Wake County Schools

Virginia Beach educator named as new Wake superintendent

Posted June 18, 2013
Updated June 19, 2013

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— Jim Merrill, superintendent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools, was named Tuesday night as the new superintendent for Wake County school system.

Merrill, who worked in Wake schools for 16 years as an English teacher in the 1970s, lauded the district as a leader in the state and nation.

“It really is very exciting and an honor for me to be able to return to Wake County as superintendent,” he said. “I don’t think any of you can appreciate what it means to me.”

Board chairman Keith Sutton welcomed Merrill’s return, but the choice was not unanimous. Board members Deborah Prickett and John Tedesco voted against the selection.

The appointment caps weeks of anticipation about who would replace former Superintendent Tony Tata, who was fired earlier this year. The announcement was supposed to come two weeks ago but was deferred while the board worked out undisclosed details.

Talking briefly with reporters after his appointment, Merrill declined to say what caused the delay.

Under the terms of his four-year contract, Merrill will earn $275,000 a year. The amount is $25,000 more than Tata's starting salary. Sutton said Tata did not have the experience that Merrill brings to the job.

Merrill said he has positive memories of working in Wake County, where much of his philosophy as an educator was formed. He also said he is aware that he needs to get up to speed quickly on the issues and doesn’t have a preconceived agenda.

“I really want to reflect what this community wants for the children,” he said. “It’s presumptuous of me to come in and say, ‘I’ve got the answer, here’s how we’re going to do this.’”

Merrill will begin in August with a tour of schools and facilities. Cathy Moore, Wake's superintendent for School Performance, will serve as interim superintendent until he arrives.

Merrill beat out two other finalists – Dana Bedden, superintendent of Irving Independent School District outside Dallas; and Ann Clark, deputy superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. The three were winnowed from a field of 23 candidates for the job.

Merrill, who also served six years as superintendent of the Alamance-Burlington school system, said he didn't know what clinched the board's decision to hire him.

"You'll have to ask them," he said.

Sutton said in a statement: "Dr. Merrill outlined an impressive program of growth for Wake County schools and brings with him the skill set and institutional knowledge to lead the state’s largest public school district into a new era.”

Tedesco threw his support behind Clark, calling her "one of the finest educators I've ever met." Prickett agreed.

"She was the person I felt we needed at this particular time," she said.

Tedesco said those who chose Merrill are nostalgic for the way things used to be in the district, but Sutton pointed to Merrill's achievements.

Merrill was named Virginia superintendent of the year for 2013. He said Virginia Beach City Public Schools has received national attention for its strategic plan, which he described as a collaborative effort across the district.

When asked how he would handle specific policies and issues in Wake County, Merrill said it was too soon to take a position.

"I'm not short on opinions," he said. "Just not on this one tonight."

Merrill holds a bachelor's degree in secondary English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master's degree in education administration from Appalachian State University and a doctorate from UNC-Greensboro.

A report published two weeks ago said Merrill had been chosen, suggesting a leak among the board members. Sutton expressed disappointment Tuesday and called for a review of the board's ethics policy and possible sanctions.

"Certainly, there needs to be some accountability and repercussions when someone breaches the trust of the board in that manner," he said.
 

77 Comments

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  • westernwake1 Jun 20, 7:58 p.m.

    "Tata was trained by the Broad Academy in San Francisco, which believes in training those successful in other-than-educational fields to be administrators in order to keep schools from having the same old, same old mindset. They mean to shake things up. Half of large urban superintendent positions of late being hired are Broad grads,,,Tata being one of them. Along with hiring Broad School grads comes the private grants from Billionaires Broad, Walton, Gates foundations." - djofraleigh

    People need to recognize that the leaders in education in the U.S. come from the Broad Academy. The graduates of this program are making great strides in improving K-12 education.

    The 'education establishment' supported by teaching unions opposes these changes. They want to maintain the status quo and record of failure.

  • Sarge Jun 20, 4:18 p.m.

    he'll be run out of town in 2-3 years...

  • andy2 Jun 20, 1:11 p.m.

    zile1porkey - The whole county os filled with people from other parts of the country. I am okay with an outsider along as he is willing to discuss and comprise when needed. The other guy refused to compromise and he was not good and not qualified.

  • zile1porkey Jun 20, 10:25 a.m.

    I just don't understand why outsiders are brought in to do the jobs insders h ave done until the positions are filled. We should give our citizens in this state a chance to run our state. If they are qualified to be interm then hire them. We have the best universities here but we can't hire our own.

  • djofraleigh Jun 20, 10:24 a.m.

    As for the leaking of the name, so what? The board was going to announce it weeks ago and kept putting it off. How long can they keep what goes on behind closed doors behind closed doors? Leaks and rumors do reach those being considered, but again, so what? The Board could have made decision in one day and announce it the next.

  • djofraleigh Jun 20, 10:21 a.m.

    Tata was trained by the Broad Superintendent Academy to seek: Student/parent choice, promote competition, deregulate as possible, demand accountability, and to use data-based decision-making.

    Most people want change, but don't like change when it happens, including the means of change: charter schools, high-stakes standardized testing for students, merit pay based on student improvement in test scores, firing teachers & closing schools whose scores don’t rise adequately, and keeping long running data on the performance of every student and teacher.

    Which of those things does the current board want? The new Superintendent will follow their lead. What does the voter want? The parents...

    Our schools are OK. They could and should strive to be better. Let's see if this new guy can "lead" the board?

  • Country Girlz Have MORE fun Jun 20, 9:41 a.m.

    he wasn't the one I hoped they would select.

  • djofraleigh Jun 20, 9:18 a.m.

    "Why would any reasonable person actually WANT to come to this state while it is in the political control of neanderthals?" == COMMENT

    Name calling is not civil discussion! The answer is the same as why the poster remains in NC.

  • djofraleigh Jun 20, 9:14 a.m.

    The "old white guy" is picked over the woman & the black man by the Democrats means a move back into the comfort zone of the status quo of yesteryear. The staff of WCPSS will take a sigh of relief with this "homeboy" choice. This should calm some waters along with the demise of the 2010 republican board members.

    Tata was trained by the Broad Academy in San Francisco, which believes in training those successful in other-than-educational fields to be administrators in order to keep schools from having the same old, same old mindset. They mean to shake things up. Half of large urban superintendent positions of late being hired are Broad grads,,,Tata being one of them. Along with hiring Broad School grads comes the private grants from Billionaires Broad, Walton, Gates foundations.

    Wake's board is wanting change, change back to the calm comfort of going back to 2009. They have it coming. Stay out of the headlines.

  • oldaltar Jun 19, 7:40 p.m.

    It is money that belongs to someone and is taken from them by force. whatelseisnew

    Blinded by a hard heart and lack of knowledge as it relates to what a comsuption tax is will not hide the fact that this legisture do not care about you, children, elderly, poor, and disable. Cetainly their policies reflect that the only ones that their policies will help are the plutocrats who want to pollute our lakes, make it harder for everyone to vote, expand where guns can be concealed and carried, increase the speed limit, eliminate funding to assist children with disabilities between the ages of 0-3, and do whatever Art Pope aske them to do. That is why have less than a 25 percent approval rating. And if you know anything about most local counties board of commisioners you would know that the state they manage theitr budgets better than the state. Cut funding for schools and higher educations, and provide state funded private school vouchers and the list goes on and on. Look up the word plut

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