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Pandemic still having big effect on area employment

COVID-19 continued to have a big impact on the region’s employment in May, as more than 4,800 residents in five area counties — roughly 11 percent of the counties’ total workforce — reported being without a job.

There were some encouraging signs, however.

The region’s number of unemployed in May was about 120 fewer than in April; three of the five counties reported lower jobless rates than in April; and the total workforce in the five counties actually grew by 372 workers, according to data released this week by the N.C. Department of Commerce.

Chowan County in fact reported, along with Bertie County, the lowest jobless rate — 8.1 percent — in the state for May. That was despite Chowan’s jobless rate actually rising from 7.8 percent in April.

According to the Commerce Department data, Chowan’s workforce grew by 110 from April, when it was 5,442, to 5,552 in May. Its number of jobless, however, grew from 428 in April to 452 in May.

Win Dale, executive director of the Edenton-Chowan Chamber of Commerce, said it was “impressive” the county was tied with Bertie for the lowest unemployment rate in the state.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been in that position,” he said.

Dale said Chowan “was blessed” in that many of its industries and businesses were deemed “essential” when Gov. Roy Cooper issued his stay-at-home order this spring. As a result, many were able to stay open.

With the state still in Phase 2 of Cooper’s reopening plan, there are still some businesses like the Taylor Theater, gyms and caterers that have not been able reopen yet. At least one restaurant also hasn’t been able to reopen, Dale said.

But he was optimistic both the local and national economies “are coming back,” noting that the national unemployment rate has now fallen to 11.1 percent.

As for why the county’s unemployment rate went up in May, Dale wasn’t sure.

“It could be that people who’ve been trying to get through the state unemployment system to file a claim may have finally gotten through,” he said. “That may have been a contributing factor. It could be they were unemployed in March and April but only showed up (as unemployed) in the May report.”

Pasquotank County was the only other county to report an increase in unemployment. Its rate rose from 11.3 percent in April to 11.4 percent in May.

Pasquotank’s workforce also grew in May, increasing by 134 to 16,750. Its number of jobless also increased, from 1,876 in April to 1,907 in May.

The Commerce Department also released unemployment data for 24 micropolitan statistical areas, including Elizabeth City. According to that data, Elizabeth City’s number of unemployed increased by 12 people to 2,759 in May, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 10.6 percent.

Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Development Commission Director Christian Lockamy said he’s optimistic the county’s jobless rate will be lower when June’s unemployment figures are released.

The state entered Phase 2 of Gov. Roy Cooper’s reopening plan on May 22 and Lockamy suspects many people returned to the workforce as the economy started to reopen.

“As we move forward things should improve,” he said. “I’m optimistic that the economy will be more stabilized (by the end of the year).”

Lockamy also said that business leaders, entrepreneur’s and small businesses owners he talks with across the county share that optimism.

“Confidence, it’s definitely down a little bit, but it is not out of the ballpark,” Lockamy said. “They all feel that this will be short-lived and it is just a matter of getting through this.”

Three other area counties — Currituck, Camden and Perquimans — reported decreases in their jobless rates.

Currituck reported the biggest drop in unemployment: 1.1 percent. In April, it reported 1,820 unemployed out of a workforce of 13,593, for a rate of 13.4 percent. In May, it reported 1,663 unemployed in a workforce of 13,663 for a rate of 12.2 percent.

Camden’s unemployment rate also fell in May. In April, the county reported 388 persons unemployed in a workforce of 4,502 — a rate of 8.6 percent. In May, its number of unemployed fell to 377 in a workforce of 4,521 — a rate of 8.3 percent.

According to County Manager Ken Bowman, there are typically only about 140 people are out of work in Camden. In May 2019, for example, the county’s unemployment rate was only 3.8 percent.

Bowman said many of those currently unemployed have been furloughed because of the pandemic and he believes they will be back to work soon.

In the meantime, the county is working through local agencies to get helpful information to people who are looking for employment, he said.

Perquimans County’s jobless rate also decreased. In April, it reported 483 jobless in a workforce of 4,810 — a rate of 10 percent. In May, its number of jobless fell to 475 in a workforce of 4,829 — a rate of 9.8 percent.

There were also some encouraging signs statewide. Even though the number of unemployed increased by 31,903 to 617,073, the state’s workforce grew by 166,364 in May to 4.8 million.

