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WCPS superintendent resigns & Former Wake superintendent named acting superintendent

Date:  Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Goldsboro, N.C. – This evening, the Wayne County Board of Education announced that Dr. Michael J. Dunsmore resigned his position as superintendent of Wayne County Public Schools. Dunsmore has served as superintendent of Wayne County Public Schools since July 2015.

The announcement was made at a Wayne County Board of Education Special Called Meeting. Following the announcement, the Board unanimously approved the hiring of retired Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) superintendent, Dr. Jim Merrill, to serve as the acting superintendent of Wayne County Public Schools. He will serve in this role from June 4 through June 26 and then become Interim Superintendent effective June 27.

Dr. Merrill is a state and nationally recognized education leader who has a proven track record of bringing stability to school districts in difficult times. In 2013, Dr. Merrill was hired to bring vision and a new strategic direction to WCPSS, the state’s largest school district made up of approximately 160 thousand students across 187 schools. Over the next five years, Dr. Merrill significantly smoothed board and superintendent relations, as well as relations with the Board of Commissioners.

The hiring of Dr. Merrill comes on the heels of public comments made during yesterday’s meeting by former superintendent Dr. Dunsmore that the school district’s current local fund balance has a deficit of -$4,888,647, that the Board will need assistance from the County of Wayne to cover the cost of local supplements in June, and that the district had not yet received any extension for its 2020-2021 local budget.

Dr. Merrill brings with him a broad and extensive financial and HR background to this new role. Prior to his 17.5 years of experience as a superintendent, he served as an Associate Superintendent for Administration/Chief Finance Officer for WCPSS, and as a part of that role oversaw the performance audit for all central offices. In addition, he served as an Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources for WCPSS. It is worth noting that as superintendent of WCPSS, Dr. Merrill achieved numerous awards for the passage of $810 million bond referendum which he supported annually. Dr. Merrill managed and increased a $657.4 million operating budget while superintendent of Virginia Beach Schools. He also previously served as a Board member, and Chair, for both the NC State Employees Credit Union and the NC State Employees Credit Union Foundation.

Dr. Merrill is a two-time North Carolina Superintendent of the Year, achieving this distinction in both 2005 and 2017. He was the Virginia State Superintendent of the Year in 2013 and was a national finalist in the National Superintendent of the Year program in 2017. He was also a Virginia Governor’s Appointee to the Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission.

In addition to hiring Dr. Merrill on Wednesday evening, the Board of Education also approved a contract for financial advisory and consulting services with School Operations Specialists, LLC. The consulting team will thoroughly review the operations of the WCPS Finance Department and provide technical support to the finance staff in closing out the fiscal year and making final budget amendments for the current 2019-2020 budget.  

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