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Ronald G. Cunningham, deputy superintendent of Charles County Public Schools, died New Year’s Eve as the result of a heart attack. He was 69.

“He’s going to be missed. ... It’s not easy to pick up and carry on, but he’d want us to do that,” said James E. Richmond, Charles County schools superintendent.

Richmond said the news of Cunningham’s death was devastating to him and school system staff.

Cunningham, of La Plata, began his career in education in 1964 as a social studies teacher at Crossland High School in Prince George’s County.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Indiana State College in Pennsylvania and a master’s degree from Georgetown University.

Between 1964 and 1979, Cunningham taught at Crossland and Surrattsville high schools.

From 1979 to 1981, Cunningham was the administrative assistant at Roger B. Taney Junior High School and John Hanson Junior High School in Prince George’s.

In 1981, he became vice principal of Bladensburg High School.

In 1982, Cunningham took a position as a specialist of the high school instruction team for Prince George’s County schools.

Cunningham was named principal of Bladensburg High School in 1984 and then became principal of High Point High School in Beltsville in 1988, where he remained principal until he began working in Charles County.

Cunningham moved to Charles County public schools in 1994 as a regional administrator.

He was appointed associate superintendent of schools in 1997 and was named deputy superintendent of schools in 2005. The position, school officials said, remained the same, but the title changed.

Wendell Martin, principal of Theodore G. Davis Middle School in Waldorf, began working with Cunningham in 2007.

Martin said he always will remember that Cunningham “was professional, yet very personable.”

Martin said Cunningham kept up with all that was going on in the lives of each principal.

In 2008, Martin recalled his grandmother died and the very next school day, Cunningham went to his school just to check on him and acknowledge the loss.

L.C. Martin, principal of Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf, agreed that Cunningham was personable and that “he was very decisive, firm but fair.”

Both Cunningham and L.C. Martin worked in Prince George’s County prior to coming to Charles County.

L.C. Martin said the two knew of each other for about 40 years, though they never worked together until 12 years ago, when Cunningham was instrumental in him getting a principal’s position at Westlake High School.

L.C. Martin said Cunningham’s best characteristic was his ability to listen.

“He always listened to people when making a decision. Even if you didn’t agree, he explained it. There was never any guesswork,” he said.

Cunningham, L.C. Martin said, was an “outstanding educator” who always put student interests first.

Cunningham resided in Charles County for 35 years, school officials said.

“He was a pleasure to work with; he had a great attitude, he loved children and he loved people,” Richmond said.

Richmond said as deputy superintendent of schools, Cunningham was the chief operating officer daily for all of the schools and worked directly with principals.

Richmond notified staff over the weekend of Cunningham’s death via email and met with principals and central office staff Monday.

Details on funeral arrangements were not available Tuesday afternoon.

gphillips@somdnews.com