In addition, only 65 counties saw increases in their jobless rate in May. Another 35 counties saw decreases. That compares to April when all 100 counties saw increases. In addition, the number of counties with jobless rates between 5 percent and 10 percent fell by four in May, from 23 to 19.

The news wasn’t all good, however. The number of counties with jobless rates of 10 percent and above rose by four — from 77 to 81. In addition, the jobless rate ticked up to 12.7 percent after being 12.5 percent in April. No area counties had a jobless rate as high as the state’s rate.

A couple is seen in the distance walking the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Boardwalk for Children at Charles Creek Park in Elizabeth City, Thursday, July 2. The boardwalk also is one of 20 destinations in Visit Elizabeth City’s tourism contest, which is going on till Aug. 29. 

Currituck to host Fourth fireworks show Friday

CURRITUCK — While most other area Fourth of July fireworks shows have been canceled because of COVID-19 concerns, Currituck County plans to go forward with its show Friday night.

Currituck will host its 28th annual Independence Day Celebration at Historic Corolla Park, with fireworks scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. No other activities are planned for the event and social distancing rules will be in effect.

The only other area Fourth of July event this weekend is the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Joseph Hewes Monument in Edenton on Saturday. The Edenton Tea Party Chapter of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution will host the event on the 1767 Courthouse Green at 10 a.m.

Chowan Commissioner Larry McLaughlin will read the Declaration of Independence and Patti Kersey, the board’s chairwoman, will read a biographical sketch of Hewes. A wreath will be laid by Unanimity Lodge #7 AF&AM.

According to Currituck’s website, a number of county agencies developed a “robust safety plan” for Friday’s fireworks show designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the highly contagious novel coronavirus. Albemarle Regional Health Services, the eight-county region’s health department, was also consulted to ensure best practices are followed, the county said.

Among the social distancing rules in effect for the fireworks show, the county will be limiting the number of vehicles allowed into Historic Corolla Park. Parking spaces will be marked off and staff will direct motorists to keep vehicles apart. Attendees will be asked to remain in their vehicle if they have a clear sight line of the fireworks.

Areas for families and small groups will be marked on the grass of the park’s pedestrian area. Social distancing rules will be enforced to limit large groups of people from congregating.

Guests are asked to bring a facemask to the event. Law enforcement and county staff will be on hand to remind guests of social distancing and the use of masks. Staff will have a limited number of facemasks available for guests without one.

Portable restrooms and hand-washing stations will also be set up at multiple locations in the park.

Friday’s celebration will not include vendors, live music, children’s games and contests traditionally part of the event.

The county noted that Friday’s fireworks show will be visible throughout Corolla, as well as from boats on the Currituck Sound and points on the mainland.

The county is reminding attendees that the boat ramp at Whalehead Club will be closed Friday; that no parking will be allowed on either side of N.C. Highway 12; and that the air-up station at Historic Corolla Park used by four-wheel-drive vehicles will be closed at 3 p.m.

Guests are also reminded about regular rules in effect at Historic Corolla Park: No alcohol or coolers can be brought into the park, and dogs have to be on a leash.

For those who want to see the fireworks show at home, the county will be offering a livestream of the event online at

Another traditional Fourth of July event in Currituck, the Currituck Historical Society’s Kids Fourth of July Parade, has been canceled. The historical society is hosting a virtual parade instead.

Youth ages 1-18 are being asked to take a photograph of their bike or wagon decorated for the Fourth and submit to by July 10. Three cash prizes will be awarded to the top entries. Also the first 100 entries will receive a new $2 bill.

Camden school board incumbents file for re-election

Two incumbent school board members have filed for re-election in Camden County but no one has filed as yet for three open seats on the Edenton-Chowan Board of Education.

That’s according to officials with the boards of election in the two counties.

In Camden, both board Chairman Christian Overton and board member Kevin Heath filed Wednesday — the first day of the filing period — to seek new four-year terms.

Overton, who has served on the school board since 2008, will be seeking election to a fourth term.

Heath was first elected to the board in 2016 and is seeking a second four-year term.

The other three members of the board — Sissy Aydlett, Jason Banks and Chris Purcell — were elected in 2018 to terms that end in 2022.

In Edenton-Chowan, the seats of three incumbents — Gene Jordan, Paul Clifton and Joan A. White — are up for election this fall. Jordan holds the school board’s Seat 1 in District 1; Clifton the board’s Seat 1 in District 2; and White the board’s Seat 2 in District 3.

