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Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr., Named 2024 A. Craig Phillips NC Superintendent of the Year

November 14, 2023

Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr., superintendent of Cumberland County Schools (CCS), was honored as the 2024 A. Craig Phillips North Carolina Superintendent of the Year at a ceremony held at the Koury Convention Center this evening. This prestigious award, presented by the North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA), in collaboration with the North Carolina School Superintendents’ Association (NCSSA) and the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA), and sponsored by Scholastic Education, recognizes exceptional leadership in K-12 public schools.

Representing the Sandhills region, Dr. Connelly was selected from a group of eight esteemed regional nominees. This accolade acknowledges his transformative leadership, particularly in spearheading the ‘Cumberland Commitment: Strategic Plan,’ which has brought remarkable progress and innovation to CCS, the fifth-largest school district in North Carolina.

"In Cumberland County Schools, we've embarked on a transformative journey, driven by the firm conviction that every child deserves a world-class education, regardless of their background or zip code," Dr. Connelly remarked. "Confronting deep-rooted inequities, we have transformed numerous schools from low-performing to thriving learning environments. The 'Cumberland Commitment: Strategic Plan' has been our guiding light, focusing on producing successful students, recruiting and retaining premier professionals, providing an exceptional learning environment, and collaborating with committed community partners.”

Some of the notable district accomplishments achieved under Dr. Connelly’s leadership include: 

  • Implementing the PASE Framework: Developed the PASE (Performance, Accountability, Support, and Empowerment) School Framework, increasing accountability and categorizing schools into tiers based on performance, thereby guiding targeted support and intervention.

  • Central Office Reorganization: Coordinated across departments to realign services, including curriculum support, data and accountability, and budget and finance, aligning them with the strategic goals and the PASE system. Led a district-wide reorganization to improve student outcomes, involving Central Services leaders as crucial transformation agents.

  • Strategic Initiatives and Support Systems: Launched initiatives like the Opportunity Culture Strategic Staffing model in 12 schools and a district-wide tutoring network, supporting 25% of students with the highest needs.

  • Engaging Families in Education: Established the Cumberland Family Academy and the Family Ambassador Volunteer Program, fostering strong school-to-home partnerships and enhancing family engagement in the educational process.

  • Achieving Notable School Improvements: As a result of these efforts, the 2022-2023 academic year saw remarkable improvements in 98% of schools, with significant gains in growth index scores. This transformation led to many schools exceeding growth expectations.

  • Advocacy for Equitable Education Funding: In collaboration with the Cumberland County Board of Education, championed equitable funding at state and federal levels. Successfully secured crucial resources, including a $5 million Mental Health Service Professionals Demonstration Grant. 

Upon receiving the award, Dr. Connelly expressed his gratitude and shared his thoughts on the significance of this accolade. "I am deeply honored and humbled by this recognition, which is a testament to the unwavering dedication of the entire Cumberland County Schools family,” he said. “This award reflects our collective commitment to the success of every student. I am immensely proud of our achievements and look forward to continuing our journey toward educational excellence for all."

Under Dr. Connelly's leadership, CCS has achieved a series of state and national recognitions, including the 2021 and 2022 National Magna Awards for equity efforts, the North Carolina State Superintendent’s Purple Star District Award for three consecutive years for military-friendly practices and the 2021 Forbes Best-in-State Employer accolade. CCS also received the National School Public Relations Association's Golden Achievement and Publications and Digital Media Excellence Awards in 2021.

Beyond his influence locally, Dr. Connelly is a key figure in educational leadership both statewide and nationally, earning him the NCASA 2022 Raymond Sarbaugh Leadership Award. In 2022, he was appointed the first National Superintendent Chair for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, further highlighting his commitment to broader educational and community initiatives.

Dr. Connelly's career in public education spans over three decades, marked by significant roles that have shaped his comprehensive understanding of the educational landscape. His journey began as an officer in the U.S. Army, including time in the 82nd Airborne Division, followed by roles as a special education teacher assistant and teacher.  Dr. Connelly also has experience as a middle school and high school principal and as a high school assistant principal. 

He served as the chief of staff and the assistant superintendent for student services in the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), where he played a pivotal role in coordinating the functions of the school system and leading special education, counseling, and intervention services. He has served as superintendent of CCS since July 2018. 

Dr. Connelly's educational background includes a bachelor's degree in political science from North Carolina State University, along with master's degrees in special education and school administration, and a doctorate in educational leadership from East Carolina University. He shares his life with his wife, Joyce, their four grown children, nine grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.

As the 2024 A. Craig Phillips North Carolina Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Connelly will represent the state in the national competition for the 2024 National Superintendent of the Year Award at the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education, Feb. 15-17, 2024, in San Diego, CA.