LUMBERTON — The Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County, which split in January when it fired former Superintendent Tommy Lowry, will attempt to come together during a meeting on Monday and hire the next superintendent.
But one board member has gone to social media and said that race has polluted the process.
The board, which normally meets on the second Tuesday of the month, is meeting on Monday this month at City Hall because it is still without a home because the central office was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. The meeting begins at 6 p.m.
It appears that the board remains divided as it nears the decision, having twice split when asked by a Pembroke civic club to pass a resolution to honor Lowry. Lowry was fired on Jan. 10 in a 6-5 vote, with the board electing to buy out his contract, which was to expire on June 30, 2018.
On Saturday, the board’s division became public on Facebook as John Campbell, an at-large member, sent out information accusing six members of the board, Brian Freeman, Dwayne Smith, Steve Martin, Randy Lawson, Charles Bullard and Peggy Wilkins-Chavis, of favoring a less qualified white candidate over a black finalist.
Campbell identified the black candidate as Dr. Eric Bracey, the current superintendent of the Sampson County school system, and he linked an article about Bracey being honored in April as the North Carolina Association of Educators’ 2017 Superintendent of the Year.
He wrote in part: “Six members of the PSRC Board of Education … are planning to hire a white male who’s never been a superintendent, or assistant superintendent, but is a program director in his current school district. Five members — Loistine DeFreece, Brenda Fairley Ferebee, Craig Lowry, Mike Smith and John Campbell — support Dr. Eric Bracey, the NC Association of Educators (NCAE) 2017 Superintendent of the Year. I know education is important to you and you want what is best for our school district, so please text, email, message, call, etc., to share this travesty in the making with as many Robesonians as possible before Monday’s board meeting.”
The board is being helped in the search by North Carolina School Boards Association. Allison Schafer, head of policy for the association, has said 21 qualified candidates had applied for the job, and they have been whittled down through interviews.
The original timeline was to have the superintendent on board by July 1, but when the board met that day no public decision was announced. During the meeting, Campbell left the meeting early, obviously upset, saying he “didn’t have time” for what was going on.
The Robesonian knows the names of the three finalists and has looked at their resumes. The newspaper has elected not to publish the names of the other two because it does not want to risk costing any of the candidates their current jobs. Because of Campbell’s Facebook posts, the newspaper saw no reason to keep Bracey’s name out of this story.
The newspaper has been told by multiple sources that the faction of Dwayne Smith, Randy Lawson, Peggy Wilkins-Chavis, Steve Martin, Charles Bullard and Brian Freeman, the ones who voted to fire Lowry and then not to honor him, have the votes to hire the superintendent of their choice.
Lowry was hired in the summer of 2015 when several of that group appeared to have the votes to hire Rick Watkins, a Wingate educator. But Watkins withdrew his candidacy after being offered the job, his name became public and some board members attacked his character.
The board, instead of returning to its list of applicants, then made the decision to hire Lowry, who originally had not applied for the job. Lowry left the system with almost 39 years as an educator.