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2023 Dr. Brad Sneeden
Leadership Award

The North Carolina School Superintendents' Association (NCSSA) has announced the selection of Mr. Aaron Greene, Superintendent of Polk County Schools, as the recipient of the Dr. Brad Sneeden Leadership Award. The award is presented in honor and recognition of a superintendent who has demonstrated a strong commitment to lifelong learning, unwavering integrity in leadership, and transformation of vision into action.

2023 Dr. Dwayne Stallings
Leadership Award

The North Carolina School Superintendents' Association (NCSSA) has announced the selection of Dr. Otis L. Smallwood, Superintendent of Bertie County Schools, as the recipient of the Dr. Dwayne Stallings Leadership Award. The award is presented in honor and recognition of a superintendent who has demonstrated a strong dedication to public education, commitment to academic excellence, and a continual focus on professional growth and student learning.

Previous Superintendent
of the Year Recipients:

2024 – Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr., Cumberland
2023 –
Dr. Don Phipps, Caldwell

2022 – Dr. Valerie Bridges, Edgecombe

2021 – Dr. Brent Williams, Lenoir

2020 – Dr. Anthony Jackson, Vance

2019 – Dr. Patrick Miller, Greene

2018 – Dr. Janet Mason, Rutherford

2017 – Dr. Jim Merrill, Wake

2016 – Dr. Freddie E. Williamson, Hoke

2015 – Dr. Rodney Shotwell, Rockingham

2014 – Brady Johnson, Iredell-Statesville

2013 – Dr. Mark Adrian Edwards,
               Mooresville City

2012 – Dr. Diane L. Frost, Asheboro

2011 – Dr. Donald L. Martin, Jr.,

2010 – Dr. Donna Cox Peters, Montgomery

2009 – Dr. Terry K. Holliday, Iredell-Statesville

2008 – Dr. Terry B. Grier, Guilford

2007 – Dr. Shirley B.  Prince, Scotland

2006 – Dr. Larry E. Price, Wilson

2005 – Dr. James G. Merrill,

2004 – William R. McNeal, Jr., Wake

2003 – Dr. Edward D. Sadler, Jr., Gaston

2002 – Dr. Eric J. Smith, Charlotte-Mecklenburg

2001 – Dr. Neil G. Pedersen, Chapel Hill-Carrboro

2000 – Dr. Ann T. Denlinger, Durham

1999 – Dr. Jerry D.  Weast, Guilford

1998 – Dr. James F. Causby, Johnston

1997 – Steven Wrenn,  Lee

1996 – Douglas Scott Penland, Clay

1995 – Dr. John B. Dunn, Edenton-Chowan

1994 – Dr. Michael E. Ward, Granville

1993 – Charles L.  Byrd, Hendersonville City

1992 – Dr. Travis Twiford,
               Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Schools

1991 – Dr. James F. Causby, Polk

1990 – Dr. G. Thomas Houlihan, Granville

1989 – Dr. Emmett Malvin Floyd, Catawba

1988 – Dr. Cleveland Hammonds, Durham

NCSSA Celebrates the 2025 NC
Regional Superintendent of the Year Nominees
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Region 1

Dr. Tanya Turner

Perquimans County Schools

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Region 2

Dr. Charles Foust

New Hanover
County Schools

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Region 3

Dr. Eric Bracy

Johnston County
Public Schools

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Region 4

Dr. Freddie Williamson

Public Schools of
Robeson County


Region 5

Dr. Aaron Woody

Asheboro City Schools


Region 6

Dr. Andrew Houlihan

Union County
Public Schools


Region 7

Dr. Aron Gabriel

City Schools


Region 8

Dr. Will Hoffman

Madison County

The 2025 A. Craig Phillips North Carolina Superintendent of the Year Award will be
presented to one of these nominees on October 10, 2024 in Greensboro, NC.

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Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Wins 2024 A. Craig Phillips NC Superintendent of the Year Award

GREENSBORO | Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr., Superintendent of Cumberland County Schools, was named the 2024 A. Craig Phillips North    Carolina Superintendent of the Year at an awards presentation and reception held Tuesday, Nov. 14.

The award is jointly presented annually by the North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA), the North Carolina School Superintendents' Association (NCSSA)

and the North Carolina School Boards Association (NCSBA)Scholastic Education Solutions sponsored this year’s awards program.

