Marvin Connelly – Class of 1981
Superintendent of Schools, Cumberland County, Fayetteville, NC
Senior Pastor, St. Augusta Baptist Church, Fuquay-Varina, NC
Marvin Connelly is a man with many responsibilities. Not only is he the Superintendent of Cumberland County Schools in Fayetteville, but he also serves as the senior pastor of St. Augusta Baptist Church in Fuquay-Varina. His dedication, drive, and commitment have gone a long way to shape him as a leader. So have the community and the individuals who inspired him along the way.
“As Superintendent, I oversee and lead the educational and operational program for a district of over 50,000 students and 6500 employees,” explains Marvin. “As CEO for the district, I lead us in providing an opportunity for all students to graduate on time prepared to be successful in a global society.
“I enjoy seeing the excitement in students’ eyes about learning and engaging with their peers and teachers. Additionally, it is a joy for me to see the joy parents have when their students graduate from high school.
“I got into education initially as a special education teacher assistant to help make a difference in the lives of children with social, behavioral, and emotional disabilities. I was inspired to work with children with disabilities by my mother and my sister. My mother worked for Western Carolina Center in Morganton (now known as J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center) when I was growing up, and my sister taught special education at Mountain View Elementary in Morganton.”
Marvin received the Bachelor of Arts in political science and foreign policy, Master of Education in the field of special education, and Master of School Administration degrees from North Carolina State University and the Doctor of Educational Leadership from East Carolina University. He has also been awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from St. Thomas Christian College in Jacksonville, Florida.
Before beginning his teaching career, he served in the United States Army, where he took part in the Senior Officers Training at the Army Command General Staff College and attained the rank of Major. “I served as an intelligence officer, commanded a company in the 82nd Airborne Division, and also served in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm during combat in the first Iraqi conflict.”
After military service, careers in education and the ministry called. “I served as a special education teacher’s assistant, special education teacher, special education coordinator, high school assistant principal, middle school principal, high school principal, assistant superintendent for Student Support Services, and Chief of Staff for the largest school system in NC – the Wake County Public School System. All of these roles have helped to prepare me for my current role as Superintendent of the Cumberland County Schools. Once a teacher, always a teacher, so I try to make all decisions based on what is in the best interests of students and from the eyes of the teachers. As a pastor, I developed a strong passion for helping people, especially the disenfranchised. I believe that ministry is beyond the walls of the church and continues after the benediction. This passion carries over into my work as a superintendent. The leadership skills I learned in the US Army serve me well now as a superintendent. I am also excited to be serving as superintendent back in Cumberland County in a military town where I started my career after being in ROTC at NC State University.”
All careers have challenges to overcome, and education is no different. Marvin feels that the greatest challenges public education faces is “limited funding. The North Carolina Legislature needs to invest more in public education and in fact comply with the directives of the Leandro vs North Carolina case and provide a ‘Sound Basic Education’ for all public-school students.
“The rewards of my job are too numerous to name; however, the most rewarding is the opportunity to shape the future of our country and society through the lives of our children for generations to come.”
Public school teachers and activities were a big influence on his life and his future careers. “Mrs. Clara Cline, my eighth-grade math teacher at Drexel Junior High, motivated me to try harder and excel. Miss Kathryn Siphers, the band director at East Burke, always pushed me to choose my friends wisely and lead from the front. East Burke Principal T.W. Wall always told me to lead and let others follow rather than following the crowd. If it were not for the caring teachers at East Burke, as a young African American male, I may not have even chosen to go to college and would have kept working at Drexel Furniture. But they pushed me and encouraged me to do more. In fact, the teachers and counselors helped me complete all the college applications. My forensics teacher, Mrs. Martha Wetmore, was the one who pushed me more than anyone else to go to college.
“The Forensics class and club motivated me to participate in public speaking and has helped me all my life over the last 38 years as a pastor and minister of the Gospel. The East Burke JROTC program inspired me to join ROTC in college and enter military service. It was the best decision I could have made and has impacted my entire life.
“One high school activity that I will always cherish and never forget is my time serving as the school mascot ‘The Cavalier’ and running around the football field and basketball court helping the cheerleaders and pumping up the crowd.”
Throughout his career, Marvin has received numerous awards including the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association Lifetime Achievement Award, NAACP Educator of the Year award, the 2017 Educator of the Year Award from Phi Beta Sigma, Inc., the Johnston County Dr., Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Educator Award, the Administrator of the Year award from the Harriett B. Webster Task Force for Student Success, and the Raleigh/Wake Citizens Association Educator of the Year award.
He was recently honored with the prestigious statewide North Carolina Superintendents’ Association (NCSSA) Dr. Sam Houston Superintendents’ Leadership Award for being an innovative and forward-thinking superintendent.
He has also given back by serving on various boards in the educational community including the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the School Superintendents Association (AASA), NC School Superintendents Association (NCSSA), the president of the North Carolina Association of Black School Educators (NC ABSE), the YMCA Advisory Board for the Alexander Branch in Raleigh, Habitat for Humanity (Wake) Board of Directors, and the Wake County Board of Commissioners – Affordable Housing Advisory Committee.
In addition to his many accomplishments as an educational administrator, a community leader, a minister, and a military officer, Marvin plans to continue to inspire young people. “I plan to write a book on the impact caring teachers have on young Black boys and how what you believe about them can impact their future and entire lives. Caring teachers at East Burke certainly made a difference for me – they cared about me regardless of my race.”
Marvin is a great example of how teachers have continually encouraged and inspired young people to pursue their dreams and find ways to share their gifts to others throughout the community, the state, and the world.
Published October 2020