Board hopefuls discuss public input in superintendent search

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Ron Payne, new principal at Northeastern High School

George Archuleta Pasquotank School Board Candidate

By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The three candidates for two Outside City seats on the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education agree the public should have input in the selection of the school district’s next superintendent but they have different ideas about how to gather that input.

Current board Chairwoman Sharon Warden and former school administrator Ron Payne both agree the board should consider offering the public an opportunity to meet finalists for the superintendent position before the final selection is made. However, George Archuleta, a retired aircraft mechanic making his first bid for elective office, said he is firmly committed to making a public meet-and-greet part of the superintendent hiring process.

Payne called it “a good idea” and said it was “something the board should take a look at” since it “would make the process more transparent for the public.”

Warden said she’s open to the idea of bringing in superintendent finalists to meet the public.

“I’m not going to sat ‘no’ but I’m not committing to it,” Warden said. “But it is something to be considered seriously.”

Warden said a representative from the State School Boards Association will be attending the board’s Oct. 22 committee meetings to discuss the district’s search for a new superintendent. The association will be working with the board during its search for the new superintendent, she said.

“We haven’t really talked about what our exact plans are,” Warden said.

Warden said the board has held public forums as part of the process in previous superintendent searches.

“We are planning to do it this time much more extensively because we have all talked about the fact that we want to make sure that we hear from a wide section of our community and a diverse group from our community.”

Warden said she’s not sure how many forums will be held but the board plans to hold a number of them, and also conduct surveys online and on paper.

Payne also believes the search for ECPPS’ next superintendent needs to start now. Payne said if he’s elected, he would like to have the new superintendent on board by July 1, 2019, at the latest.

“We need to vet the candidates a lot better than I think they did last time,” Payne said. “I just really think you need to do your homework on each of the candidates and really vet the candidates as much as possible.”

He said the school board should hold meetings for faculty and staff, and community stakeholders, to receive input into the superintendent selection process.

“I think having town hall meetings in several areas of the city and county would be beneficial also,” Payne said, adding he thinks there should be four or five town hall meetings.

All three candidates were also asked if the school board should provide more explanation to the public about their reasoning should the board agree to pay money to buy out the remainder of a superintendent’s contract. The current school board agreed to pay former Superintendent Larry Cartner $318,000 in August as part of his agreement to resign from the school district.

School board members have declined to say why they felt it necessary to pay Cartner the negotiated settlement, saying they are prohibited by state law from discussing matters involving personnel decisions.   

Warden reiterated that the board is limited by personnel statutes from discussing Cartner’s resignation in more detail than it has.

“I’ll just say that there have been some things that I have learned and there are things that have weighed on my mind,” Warden said in the aftermath of the board’s handling of Cartner’s resignation.

“I believe I speak for the whole board when I acknowledge the public interest in Dr. Cartner’s resignation and the board’s decision relating to that resignation,” Warden said. “Integrity along with contractual negotiations are two of the biggest factors that prohibit any further explanation of the actions taken surrounding Dr. Cartner’s resignation. There was much consideration and thoughtful deliberation by the board before a final decision was made.”

Payne said he understands there are limits to what board members can say because of human resources issues. They have to listen to their attorney regarding what they can say, he said.

Archuleta, however, said the board should offer the public an explanation when they decide to pay money to a superintendent as part of a resignation agreement.

“There needs to be some transparency,” Archuleta said. If there are legal limitations on what board members can say then they need to work to change that, he said.

“That’s a lot of money,” Archuleta said of the amount paid to Cartner. “The public does deserve some explanation. And be transparent and say ‘we messed up.’ My father used to say, ‘If we were meant to be perfect they would not have put erasers on the end of pencils.’”