“I am just so overwhelmed,” Lembeck said, after receiving the surprise award Saturday night. “I am just so fortunate to be in a place and county where so many ask for so little. I have a focused board, great staff, teachers, and support of my husband, Harry. This is a very special county and I am so honored to be receiving an award for work I truly love doing.”
Saturday night marked the 49th year the MDJ has presented its Citizen of the Year award. Former Lockheed CEO Dick Pulver was the first to receive the surprise award in 1963.
MDJ General Manager Otis Brumby III presented the award to Lembeck. Lembeck can count herself among other community leaders and legends such as Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes, former Speaker of the House and current presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, and former Cobb Chairman and Georgia’s current Attorney General Sam Olens as one of the 49 distinguished award recipients of the past.
“Dr. Lembeck has great intellect, passion and vision. Her leadership for the Marietta School System has been outstanding,” Olens said.
Last year’s winner was former Pebblebrook High School Performing Arts Director and current Earl Smith Strand Theatre Executive Director Earl Reece.
Lembeck is a native of Brooklyn, New York, and first joined the Marietta School System in 1991 as a Westside Elementary School teacher. She moved up the ranks, as principal of Dunleath Elementary and Marietta Middle, then served as assistant superintendent for four years before taking over as superintendent in 2005.
Brumby said Lembeck has “faced the challenges of educating 8,000 students head-on. She is not one for excuses and isn’t afraid to try something new.”
Under her leadership, Marietta City School System was one of the first charter school systems in the state when she applied for the status in 2008. She has also expanded the prestigious International Baccalaureate program from high school to the middle and elementary school levels in an effort to compete with the county’s private schools. Today, Marietta is one of only a few systems in the U.S. that offers a kindergarten through 12th-grade IB education.
The system has also seen its test scores rise for all students under her leadership, and literacy and dropout rates have also improved.
“(Lembeck) has shown that hard work, demanding excellence and a good sense of humor can lead to exceptional results,” Brumby said. “She has shown strong leadership and the ability to balance the sometimes conflicting needs of students, parents, board members and taxpayers.”