Five members of the Cumberland County Schools leadership team with a combined 163 years of experience are retiring before the new school year starts.
The Board of Education recognized them on Tuesday during its June monthly. Each of them received a plaque.
“These dedicated cabinet members have worked hard to make sure Cumberland County Schools’ nearly 49,000 students get what they need to be successful,” said school district spokesman Lindsay Whitley, who introduced them at the meeting. “They have also worked every day to support our more than 6,000-plus premiere professionals.”
The retiring associate superintendents include Mary Black, of student support services; Joe Desormeaux, auxiliary services; Clyde Locklear Jr., business operations; Betty Musselwhite, school support; and Ron Phipps, data and accountability.
Whitley said the five will leave at different times over the summer.
Superintendent Marvin Connelly Jr. praised the retirees.
“These five educators have dedicated countless hours to ensuring that every student in CCS succeeds,” Connelly said. “Over two years ago, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, several members of our district’s senior leadership team were eligible to retire. When the pandemic threw CCS into unknown territory, they chose to stay aboard and see our district through one of the most challenging times in public education. And for that, we will forever be grateful."
Their replacements have already been recommended by Connelly and approved by the Board of Education.
In addition, Maria Pierce-Ford was named the new executive director of federal programs.
The outgoing associate superintendents expressed appreciation for their time with the school system.
In the school system, she is known as “'da Queen.”
“It has been an honor to serve in the Cumberland County Schools community, and may the work I’ve done speak for me,” she said in a CCS news release. “I will always be a professional educator.”
Desormeaux, a retired Air Force officer, has implemented a seven-year, $2.2 billion construction plan that included 18 new schools and 16 major renovations.
“I have met and worked with a lot of professionals in both the public and private sector over 20.5 years in the Air Force and 21 years in K-12 education,” Desormeaux said in the release. “Without a doubt, I believe that education professionals are at the top of the list. CCS leadership and auxiliary services personnel have been a prime example of that belief.
Along the way, he has handled a wide array of school business functions, including budgeting, payroll, auditing, accounting, insurance, benefits and facilities.
“My time in Cumberland has allowed me to grow professionally, work toward personal and professional goals, and to meet and work alongside some dedicated and knowledgeable educators,” Locklear said in the news release.
He is a certified school business administrator and a member of numerous associations for business officers.
Locklear is currently the co-chair of the School Business Systems Modernization Committee for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
She started her teaching career at Seventy-First Elementary School, where she became assistant principal. When the school became a middle school, she moved with the staff to Loyd Auman Elementary.
After that, Musselwhite worked at Westover High School before becoming principal of District 7, Cliffdale and Vanstory Hills elementary schools.
“As a lifetime resident of Cumberland County, I am proud to have attended elementary, middle and high school in the Cumberland County Schools system,” she said in the release. “It has been a great honor to serve as a teacher, serve as a school leader, and serve as an advocate and supporter for principals in CCS.
“I've never strived to be the leader that others choose to follow,” she said, “but instead, I chose to be an encourager and developer of leaders.”
Phipps began as a teacher and coach at Anne Chesnutt Junior High School and then was assistant principal and principal across the county. He later became director of elementary education, executive director of testing and assistant superintendent of evaluation and testing.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my entire career in education, all of it here in Cumberland County Schools,” Phipps said in the news release. “Over the years, things changed — policies, practices, leadership, etc. — but what did not change were the relationships formed and built with students and adults.
“I will miss those more than anything,” he said. “Our school system is in great hands, and I cannot wait to see the progress continue through the years.”
Phipps has received numerous employee awards. In 2017, he was named the Region 5 Testing Coordinator of the Year.
“While we will miss them, we wish them all the best,” said Connelly. “We will rest easy knowing that we can still count on them as strong supporters of public education.”