By Tammy Minnigh • Staff Writer
MONTEREY — Highland County Public Schools is closer to filling administrative gaps
after the school board voted to hire a new superintendent on May 26.
Dr. Drew Maerz will start on July 1. Maerz will visit during the last week of school to begin transitioning from interim superintendent Charles Winkler.
School board chairman Kenny Hodges said a line from Maerz’s initial letter to the school about the position particularly caught his eye: “I desire to serve a rural school district.”
“I grew up in a really small town in Pennsylvania called Schwenksville,” Maerz said. He and his wife wanted to find a small community for the next phase of his career but promised their children they would not move until the youngest graduated, which she did this month.
“This is something my family has worked toward,” Maerz said.
This school year, Maerz has been the director of support services for the public school system in Asheboro, N.C. Before that, he spent 10 years as the director of testing and accountability. He also spent nine years in administration at the elementary and high school levels and began his education career 29 years ago as a chemistry teacher.
Maerz credits his parents with teaching him the value of public education.
“My parents had the opportunity to send me anywhere, and they chose public schools,” Maerz said.
His father taught him that four things couldn’t be taken away — one’s faith, integrity, family, and the value of one’s education.
His mother also taught him the value of serving the community.
“Public education, our job, is to nurture our children,” Maerz said. “We need to create opportunities for our students.”
Maerz said he would work with school staff, parents, civic groups, and the community.
“We need to engage the community to serve the students,” Maerz said.
In light of recent school shootings, Maerz emphasized his commitment to safety.
“We need to serve them with a safe environment,” Maerz said. “Even before they learn, it has to be safe.”
When asked by parent Jennifer Cox how he found Highland County, Maerz explained he often drove up Interstate 81 to visit his mother and had visited areas along the highway.
“Hiking and backpacking are passions of mine,” Maerz said.
In April, he and his wife visited Highland and were undaunted by a late snowfall. “We really like the area,” Maerz said. “The people we met were friendly.”
“I love laid-back,” added Cindy Maerz. “I love hiking and being outdoors. I love a good small-town vibe.”
“Hopefully, it’s the last move of our life,” Drew Maerz said.
Parent Brit Chambers spoke virtually, thanking Winkler for his service as interim superintendent and welcoming the Maerzes to Highland. “We’re excited to fold you into our community,” Chambers said.
Chambers asked Winkler if the school had decided to fold the special education director position into Maerz’s job requirements or recently hired elementary school administrator Nicole Cabral’s duties.
“We are working with current staff to try to develop a plan,” Winkler said, noting the school now has three open special education teacher positions.
“We may have to do some contract work,” Winkler said. “My No. 1 priority is to fill those teaching positions.”
Winkler said he and the school board interviewed three candidates for superintendent.
“Dr. Maerz blew me away in the interview,” Winkler said.
School board member Sherry Sullenberger was not at the meeting but participated by phone following a vote to allow her to do so in a closed session before the public meeting began.
The school board’s next monthly meeting will be June 9 at 7 p.m.
The board will hold a close-out meeting at 6 p.m. on June 30.