education in America “one of the last great institutions.”

“But we have to support the work of public education in America,” Merrill said in the School Superintendents Association’s video. “It is what delivers our people to be enlightened and informed adults to preserve our democracy.”

Wake is the nation’s 15th largest school system with 159,549 students.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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