Orange County Schools superintendent plans retirement in June

Feb. 05, 2013 @ 06:13 PM

Patrick Rhodes, superintendent of Orange County Schools since 2007, has informed the district he plans to retire June 30.

He has worked as a school teacher or administrator in North Carolina for 30 years.

“I have had the honor and privilege of spending half of these in the Orange County Schools, which is the place I call home and truly love,” Rhodes wrote in a statement issued in January. “I am grateful for the strong working relationships with the Board of Education and the many dedicated teachers and staff who have made our school system one of the best in the state.”

He cited several accomplishments during his tenure, including:

-- Closing achievement gaps.

-- Expanding pre-kindergarten, after school and summer programs.

-- Increasing instructional technology for students and staff.

-- Improving teacher working conditions.

-- Improving high school graduation rates, reducing dropouts and lowering suspensions.

-- Building the community’s trust and confidence in the school system.

-- Stabilizing district finances.

-- Managing state budget cuts without hurting classrooms.

“There is no better place to work, learn, and grow as a person, and my experiences here have truly been a blessing,” he wrote.

Born in Alamance County, Rhodes got a bachelor’s degree in biology from Elon University before attending the University of North Carolina as a Lyndhurst Fellow. He earned a master’s degree in science education.

He started his career as a science teacher in Durham Public Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. Eventually, he moved to Orange County Schools, where he taught science, coached basketball and became chair of Orange High School’s science department.

He was appointed principal of Orange High in 1996. Three years later, he was a finalist for North Carolina Principal of the Year.

In 2000, he returned to Durham to serve as principal of Riverside High School. In 2004, he was promoted to executive director for high schools in DPS. The year after that, he became K-12 associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction. He launched initiatives to close achievement gaps and boost graduation rates.

He joined OCS as superintendent in September 2007.

Rhodes, 53, said that he plans to spend more time with his wife, Kathleen, and their children and grandchildren. He also wants to work on sustainable agricultural projects on his family’s farm in Virginia and explore opportunities in the private sector.

The Board of Education is expected to start the process of finding a replacement for Rhodes at their Feb. 11 meeting, said Michael Gilbert, OCS spokesperson.

Donna Coffey, chair of the OCS board, said Tuesday the news didn’t come as a huge surprise to her. She retired a few years back from county government, she said, and recalled discussions with Rhodes about retirement.

“In my tenure with the board, I have very much appreciated Superintendent Rhodes’s dedication to the district,” Coffey said. “He is extremely passionate about public education and that has clearly shown throughout his tenure. I think we will miss him and wish him well on his journey.”

However, she added, Rhodes shouldn’t expect to coast through his final few months.

“We still have a budget to put together and a long-range capital plan,” Coffey said. “So, it’s not going to be an easy ride out of here.”

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