LUMBERTON — The Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County has started advertising for a new schools superintendent, doing so after settling on what attributes that person should have in order to lead a system of 42 schools, 24,000 students and about 2,800 employees, including 1,800 teachers.
The board’s own policy requires the job be advertised, which some members attempted to ignore in an aborted hiring attempt.
The school board on Tuesday outlined what it wants in a candidate, selecting five qualities from a list offered by the North Carolina School Boards Association. They are instructional leadership, skilled financial planning, and the ability to successfully work with diverse populations, to foster community relations and to monitor student achievement.
The search is being conducted by the North Carolina School Boards Association, which will be paid about $25,000 for its help.
A detailed advertisement of the position, with an April 17 application deadline, has been posted. It is posted on more than a dozen websites that attract educators.
The association’s director of Policy, Allison Schafer, asked board members Tuesday if they planned to get community input on the hiring, but the board declined a comment period or the use of questionnaires to gauge opinion. Board member Mike Smith said the board still has questionnaires from the search it conducted 18 months ago.
“We’ve had a lot of feelings and feedback expressed in the last month,” Chairman Loistine DeFreece said.
The board split 6-4 in January over the firing of former Superintendent Tommy Lowry. An attempt by six members to hire Virginia-based educator Thomas Graves was made in violation of the board’s policy to advertise open positions. That sparked an uproar from parents and educators in Robeson County and prompted a lawsuit. The board withdrew its offer to Graves, who has indicated he intends to apply for the position.
Robeson County will face competition in trying to hire a superintendent, Schafer said. There are 10 districts in North Carolina searching for a new leader.
Candidates will be asked to write short essays explaining why they are interested in working in Robeson County, what they would do to improve student achievement, and offer ideas on how relationships between the central office and school board can be improved.
A timeline calls for applications to be reviewed and presented to the board in May. At the May 16 meeting the board will meet with association representatives and discuss scheduling initial interviews. Final interviews will take place in June with a goal of announcing a final candidate July 1. The plan is for the new superintendent to begin work Aug. 1.
This is at least the fourth time the state association has assisted with a local search for superintendent. In 2015, the search ended with an offer to Rick Watkins, an educator at Wingate College, but he declined the job after being publicly criticized by some members of the school board upset that he did an interview with The Robesonian. The board, instead of going back to the candidates that the search had produced, then split in a vote to hire Tommy Lowry, a longtime assistant superintendent who had not applied for the job.
Lowry was fired unexpectedly last month.
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly