MANATEE COUNTY SCHOOL LEADERSHIP HONOREES
MARY CANTRELL: Died July 13 at age 71
A lifelong educator, Cantrell was most recently a member of the Manatee County School Board before her death. She beat out incumbent Julie Aranibar to win the District 5 seat in November 2014.
She was at Manatee Technical College for more than 18 years where she led the initiative to move the school's main campus from Bradenton to East Manatee on State Road 70.
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Cantrell was born in Texas, the youngest of four children. Her father died when she was 3, and her mother left her and her siblings at an orphanage. Cantrell went on to finish both high school and college early, earning a bachelor's degree in education from the University of North Texas, a master's degree in education from the University of South Florida and doctoral degree in career/technical education from USF.
Cantrell and her husband, Louis, were married for almost 50 years. She is survived by five children and two grandchildren.
GENE WITT: Died Feb. 5 at age 85
Witt served as Manatee County superintendent of schools from 1983 to 1994 when he retired. Witt was involved in teaching, coaching and supervising in Manatee County schools for 38 years before retiring. Witt attended Manatee High School and graduated in 1948.
Witt began his career as a teacher and coach in the district in 1955. He served as principal of Samoset Elementary, Bayshore Junior High, Palmetto High and Southeast High. He was promoted to director of secondary education and then became assistant superintendent before assuming the role of superintendent in 1983.
Witt Elementary was named in his honor in 1994.
After his retirement, Witt worked short stints in Sarasota County schools.
Witt is survived by his wife, Betty; three children; five grandchildren; and six great grandchildren.
DAN NOLAN: Died Jan. 9 at age 76.
Nolan came out of retirement in 2000 to serve as district superintendent for three years before handing over the job to Roger Dearing. Nolan Middle School in Lakewood Ranch, which opened in August 2004, is named after him.
Nolan served 42 years in the school system, starting as a teacher and advancing through the ranks before retiring as an assistant superintendent in 1998. When the school board relationship with then-Superintendent Gene Denisar soured, Nolan came out of retirement to serve as interim superintendent. The school board signed him to a three-year contract as superintendent in March 2000 after a nationwide search.
He finally retired again June 30, 2003.
Nolan is survived by his wife, Marilyn, whom he met while working in the school district.
-- Compiled by Meghin Delaney, education reporter