Orange County hires new schools superintendent


The new Orange County Schools superintendent will start her position on Tuesday, Oct. 1 after leaving her job as the current superintendent of McDowell County Schools.

The county school board announced Gerri Martin as the new superintendent in a press release on Sept. 12.

“She was an excellent candidate,” Donna Coffey, president of the Orange County School Board, said.

Coffey said Martin boasts many unique credentials, setting her application apart from nearly 30 others, which poured in from 11 states.

Lawrence Sanders, a member of the school board, said those qualifications, coupled with 27 years of experience, made her the best fit for the position, despite the large quantity of applicants.

The press release said Martin has held an array of positions, such as high school teacher, college professor, assistant principal and principal. She became the superintendent in McDowell County in 2012.

“She started as a teacher and had that experience in the classroom,” Sanders said.

He said her experience as a teacher was especially important to the board members when selecting a viable candidate. Being bilingual also worked in her favor, due to Orange County’s rising Latino population, Sanders said.

“The key thing was to make sure we heard from the community — those in the school system and the taxpayers — to make sure they had the opportunity to provide their input in the process,” Sanders said.

When the former superintendent, Patrick Rhodes, announced his plans for retirement this year, Sanders said the school district joined with the North Carolina School Boards Association to seek help in filling the position.

Members of the community, parents and staff were asked to fill out a survey about what they felt was important in their public schools and what improvements could be made, Coffey said. The survey gave community members a chance to weigh in on a topic that highly affected them.

Coffey said she was optimistic about the future of Orange County’s public schools and their pursuit of academic achievement.

“I believe that she will carry us forward in our educational excellence,” Coffey said.

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