Forum attracts empty chairs

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 17, 2008

CREEKSVILLE – Visible, “no lip service” and someone who knows Northampton County are among the qualities citizens would like to see in the next schools’ superintendent.

On March 13, a handful of Northampton County citizens and educators spoke before Northampton County Board of Education members during a public forum in the library at Northampton County High School-East (NCHS-East).

The forum was held incumbent upon the search for the new superintendent. A forum for the west side of the county was held March 12.

Speakers were given a total of three minutes each to address board of education members and were asked not to mention names past or present.

Though a total of six individuals spoke, only two were citizens with children or grandchildren in Northampton County Schools (NCS).

William Boone of Seaboard said he would like to see a superintendent that is focused on getting things done. Boone has grandchildren that attend NCS.

“We need to buckle up so we won’t be in the paper,” he said “We want to be number one.”

Pete Umphlett of Conway noted the number of changes and instability within the school system staff over the years.

“School is a place where you learn stability,” he said.

Umphlett, who has three children who attend NCS, also said he would like the next superintendent to come from the county and someone who is willing to work with their staff as a team.

“I want to hear ‘we did this’,” he said.

Umphlett added he wanted to see a superintendent that was active in the schools and wanted to see him or her “walk the hallways and classrooms” of each school.

Educators from NCHS-East also expressed what they wanted to see in the next NCS superintendent.

NCHS-East history teacher Cynthia Ellis, who has taught at the school for two years, said she wanted to see a leader who is willing to work on both sides (administrative and teaching staff).

Ellis said she wanted the superintendent to be open about the schools’ budget.

“We need to know where everything is going,’ she said.

She also said she wanted to see a superintendent that cared about the students’ welfare and safety.

Another educator with NCHS-East, Oliver Holley, also addressed qualities he wanted to see in a superintendent.

“We need to get someone in here that understands what we need,” he said.

Holley said the school system needed a leader who has their “feet, hands and claws” in Northeastern North Carolina.

NCHS-East Principal Pamela Chamblee also wanted to see a leader who understood the needs of NCS.

Chamblee said she wanted a superintendent that did more than just analyze data, was articulate, understood each school in the county was unique and has in mind innovative programs.

“I want somebody who knows their stuff,” she said, “(who knows how to) deal with anyone who comes through their threshold.”

Yvonne Sims, another NCHS-East educator, said she wanted a “visible” superintendent.

“No lip service,” she said. “(He or she) actually goes out and helps teachers and finds the funds and resources.”

Sims also wants the next leader to be “vocal and willing to take a stand.”

Board of Education Chair Catherine Moody said the board would take comments made into account in their search for the new superintendent.

She said by May 12 the board hopes to make the announcement as to who has been selected and that person will begin work July 1.

In a later interview, Moody said while she was happy with how the forum went, she was disappointed in the turn out.

“You would think the citizens in the community would take pride in being involved with the selection of the next leader of Northampton County (Schools),” she said.

Umphlett also echoed Moody’s concerns about participation in the public forum.

“I’m disappointed there are not more people here,” he said. “We need to motivate the parents.”

Moody said an internet survey taken for the next superintendent was successful, yielding nearly 200 responses.