Board: Sanders never told she wouldn't get job

Sanders - Admin of Year Award 2019 NCAGT.jpg

Dr. Dave Mense (NCAGT President), Dr. Joanne Sanders and Dr. Sneha Shah-Coltrane (NCDPI Director for Advanced Learning and Gifted Education)


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Saying it wanted to respond to “much speculation and lack of understanding” about its search for a new superintendent, the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education released a rare public statement Thursday explaining what it said were “the circumstances surrounding” former interim Superintendent Joanne Sanders’ withdrawal from consideration as a candidate for the job and subsequent resignation from the school district.

The statement alludes to rumors in the community that Sanders’ abrupt retirement April 4 was a result of having learned that someone else had been selected for the superintendent position. The Daily Advance is also familiar with the rumors but has not reported them because they could not be substantiated.

Given those rumors, the school board said it felt it was “imperative to share some of the facts surrounding the search process.”

The statement confirms that Sanders, who took over as interim superintendent last August, was among several finalists for the superintendent position after the board’s first round of interviews. A statement released at the time of Sanders’ abrupt retirement had indicated she had applied for the superintendent position.

The board had scheduled a second round of interviews for the superintendent position on April 4. Sanders then notified the board of her plans to withdraw from the search process on March 28, according to the board’s statement.

“(Sanders) was asked by board members to reconsider her withdrawal, but she chose not to continue,” the statement reads.

Sanders then informed the board by email on April 4 that she had “resigned and retired effective immediately,” the statement reads. Sanders did so, the board said, despite their request that she stay on at least temporarily until a new interim superintendent could be chosen.

The school board never advised Sanders she was not going to get the superintendent’s job, the statement reads.

“Board members did not, individually or as a body, tell Joanne Sanders that she would not be hired or would receive anything less than fair and thorough consideration for the position. Rumors to the contrary are false and unfounded,” the statement reads.

The statement goes on to say it “would have been premature and inappropriate” for the board to reach a decision on choosing a superintendent prior to the April 4 interviews.

“The purpose of the second interview was to review and gather additional information from the candidates prior to making a decision,” the statement reads. “Joanne Sanders was never asked to withdraw or resign from the process or from her position, nor was she told that any other candidate would be offered the position. Any information to the contrary is incorrect.”

In fact, according to the board’s statement, Sanders was asked to stay on.

Sanders has not discussed her reasons for deciding to retire from the school district. In a statement she and the school board jointly released on April 4, she said she was retiring for “personal reasons” and asked the public to “respect her privacy.”

Thursday’s board statement goes on to state that board members appreciate Sanders’ “excellent service” to the school district over the years and, in particular, over the past eight months as interim superintendent.

The board statement also expresses appreciation that Rhonda James-Davis, the district’s career and technical education director since 2015, was willing to step in and serve as interim superintendent without advance notice following Sanders’ decision. Rhonda-Davis said in an interview with The Daily Advance this week that she plans to resume her role as CTE director once a permanent superintendent is in place.

The board’s statement claims that Sanders’ withdrawal from consideration as a candidate for superintendent was her decision and the board cannot change that. The statement asks both the public and school staff “to accept and respect” Sanders’ decision, as the “board must do.” It notes that the next superintendent, “whoever that will be,” will need the support of both school staff and the community to “continue moving our schools forward.”

“Please enthusiastically join us in that endeavor,” the statement asks. “Our students and community deserve no less.”