Mark Garrett has served as the Superintendent of McDowell County Schools since October 2013. He is the 2021 Northwest Region Superintendent of the Year and a finalist for the North Carolina Association of School Administrators State Superintendent of the Year. During his tenure the district has experienced unprecedented academic growth, moving from multiple low performing schools to zero. Record high graduation rates and record low dropout rates have also resulted from the student centered approach that is in place all across the district. Teacher turnover has been reduced and facilities have been upgraded, most recently resulting in the construction of a brand new Old Fort Elementary School thanks to the procurement of a $15 million dollar grant.
Mr. Garrett made an early impact with the completion of an inherited building and restructuring project that saw McDowell County Schools move from a K-6, 7-9, 10-12 configuration to K-5, 6-8, 9-12. This required the planning and execution that relocated personnel and changed every bus route in the county. That very same year, he introduced a telemedicine program that provided access to medical care for students while in school. The program expanded to all schools the next year, and Mr. Garrett was named the School Based Health Alliance N.C. Superintendent of the Year.
A first generation college graduate, Mr. Garrett is always seeking ways to expand opportunities for students. He has continuously expanded Career Technical Education programs during his tenure; bringing back an Agriculture program to the district after a 30+ year absence, as well as starting a Public Safety Academy that began with Fire and EMS courses and then expanded to include Law & Justice. Advance Manufacturing courses have also been added, as a result of input from local industries, that now includes internships and apprenticeships for students. He has also presided over the development and opening of a STEM magnet middle school, a STEM career focused Cooperative Innovative High School, and a K-12 Virtual Academy. Most recently, McDowell County Schools began providing Universal PreK to all 4 year old students at no cost to families.
Leadership development is important to Mr. Garrett, as well, as witnessed by the honor of McDowell County Schools having three of the last four Northwest Region Principal of the Year winners and one Regional Teacher of the Year.
In addition to K-12 public schools, Mr. Garrett serves in other leadership roles at the state and community level including: the myFutureNC Advisory Board of Commissioners, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Board of Directors, the McDowell Technical Community College Board of Trustees, the Western North Carolina Regional Education Foundation Board of Directors, the WRESA Superintendent Council (as both a member and former chairperson), and previously as a member of the Board of Directors for both the McDowell County Health Coalition and the Corpening Memorial YMCA. He has consistently aligned himself with organizations that directly serve young people and their families.
Mr. Garrett joined McDowell County Schools in 2012 as the Assistant Superintendent. Prior to coming to McDowell, he served as principal of Avery County High School in Newland and principal of Valle Crucis School in Watauga County. He has also served as a high school assistant principal and middle school social studies teacher. Mr. Garrett has worked for school systems in North Carolina and Tennessee. A native of Jefferson City, Tennessee, he resides in Marion with his wife, Alison, and three children (Tatum, Aubrey, & Luke).