Wake Ed

Marvin Pittman remembered as North Carolina ‘giant in education’

The late Marvin Pittman is being remembered as an advocate for children, particularly those who are from low-income families, during his long career as an educator and community activist in Raleigh.

Pittman, 66, who died Sept. 15 after a battle with cancer, was praised as a “giant in education” at Tuesday’s Wake County school board meeting. Over more than 40 years, Pittman was an education consultant, teacher, principal and senior official in the Wake and Durham school systems and the state Department of Public Instruction.

As chairman of the education committee at Compassionate Tabernacle of Faith Baptist Church in Raleigh, Pittman helped schools such as Walnut Creek Elementary School. He lobbied Wake school leaders to do more to help high-poverty schools and support minority students.

“He was a champion for education, an advocate, a fighter,” said Wake school board member Keith Sutton, who called for a moment of silence at Tuesday’s meeting. “Very passionate about education, particularly passionate about those that are disproportionately affected by race, by poverty or those that just simply did not have a voice.

“He was a father. He was a husband. He was a deacon in his church and was a mentor to many, a friend to many, a colleague to many of us. He will be sorely missed.”

School board Chairman Tom Benton recalled how Pittman would reach out to board members with his concerns.

“I think we’re all up here going to miss the phone call from Marvin saying, ‘Now Tom, do you really think that’s going to do this?’” Benton said. “I’m going to miss that greatly, just that sense of consciousness that was always a guide to us in the work that we’re doing.”

Pittman wore many hats over the years, including being a teacher, assistant principal, principal and director of instruction in the Wake County school system. He was executive director for middle and high school curriculum in Durham Public Schools.

At the state level, Pittman was director of school improvement and also director of middle grades education. He also served as senior assistant to the state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Pittman developed a cultural diversity training program for North Carolina public school educators, co-chaired the Governor's Character Education Committee and provided statewide leadership in developing North Carolina's promotion standards, closing student achievement gaps and implementing assistance to struggling North Carolina schools.

Upon retiring from the state in 2009, Pittman formed an education consulting firm. He also lobbied Wake school leaders on issues such as increasing minority access to advanced math courses and dealing with the rising number of high-poverty schools in the district.

The Great Schools in Wake Coalition mourned in its newsletter Thursday the loss of Pittman and Rodney Ellis, former president of the N.C. Association of Educators.

“Both men worked tirelessly on behalf of all NC public school students and teachers,” GSIW said in its newsletter. “.They were advocates who showed up time and again to speak out against the privatization of our schools, the need for adequate funding and so many other issues affecting public education.

“Ever the champions for children of all incomes, races, zip codes and backgrounds, Rodney and Marvin leave a gaping hole in our work to strengthen public education in Wake and NC. Our prayers go out to all of their loved ones, family and friends.”