Supertintendent receives state’s highest civilian award

Contributed Photo | Retiring Robeson County school Superintendent Johnny Hunt, left, was presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Mike Smith, vice chairman of the school board, during a banquet Thursday. Conferred by Gov. Pat McCrory, the award is the state’s highest civilian honor.

LUMBERTON — Johnny Hunt, outgoing superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, recently received the state’s highest civilian honor as a parting gift.

Hunt, 59, was presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine during a Thursday banquet hosted by members of the school board. Established by the Long Leaf Pine Society in 1965, the award is designed to recognize “North Carolinians who have demonstrated exemplary service or made an exceptional contribution to the state or their communities.”

The award was conferred by Gov. Pat McCrory and presented by Mike Smith, vice chairman of the school board.

“I am deeply honored to be chosen for such an award,” Hunt said. “I know there is an elite group of people who have received this award across the state. I will cherish it for the remainder of my life. It has been an honor to serve the children, our staff and the citizens of Robeson County.”

Hunt, who will retire on June 30, has worked with the Public Schools of Robeson County for the past 39 years.

He began his career in public education as a teacher at Southside Ashpole and Union Elementary. From 1988 to 1998, he served as a principal at Rex-Rennert, Union Elementary and Prospect schools. He was assistant superintendent for Human Resources for Robeson County schools from 1998 to 2003, when he returned to Prospect for a second stint as principal.

He was named superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County in 2006.

“Dr. Hunt has done an outstanding job in the nine years as superintendent, but especially the past four-to-five years with the budget cuts,” Smith said. “We have had to revert back 45 million dollars to the state … but under his leadership, we did it without cutting programs and services to students and staff. We have been able to keep teacher assistants while other systems have been unable to.”

Hunt has also held leadership positions outside of the school system. He was on the Robeson County Board of Commissioners for 18 years, including 12 as chairman. Hunt was a member of the Robeson County Library Board for 15 years, and on COMtech’s board of directors for four years.

The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is the latest in a long list of accolades for Hunt, who was previously named the school system’s Principal of the Year and Administrator of the Year.

Some of his other awards include Distinguished Service in Indian Education from the United Tribes of North Carolina; Distinguished Service in the Indian Community from the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina; and Outstanding Service from the Center for Community Action.

“Dr. Hunt is recognized all across the state and the nation as a leader in education, and his service during his 39 years with the school system has been commendable,” said Tasha Oxendine, public information officer for the school system. “It’s going to be very hard to lose a superintendent of his caliber.”