Dr. Connelly has enjoyed a successful career in public education spanning over 31 years in North Carolina. He began his career in public education as a special education teacher assistant and teacher after proudly serving as an officer in the U.S. Army, including time in the 82nd Airborne Division, where he also deployed for combat in Operation Desert Storm.


After serving as the Chief of Staff for the Wake County Public School System from 2012-2018, Dr. Connelly was appointed to the position as Superintendent of Cumberland County Schools in 2018.


"I am deeply honored and humbled by this recognition, which is a testament to the unwavering dedication of the entire Cumberland County Schools family,” Dr. Connelly 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."

Jack Hoke, Executive Director of the NCSSA, praised Dr. Connelly’s outstanding reputation amongst his peers and his leadership that led to him winning the top honor for local superintendents in NC.

"Dr. Marvin Connelly is well-known amongst all superintendents in our state,” Hoke said. “He has proudly served our nation and then went on to serve his state and community by being a leader in public education. This award highlights his long-time commitment and dedication to meeting the needs of all students."

As a military veteran, Dr. Connelly is well suited to meet the unique needs of the military culture of Cumberland County. He initially saw a need to improve overall communications in his district and took proactive steps by actively engaging with the leaders in the community to develop strong bonds to foster an environment of inclusivity and transparency.

Those efforts garnered significant recognition with state and national awards from the North Carolina School Public Relations Association and the National School Public Relations Association highlighting the district’s creation of an inclusive and supportive communication environment.  

Dr. Connelly has been the driving force in developing measures to ensure every student in his district feels valued and supported and that they receive a high-quality education. By seeking continuous improvement in his district through decisions and policies on equity and diversity, and relying on feedback from students, parents, educators, and the community, Dr. Connelly ensures a high-quality education for all students and helps to prepare them for success in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world.

As the 2024 A. Craig Phillips North Carolina Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Connelly will compete for the National Superintendent of the Year honor at the American Association of School Administrators' National Conference on Education in San Diego, CA, Feb. 15-17, 2024.

The following 2024 North Carolina Regional Superintendents of the Year, who all were nominees for North Carolina’s prestigious state award, were also recognized at the Nov.14 ceremony:

  • Northeast | Dr. Barry Williams, Gates County Schools

  • Southeast | Dr. Wesley Johnson, Clinton City Schools

  • Central | Dr. Rhonda Schuhler, Franklin County Schools

  • Sandhills | Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr., Cumberland County Schools

  • Piedmont/Triad | Dr. Stephen Gainey, Randolph County School System

  • Southwest | Dr. Aaron Allen, Lincoln County Schools

  • Northwest | Dr. Matt Stover, Catawba County Schools

  • Western | Mr. Aaron Greene, Polk County Schools

Previous Raymond Sarbaugh Leadership Award Recipients:

2023 | Dr. Ethan Lenker
2022 | Marvin Connelly
              Marcie Holland

2021 | Tabari Wallace
2020 | Patrick Miller
2019 | Jeff Hollamon
2018 | Glenda Jones
              David Hicks

2017 | Frank Till, Jr.
2016 | Dr. Rodney Shotwell
2015 | Dr. Dudley Flood
              Charlie Glazener

2014 | Jo Ann Norris
2013 | Donald L. Martin, Jr. 
2012 | Dr. James Casuby
2011 | Dr. Larry Price
2010 | Mr. Jack Hoke
2009 | Ms. Melisa Jessup

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Dr. Ethan Lenker, Superintendent of Pitt County Schools, Awarded 2023 Raymond Sarbaugh
Leadership Award

CONCORD | Dr. Ethan Lenker, Superintendent of Pitt County Schools, was awarded the NC Association of School Administrators’ (NCASA) 2023 Raymond Sarbaugh Leadership Award during the NCASA 2023 Conference on Educational Leadership.

This award, named in honor of NCASA’s first full-time Executive Director, the late Raymond Sarbaugh, is given 

annually to an NCASA member who shows outstanding leadership in public school service, as well as a commitment to enhancing and supporting the efforts of fellow school administrators and NCASA. Over his decades of service to North Carolina public schools, Dr. Lenker has distinguished himself as a “leader among leaders” through his tireless dedication to improving public schools and for his support of his school leader colleagues and the thousands of students they serve.

