Citizens speak on Superintendent selection

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 2, 2005

JACKSON – Citizens in Northampton County got their say here Tuesday afternoon.

Thanks to a unanimous vote by the Northampton County Board of Education, public input was added to the agenda of the meeting to name a superintendent.

At the meeting, the Board named Dr. Kathi H. Gibson superintendent on a 5-2 vote.

Board member Charles Tyner made a motion to allow public input with fellow member Lafayette &uot;Lott&uot; Majette offering a second.

After lengthy discussion about the legitimacy of the request, Board member Roland Whitted ended the discussion with his comments.

Whitted said the board encouraged public input and that the agenda sheet outlined the proper procedure for that input.

&uot;We need to follow our policy and allow the public to speak,&uot; Whitted said.

While board members gathered in closed session to discuss the contract of the superintendent, members of the audience signed up to speak.

Bennett Taylor began the public’s remarks by asking several questions of the board.

&uot;I come before the board tonight, having talked to each of you, and I ask you to reconsider what you about to do tonight,&uot; Taylor said.

He was concerned about the policy and procedure for promoting qualified administrators within the county and wanted to know what consideration was given to those working in the county who had applied.

&uot;If they were not given consideration, I’d like to know why,&uot; he said.

Taylor also questioned if there were procedures for appealing the board of education’s hiring practices.

&uot;Why I may not dispute the qualifications of your candidate on paper, I do have legitimate concerns regarding her ability to work well with the staff and provide strong leadership,&uot; he closed.

Sonja Wilkins was also concerned about the hiring of Gibson.

She questioned the results of the community survey and Gibson’s ability to work well with administrators, faculty and students.

Wilkins suggested the Board &uot;consider investing in our own people and their professional development.&uot;

Erica Smith-Hicks, who identified herself as a youth pastor, said she had concerns about hiring practices and not just the superintendency.

Smith-Hicks said things should be done &uot;decent and in order&uot; and said that she wasn’t sure they were being done that way.

&uot;I come to you to speak about justice,&uot; she said. &uot;Make the right decision by those who have sacrificed and work in this community.&uot;

She closed by saying a house divided could not stand.

Ronald Smith addressed the board with concerns about hiring a superintendent, saying he had presented a petition with 120 names asking the board to reverse their decision.

&uot;I come to speak for concerned citizens as an advocate for the children of Northampton County,&uot; Smith said. &uot;I’m not here to endorse one applicant, but to ask you to delay hiring any superintendent.&uot;

Smith requested the board keep Interim Superintendent J. Wendell Hall on the job for another nine months and take time to select a new superintendent.

He closed by reminding the board he was doing what they always said they wanted.

&uot;You always say you want to get public input,&uot; he said. &uot;We need to always have input and not just on the ones you choose for us.&uot;

The final speaker was Eugene Taylor, who addressed the process.

&uot;It appears that the process was flawed,&uot; he said. &uot;I say to you, listen to what has taken place and what has been said, take yourself out of the way and do what is right.&uot;

Another person, Alicia Smith-Freshwater, signed up to speak, but declined when her name was called.