MONROE, N.C. -- The Union County school board on Tuesday unanimously named its deputy superintendent to replace Ed Davis as superintendent of the state’s sixth-largest system.
Mary Ellis, 53, enters at a fractious time, as the schools and county could be heading for a showdown over the district’s efforts to obtain
$6.7 million in additional county money to avoid cutting all 350 teacher assistant jobs.
Ellis, a resident of Fairview, has worked in the district for 33 years, the last seven in her current post. She will earn $190,000 a year during her four-year contract, which starts July 1.
Ellis is the first female superintendent for the district, which was created by the 1993 merger of the Union County and Monroe school districts; the county had a female superintendent before the merger.
“We believe (Ellis’) vision, enthusiasm, energy and knowledge shone through in the (finalists’) interviews,” said school board Chair Dean Arp. “She is exactly the person to lead the district forward. she has had intimate knowledge of the situation the county and state are in with tight budgets.”
Davis, who is retiring, has been at the center of the budget debate. Davis has been with the school district for 35 years, and was its superintendent for the past seven years.
Additional money from the county is needed to help close a $9.6 million deficit in the school district’s 2012-13 budget. But a majority of Union commissioners don’t favor providing the money, which traditionally has come from the state.
That may force the school district to seek outside mediation to resolve the dispute.
The school system has about 40,300 students and 4,350 employees in 53 schools. Union County’s 89.1 percent graduation rate is fifth-highest in the state, and highest among the larger districts.
The district received 20 applications for the superintendent’s job and interviewed five people, Arp said. He called Ellis “absolutely the most qualified.”
She has worked as a teacher and principal, in addition to serving as an administrator.
Ellis was named Distinguished Educator of the Year in 2011 by the N.C. Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, and is a former regional teacher of the year. Ellis also created a career academy for at-risk students and implemented a special needs advisory council.