Merv Daugherty is leaving Red Clay as superintendent as of Nov. 1

Looking back on his decade as superintendent in the Red Clay Consolidated School District, Merv Daugherty is hard pressed to recall any one single memory that stands out as defining. 

“It’s tough to narrow to one,” he said. “Ever since I said I was leaving, people have been approaching me with all these interactions, telling me things. Some I remember, some I don’t, but it’s good that they have these positive memories.”

On Nov. 6, after 18 years in the Red Clay school district – 10 of those as its leader – Daugherty will be stepping down as superintendent for a position in Chesterfield County Public Schools in Virginia.

Originally from Cumberland, Md., Daugherty said he was initially considering a career in the military before a teacher at his high school, Ed Shupe, took him under his wing as a mentor.

“He got me into college, which I wasn’t planning on doing,” Daugherty said. “I wasn’t a great student.”

His experiences playing and coaching football in college helped cement his desire to become an educator.

He started his career in education at Queen Anne’s County High School in Maryland, teaching and coaching, adding that he couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.

“I had supportive people – people who cared about kids, and I think that’s our business. Kids are first,” he said. “I tell people that one person can change the life of as many kids as they want, but you have to take the time.”

Daugherty started at Red Clay in 2000, as an administrator at John Dickinson High School, before moving to HB DuPont Middle School as principal the following year.

“I thought I would just be a high school or secondary principal,” Daugherty said of his move into administration.

When the opportunity came to work as director of professional development in 2005, Daugherty made the move to the district office, where he said one can disappear from the rest of the school community.

“As a principal, you have a position that people can understand. Once you get to the district office, people wonder what you do all day,” he said. “You lose some identity there.”

As superintendent, Daugherty said he tried to take a different approach than some of his peers, making himself visible whenever possible at events and at the district’s 27 schools.

“When you do that, you understand why you keep doing your job and helps you keep focused on your goal, which is improving the education of your students,” he said.

Of the legacy he leaves behind, Daugherty is particularly proud of Project SEARCH, a nine month school to work job development internship program for students ages 18-21 with cognitive and developmental disabilities that partners with Christiana Care Health System.

He’s also proud of the district’s 2018 national Grand Prize win of the Magna Award from the National School Boards Association for its college and career readiness programs.

“I think I am leaving at a time where the district is in good shape, and I am proud of that,” he said. “I think we’re strong academically …. I tell people, any success we have is because of the schools, the people on the front line every day.”

Overall he’s proud of the reputation the district has among residents.

“Our community knows that we care about their children,” he said. “We’ve sent a strong message, not only in our talk but in our walk, no matter where you’re from, what zip codes, whatever – the staff has really taken that opportunity and excelled in that area, from the to the district office on down to the schools. And I think that’s a compliment to their dedication.”

Daugherty’s new district in Virginia encompasses 67 schools, stretching from Richmond to Petersburg – a little bigger than Red Clay’s roughly 15,000 students.

“Why not?” he said of the challenge of taking on a larger district. “The opportunity crossed our path and we hope we can replicate some of the success we’ve had here.”