ECPPS faculty weigh in on next leader
By Reggie Ponder
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
After initially having little to say about what they’d like to see in the next superintendent, teachers and staff at Northside Elementary School came up with plenty of recommendations and ideas Monday for members of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education.
Pam Burnham, a school counselor, was among the Northside staff and faculty members who weighed in on what qualities they’d like to see in ECPPS’ next leader.
“My concern is that we have a superintendent that cares about people,” Burnham said during a staff forum at Northside hosted by the Board of Education.
The forum was one of three the board is conducting, in addition to four forums for the community, to get input on the qualities and characteristics ECPPS’ next superintendent of schools should have. Another staff forum is scheduled for Wednesday in the Sheep-Harney auditorium and a third is scheduled for Thursday in the Northeastern High School cafeteria. Both forums are set for 4 p.m.
In addition, school staff and the general public may respond to a survey about the next superintendent that is available either in paper form or online at www.ecpps.k12.nc.us.
The school board is hosting the series of forums and sponsoring the survey as part of the search it’s conducting for a successor to Larry Cartner, who resigned from ECPPS in August, just before the start of the school year.
Burnham said at Monday’s forum that Simona White is a wonderful principal at Northside. She said she loves both her work and her students but believes that since teachers are held accountable, central office administrators should be held accountable as well.
“I think a lot of things are overlooked, swept under the rug and ignored,” Burnham said.
She said she was unable to work because of a school-related injury and that when she contacted the superintendent about it “he made me feel like trash.”
“Nobody wants to come to work and be disrespected,” Burnham said.
Barbara Davis said the next superintendent needs to understand what teachers like her are dealing with in the classroom.
“We need a superintendent that is homegrown,” Davis said.
The superintendent should be knowledgeable, accessible, and willing to work alongside teachers rather than just sit in an office and drink coffee, Davis said. The superintendent also should be someone who knows how to teach, she added.
Heather Meads said she is concerned that teacher turnover will spike if a new superintendent comes in and tries to change everything all at once.
“When change seems to come from the top, teachers leave,” Meads warned.
The superintendent should take time to get to know the school district before implementing changes, she said.
Michele Renaldi said she would like to see a superintendent who has classroom experience and understands child development.
“Personally I would love a superintendent who has elementary school experience,” Renaldi said.
While Northside staff eventually expressed their ideas about a new superintendent, no one had signed up to speak at the beginning of Monday’s forum.
After Sharon Warden, chairwoman of the school board, gave brief introductory remarks, Warren Blades pointed to the $318,000 payout to Cartner the school board agreed to in connection with Cartner’s negotiated resignation. Blades urged the board to hold off on renewing the next superintendent’s contact at the end of the initial term in order to avoid getting locked into having to make a similar large contract payout.
Elizabeth City-Early College Principal Amy Fyffe said she believes the ECPPS Board of Education is conscientious, accessible, and unbiased in the way it deals with parents. She urged staff to fill out the survey.
Board member Buck Jolly asked teachers to relax, let out a laugh, and then sign up to speak.
“We want you to tell us things,” Jolly said. “We want your ideas. We want your thoughts.”
After school staff weighed in, Warden said the board appreciated hearing what they had to say.
“We as a board do appreciate you, we hear you and we are going to listen to what you said today,” she said.