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After mounting a five-month search, the Alamance County Board of Education on Thursday named Mary Jo Martin from rural, coastal Perquimans County as its new superintendent.

Martin, the first woman chief executive in the county system's history and one of only seven in the state, will begin her $67,000-a-year job Nov. 1.Previously superintendent of the Perquimans schools with just 1,900 students and an operating budget of $7.5 million, Martin will take over a system five times as large. Alamance County has 11,000 students and a $38 million budget.

Only one other woman superintendent, Nancy Davis in Union County, is in charge of a larger North Carolina school system.

Martin said the larger system will present challenges, but ones she is prepared to meet.

``I believe it's your leadership skills that are important,' Martin said. ``If you are committed and energetic and believe in what you are doing, you're generally going to get people to buy in.'

Martin said her first year will not be full of curriculum or personnel changes as she adjusts to the area and the school system. She said she will emphasize business and parent involvement in the schools.

The school board recruited Martin after former superintendent Robert Stockard announced that he would retire in July. Since then, assistant superintendent Charles Jeffries has served as acting schools chief. He lacks a superintendent certificate and was not a candidate for the post, said Jerry Doss, chairman of the county education board.

Doss said Martin was highly recommended by other educators and officials. Although she was not the system's first choice - that person withdrew from consideration earlier in the summer - her qualifications are just as good, Doss said.

``She's a real people person,' he said. ``She's caring, she delegates well, she expects people to do the job well, and most of all she cares about the children.'

Doss said the fact that Martin will have to adjust to the larger school system did not present a problem as the board screened applicants. Martin was approved unanimously at a special meeting that was followed by a reception with county leaders.

``We are not looking at the size of the county, we were looking for the quality of the person,' Doss said.

Martin has been an educator for 30 years. Originally trained as a high school math teacher, she spent the bulk of her teaching career in her native Edgecombe County.

After a brief stay in Rocky Mount as an assistant principal, she moved to Vance County schools, where she held a variety of administrative posts before being named Perquimans' superintendent in 1988.

She holds a doctor of education degree from Duke University, a master's degree from East Carolina University and a bachelor of arts degree from Atlantic Christian College.


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