The filing period for the three seats opened on June 26 but as of Thursday no one had filed for them.

According to election officials, White came in and picked up the paperwork required to file for re-election but as of Thursday had not turned it in.

The filing period for school board in both Camden and Chowan ends July 31.

ECPPS names new principals at three elementary schools



If students in Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools are allowed to return to in-person classes this fall under the state’s school reopening plan, they’ll be greeted by new principals at three district schools.

At its regular meeting on Monday, the ECPPS Board of Education approved the appointment of Stephanie Ambrose as principal at P.W. Moore Elementary, James Schiffbauer as principal at Weeksville Elementary and Dena Banks as principal at J.C. Sawyer Elementary.

The school board also named Holly Glenn, the former headmaster at Albemarle School, as interim director of the exceptional children’s program. Glenn formerly headed the program before retiring in 2015.

The board previously had approved the appointment of Dollie Simpson as an assistant principal for River Road Middle School.

ECPPS Superintendent Catherine Edmonds congratulated the administrators on their new assignments.

“Leadership is important at all times, but even more so during these unprecedented times,” she said. “The leaders announced here are committed to serving our students and staff in supporting the district’s goal that all the children in ECPPS are well.”

Additional position changes will be announced next week, according to ECPPS spokeswoman Tammy Sawyer.

All of the principals have had their contracts renewed, though some are moving within the school district.

The current exceptional children’s program director, Michelle Flach, resigned for personal reasons, according to her resignation notice. Her last working day with the district was June 26.

Ambrose comes to P.W. Moore from Weeksville Elementary, where she served as principal.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in education as well as a master’s degree in elementary education and school administration, all from Elizabeth City State University. She also holds a graduate certificate in academically and intellectually gifted instruction from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She has more than 25 years of experience in education, all of them with ECPPS.

“My vision was to one day return to the place where I started my education journey,” Ambrose said, noting that she began her career at P.W. Moore. “I asked Dr. Edmonds to please allow me the opportunity to go back and apply what I have learned along the way with the staff and students where I was once a teacher. As the song goes, ‘Country Roads Take Me Home!’ I have traveled Nixonton Road and learned a lot. The country roads are taking me home. Home to continue the journey that I started many years ago.”

Schiffbauer previously served as principal at J.C. Sawyer Elementary. He holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Mercyhurst College as well as a master’s degree in educational leadership in mathematics from Regent University. He also holds graduate certificates in academically and intellectually gifted instruction from Barton College and in educational leadership from Longwood University.

Schiffbauer has more than 20 years of experience in education, the past four in ECPPS.

“I am very excited to be joining the Weeksville Elementary Bulldogs team!” Schiffbauer said. “I look forward to building relationships with the staff, students and the community. Working together, we will help our Bulldogs reach their highest potential.”

Banks previously served as assistant principal at J.C. Sawyer. She holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in elementary education and also a master’s in school administration, all from ECSU. She has more than 30 years of experience in education, all with ECPPS.

“I am excited about my new role in ECPPS,” Banks said. “I’m honored to serve the students, staff, and parents at J.C. Sawyer. A quote (by Theodore M. Hesburgh) that I’ve found to express my thoughts about my leadership at J.C. Sawyer is, ‘The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.’”

Glenn holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree in school psychology as well as a certificate of advanced study and program administrator’s certificate from East Carolina University. She also holds a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Northcentral University.

Glenn has nearly 37 years of experience in education, 23 of them previously with ECPPS.

“I am excited to serve as the ECPPS interim director for exceptional children,” Glenn said. “I previously served in the director’s position until 2015 when I retired. I have really missed the students and the incredible, caring staff members at ECPPS and am overjoyed at the opportunity to see and work with these students again.”

Glenn said she’s “committed to making sure our team goes above and beyond expectations to meet the educational, physical and social-emotional needs of children.”

Simpson was named assistant principal for River Road Middle School effective Feb. 26. Prior to then she served as a math teacher at River Road.

Simpson holds a bachelor’s degree in math education from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and a master’s degree in education in leadership from Regent University. She has more than 20 years of experience in education, 13 with ECPPS.

“It is an honor and blessing to be able to serve as assistant principal at River Road Middle School,” Simpson said. “As assistant principal I am able to work with students, parents, and staff in a different capacity. I want to continue to share my knowledge as well as to learn and grow with my RRMS family.”