ORANGE COUNTY – Four years after Monique Felder was sworn in as Superintendent of Orange County Schools, she wrote her resignation letter this week.
The letter of resignation states, “It is with a heavy heart that I share, based on conversations I have had with the Orange County Board of Education, that I will no longer serve as your superintendent. My last day will be August 2, 2023. As the district moves into the next chapter, my hope is that the core values that we created together as a learning community will continue to hold true. Most importantly, we continue to value diversity and put children first. Each and every student in our district deserves to feel welcome, appreciated, valued, seen, and heard for exactly who they are so they can reach their maximum potential. I want those values to shine as a beacon for everyone in Orange County, regardless of their background or beliefs.”
Felder did not give a specific reason for her sudden departure. Instead, she shared that she would remain an active contributing member of the Orange County community. She hopes to continue advocacy for public education equity and remain the district’s biggest cheerleader.
During her time with Orange County Schools, Felder achieved many goals. In her open letter, Felder expressed pride in several achievements, such as the number of students of color enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses has increased by almost 50% in two years due to the district’s equity plan.
After she was hired in 2019, the Orange County school board offered Felder a one-year extension, voting unanimously to keep her as superintendent through 2024.
However, when her contract again came up for extension, the school board denied it. In a response to the decision, Felder wrote, “Some will always exploit times of uncertainty to advance their own limited or destructive agendas.”
The school board was not able to comment on their decision due to privacy laws in personnel matters, according to University of North Carolina School of Government information.
“This is not new, nor is it exclusive to our district. From a leadership perspective, however, it is entirely unacceptable,” Felder wrote. For over 32 years, I have worked tirelessly and exclusively for the service of all children, and right now we have a priceless opportunity before us to keep things moving in the right direction.”
Senator Graig Meyer, who represents Orange County, criticized the decision, thanked Felder for her service, and questioned the situation that led to her resignation.
“As an Orange County Schools parent and a State Senator, I am extremely disappointed that the Orange County Schools Board of Education has forced out Dr. Monique Felder as Superintendent. I thank Dr. Felder for her service to our district’s students. I appreciated the chance to work with her. She was a strong advocate for students who struggled the most in school, which is surely part of why she was forced out.
“The current board seems to have had it out for Dr. Felder since the last election. The school board has put taxpayers, parents, and students in a terrible position. There are more than 20 superintendences changing hands in North Carolina this summer. I encourage the residents of Orange County to pay close attention to this board and to consider carefully who they vote for in the next election,” Meyer stated.
Hillsborough Mayor Jenn Weaver also commented on Felder’s departure. “Dr. Felder has been an incredible leader for Orange County Schools. I am very sorry to see her go. A huge loss for our district’s kids, including my own.”
A final decision on Friday by the Orange County Board of Education placed Dr. Jim Merrill as interim superintendent for up to six months, beginning August 3. A resident of Mebane, NC, Merrill is a veteran educator who served as a superintendent for over 17 years with several school districts, including Wake County Public Schools, Alamance-Burlington Schools and the Virginia Beach City Schools in Virginia, district officials said in a news release
The Orange County Board of Education is expected to establish a timeline to launch a search for the next superintendent.
“I count it an honor to be asked to join Orange County Schools in opening the 2023-2024 school year,” Merrill said in a news release. “Orange County’s commitment to academic progress for all students is well known in North Carolina. I look forward to collaborating with teachers, support staff, school and district leadership, parents, and community advocates as we help our young people learn and grow.”
Tyria McCray-Bourda is a story-driven journalist whose work also appears in The Carolinian newspaper in Raleigh. With a bachelor’s in journalism & mass communication from North Carolina A&T State University, she has the distinction of having interviewed President Joe Biden when he was a candidate on the campaign trail and Vice President Kamala Harris.