A true servant leader, Dr. Lenker is deeply committed to the success of not only his own students and staff, but to the success of all public school students in North Carolina. When he is not visiting

schools and monitoring achievements in his own district, Dr. Lenker can likely be found uplifting his colleagues through his work on numerous boards and committees, including the Board of Directors for NCASA and the NC School Superintendents’ Association (NCSSA) Board. In these leadership positions, Dr. Lenker routinely commits himself to understanding nuanced situations, encouraging change when necessary, and always providing support to colleagues in need. His ongoing willingness to collaborate with others and tireless advocacy on behalf of our public schools make him truly deserving of this prestigious leadership award.

Dr. Ethan Lenker was selected as Superintendent of Pitt County Schools in 2013, following several years as Superintendent of Sampson County Schools and Jones County Schools. Dr. Lenker was given numerous awards in recognition of his leadership, including but not limited to the NCASA Southeast Superintendent of the Year, the NCSSA Dr. Brad Sneeden Leadership Award, and Superintendent of the Year by three different education regions across our state. In addition to his service as Superintendent, Dr. Lenker has also served as a central office director, principal, assistant principal, and teacher in various NC school systems. Dr. Lenker received his Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics Education and his Master of Arts in Education from Virginia Tech University, as well as his Doctorate of Education from East Carolina University.

“His commitment to public schools and the students they serve is second to none and it shows in all aspects of his work,” says NCASA Executive Director, Katherine Joyce. “Also as a go-to colleague that North Carolina’s newer — and even the most veteran —superintendents rely on, Dr. Ethan Lenker has distinguished himself as a ‘leader among leaders,’ making him very deserving of this prestigious NCASA award.”

Previous Champion for Children Award Recipients:

2023 | Jack Hoke
2022 | NC Sen. Don Davis
2021 | Beverly Emory
2020 | NC Rep. Jeffrey Elmore
2019 | Gov. Roy Cooper
2018 | D. Craig Horn
2017 | Hugh Blackwell
2016 | James H. Langdon, Jr. 
2015 | John Dornan
2014 | Ann B. Goodnight
2013 | Linda P. Johnson
2012 | Beverly E. Perdue
2011 | Bill McNeal &
             June St. Clair Atkinson

2010 | Vernon Malone
2009 | Howard N. Lee
2008 | Rick Glazier
2007 | Douglas Yongue
2006 | James B. Hunt, Jr. &
              Michael F. Easley

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Jack J. Hoke, NCSSA Executive Director, Awarded 2023 Champion For Children Award

CONCORD | Mr. Jack J. Hoke, Executive Director of the NC School Superintendents’ Association (NCSSA), was awarded the 2023 Champion for Children Award during the NC Association of School Administrators’ (NCASA) 2023 Conference on Educational Leadership.


The Champion For Children Award, a prestigious honor given annually by NCASA to an individual demonstrating leadership

in supporting and enhancing public education, was awarded this year to Mr. Hoke in recognition of over five decades of service as an educator, mentor, and fierce advocate for public schools. While NCASA has historically given this award to a legislator, Governor, or other high-ranking state official, Mr. Hoke received an exceptional outpouring of support for his nomination from school administrators across the state, many of whomcontinue to rely on Mr. Hoke for his unparalleled guidance and support.

For over a decade in his current role as NCSSA Executive Director, Mr. Hoke has served as an invaluable resource to school leaders across the state, and especially to those he mentors in NCSSA’s acclaimed professional development programs for current and aspiring superintendents. Never one to shy away from

professional development programs for current and aspiring superintendents. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Mr. Hoke is known for his dedication to helping school leaders navigate difficult situations, as he did throughout the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite having access to politicians, policymakers, and other decision makers from all backgrounds, Mr. Hoke never fails to make himself available to anyone who asks for his help, making him well-deserving of this special award.

Before accepting his current role as NCSSA Executive Director, Mr. Hoke served as Superintendent of Alexander County Schools for several years, earning him  numerous awards, including the Northwest Regional Educational Service Alliance Superintendent of the Year, as well as the NC Order of the Long Leaf Pine.


Prior to his role as Superintendent, Mr. Hoke worked in several roles in Caldwell County Schools, including high school teacher and coach, assistant principal, and principal. A true Appalachian State University (ASU) fan, Mr. Hoke received his Bachelor’s of Science, Certification in Business Education Teaching, Master’s degree in Public School Administration, and Education Specialist degrees from ASU.

“Jack Hoke is a hero to every local superintendent in North Carolina that he mentors,” says NCASA Executive Director, Katherine Joyce. “The support he provides these district leaders and his advocacy at the state level on their behalf make him a true ‘Champion for Children’ that NCASA is proud to honor.”

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