Journal class

School board hears many questions about hiring a superintendent, raises

ELIZABETHTOWN — An overflowing crowd attended the regular Bladen County School Board meeting on Monday, many with the intention of speaking out or supporting those who did regarding recent events.

Eight speakers took to the podium, with the majority of comments directed at the board regarding both the hiring and the recent raise given to Superintendent Jason Atkinson.

“The first speaker, Cory Lyons, asked the council to answer several questions – which they said before the ‘citizen engagement’ segment they would not do.

Among these questions were: Why were other candidates not considered for the position of superintendent? what are the credentials required to apply for the position of superintendent; how do you determine the need for a superintendent’s raise; and is it true that the council voted to pay for the education of the present superintendent?

Charlotte Smith also spoke and asked many questions about the Superintendent’s position, as well as why meetings are not made available to everyone and why agenda items are not not made clear to the public before they are voted on.

“Bladen County school officials broke the law and someone needs to be held accountable,” she said. “Parents and their children are your ‘customers’. Board members, do better for our education system and use your power to find a new superintendent.

The Reverend Larry Hayes also had strong words for the council, also focusing on the recent passing of Deputy Superintendent Antonia Beatty.

“I am disappointed with this advice and the action it has taken,” he said. “You may as well take this (the sign in the council chamber that reads: ‘Producing responsible citizens by educating all students with the global skills needed for the 21st century’).”

Another speaker, a D. Goins, faulted the council for not making decisions based on current information in areas such as academics.

Liz Ruffin Cox, a regular visitor to the meetings, told the council: “We have asked for support for our students (at East Bladen), which seems to have fallen on deaf ears. To parents, guardians, caregivers, your children are set up for failure.

The room fell silent as Henry and Gloria Beatty, Antonia Beatty’s parents, came up to the podium and simply asked a question.

“Why?” asked Henry Beatty. “That’s really all we need to know. You may not have pulled the trigger, but you put the bullet in the gun.

The last speakers, G. Willis and Mary McMillan, wanted to know when the council would be able to give the public answers to the questions posed.

“We will be looking for answers,” council chairman Vinston Rozier said. “I’m not saying it will be by the next meeting…it could be before that.”

There was no indication of how these responses would be provided.

In another action on Monday, the council:

– Heard an update on the construction of the new Tar Heel School, including that the tentative groundbreaking date would be July 12 at 8:30 a.m.

— Received a copy of the strategic plan update for review and approval may take place at the July meeting.

– The new K-5 Basic Literacy Program was said to have been suspended pending review by the NC Board of Education.

— Approved the reappointment of Dennis Troy and Joseph Rozier to the Bladen Community College Board of Trustees.

– Considered a clear bag requirement for all schools starting in the fall, but the motion of approval died without a second. The problem could resurface in July.

— After a 90-minute closed session, the board approved the reinstatement of Transportation Director Robert Heavenridge’s contract, along with a number of certified and classified personnel.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or [email protected]