Schools could make superintendent pick tonight

Mike Gellatly -

PEMBROKE — The Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County is holding a special meeting tonight, during which a new superintendent could be named.

The meeting will held at 7 p.m. at the transportation classroom at 621 Kenric Road in Lumberton. As many as four candidates were interviewed in closed sessions held at COMtech near Pembroke on Saturday.

The board has chosen to keep all names of those involved secret until a final selection is made, but The Robesonian has been told by multiple sources that no internal candidates remain.

The superintendent position became available on Jan. 10 when six board members voted to buy out then Superintendent Tommy Lowry’s contract. Shanita Wooten has been serving as the system’s interim superintendent.

According to Allison Schafer of the North Carolina School Boards Association, which has helped with the search, 21 applicants who met the criteria set out by the board had applied by the mid-April deadline. An initial round of interviews was conducted in late May.

Schafer set out the timeline for candidate selection, which included naming the new superintendent by July 1 with the individual taking office Aug. 1. The same timeline had the final candidates selected and having background checks undertaken by the school board association around this time.

The school board association facilitates the interviews but has no part in the actual selection of the superintendent, which is the board’s decision.

Thomas Graves, a veteran Virginia educator who six members of the board tried to install the same night Lowry was fired, has said he applied for the position, but The Robesonian has learned he is not a finalist.

The six members of the school board who voted Lowry out were the same who tried to install Graves. That decision was reversed when it became known that the board had not followed its own policy to advertise the position.

Charles Bullard, Dwayne Smith, Randy Lawson, Brian Freeman, Peggy Wilkins-Chavis and Steve Martin were the six members who voted to oust Lowry from the position, buy out his $180,000 contract and install Graves.

The board appears still divided as it settles on a superintendent. Those same board members, with the exception of Bullard, last week did not agree to a request from the Pembroke Kiwanis Club to honor Lowry with a resolution wishing him the best in his retirement. Bullard had left the meeting early.

Some board members defended their actions by saying Lowry had refused to attend his retirement banquet, but there was no banquet specifically for Lowry. He did not attend a banquet for all the system’s recent retirees. On Monday night the county commissioners did approve the resolution for the club, which will honor Lowry on July 8 as part of Lumbee Homecoming.

Mike Gellatly

Mike Gellatly can be reached at 910-816-1989.

Mike Gellatly can be reached at 910-816-1989.

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