Alumni News

Alumnus Jim Merrill wins N.C. Superintendent of the Year honor

Jim Merrill

Related Links
  • N&O Story about Jim Merrill's award
  • Merrill gives 2014 SOE Commencement address

Jim Merrill (A.B.Ed. ’73), superintendent of the Wake County Public School System, has been named the 2017 A. Craig Phillips North Carolina Superintendent of the Year.

Merrill, who has led Wake County schools since 2013, was honored by the N.C. Association of School Administrators and the N.C. School Boards Association at an awards ceremony on Nov. 18. Merrill, who was one of eight regional finalists for the honor, will represent North Carolina in competition for the National Superintendent of the Year award.

It’s the third time Merrill has won statewide recognition for his work. Merrill was named 2005 N.C. Superintendent of the Year when he was the head of the Alamance-Burlington School System. He was named 2013 Virginia Superintendent of the Year when he was leading Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

Merrill was a Morehead Scholar at Carolina and earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary English from the School of Education.

Merrill was chosen to lead Wake County schools after a tumultuous period. Wake school board Chairman Tom Benton told the News & Observer that Merrill has brought stability back to the system.

“People have often forgotten that just three short years ago our system was struggling from a lack of direction,” Benton told the paper. “We had something like four superintendents in seven years.

“So one of the tasks of the board was to find not just a visionary leader, but someone who could restore confidence. Dr. Merrill has done that.”

After graduating from Carolina, Merrill began his career as an English teacher in 1973 in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system.

He first joined the administrative ranks in Wake County when he was hired to be an assistant principal at Enloe High School in 1984. Over the course of the next 16 years, Merrill moved up the administrative ranks in Wake County.

Merrill was then hired to lead the Alamance-Burlington School System, where he was working when he was named North Carolina superintendent of the year in 2005.

In 2006, he went to his hometown of Virginia Beach, Va., to serve as superintendent of schools. In 2013 he was named the Virginia Superintendent of the Year.

Merrill earned his master’s degree in education administration from Appalachian State University and his doctorate from UNC-Greensboro’s School of Education, which has awarded him its Outstanding Achievement Award.

The UNC School of Education honored Merrill with its Distinguished Leadership Award in 2005.