Sanders tackles school chief duties


Joanne Sanders


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Joanne Sanders started her first full day as acting superintendent of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools on Tuesday, and already she was tackling a major challenge: making sure every classroom in the district has a teacher by the first day of school in two weeks. 

Sanders, who was named acting superintendent by the Board of Education on Monday in the wake of Larry Cartner’s resignation, said the exact number of teaching vacancies in the ECPPS district is a moving target because the interviewing process is going on every day. However, she acknowledged there are a significant number of open positions.

“HR is working day and night to fill these positions,” Sanders said, referring to the district’s human relations office.

With school opening in just a couple of weeks, Sanders said she is working closely with principals on plans to have a teacher in place in every classroom on the first day of school, with retired teachers being among the resources the school district is looking to.

Sanders added the teacher shortage is not unique to ECPPS but is a challenge across the state.

Interviews are still being conducted for the principal’s job at Northeastern High School, Sanders said, and she indicated she plans to have a principal recommendation for the Board of Education at its Aug. 27 meeting.

In the meantime, Northeastern assistant principals Chris Paullet and Sharron Bell are working together to get ready for the opening of school. Sanders said Paullet and Bell are a good team and the school will be ready for students to return.

Sanders, the district’s chief academic officer, said she was honored that the board had chosen her to take over after Cartner’s resignation.

“I really am overwhelmed with the board choosing me to lead this system because I believe in our students and our teachers and our staff,” Sanders said. “I’m honored that the board chose me for this position. I’m proud of our teachers and I’m proud of our students.”

Sanders said she is not seeking the position of ECPPS superintendent right now, but left open the possibility she might apply for the post.

Her biggest challenge, other than “continuing to hire qualified teachers to fill our classroom positions that are open,” Sanders said, is working on school safety and ensuring that schools are inviting and have students as their chief focus.

In order to inspire confidence among teachers and principals as the district undergoes a change in leadership just before the beginning of the school year, Sanders is meeting with teachers and principals individually and in groups. Sanders said she is letting principals and teachers know that central office personnel are available to provide support as needed as the new year starts.

Sanders holds a doctorate in educational leadership from North Central University. She also has a bachelor of science degree in elementary education, a master of education in curriculum and instruction, and a master of school administration. She said she never considered any career other than teaching.

“That’s the only job I ever wanted,” Sanders said. “There was never a doubt in my mind.”

Since 2015 Sanders has been chief academic officer for ECPPS. The Weeksville native and 1986 graduate of Northeastern High School started her teaching career in 1992 at P.W. Moore Elementary School and then taught in the Camden County Schools before returning to Pasquotank as coordinator of services for academically or intellectually gifted students at Weeksville. She later took on the AIG coordinator position for the district.

Sanders said the school district will receive state testing scores in September which will determine priorities for the coming year. The schools will celebrate their successes in specific areas while buckling down and working hard to address weaker areas identified in the testing results.

Sanders said she is reevaluating the way ECPPS uses Learning Focused, a framework for lesson planning and instruction. ECPPS is in the third year of implementing Learning Focused and “will use it as a resource” in the 2018-19 school year, she said.

But schools will have greater flexibility in how they use the Learning Focused framework, according to Sanders. The focus is on meeting the needs of individual students, she said.

“I have full confidence in the teachers in our system,” Sanders said. “My goal is to allow the schools to make decisions on how they use Learning Focused as a resource.”

Sanders said she never forgets that the students are the reason for everything the schools do.

“I believe in high expectations and that our students should be encouraged, challenged and loved,” Sanders said.