Coach resigns

Published 11:21 am Monday, September 16, 2013

WINDSOR – RaShawn Spencer’s official record as the head football coach at BertieHigh School is 0-1.

Spencer tendered his resignation on Tuesday of this week, to include his coaching duties and job as an English teacher at BHS.

Hired in June to replace former BHS head football coach Greg Watford who left in April after learning his contract would not be renewed, Spencer was suspended Aug. 28. That came five days after the Falcons dropped their season opener, 41-12, at Gates County High School.

Despite a request made by this newspaper late last week for the reason(s) that led to the suspension, the only information shared by Bertie County Public Schools was that Spencer was suspended from his coaching duties pending an internal investigation, but he was allowed to continue as a classroom teacher. As for his resignation, that news was shared with this newspaper by BCPS officials only after we made a request.

“We were not the first print media outlet to share the news of Coach Spencer’s suspension and his subsequent resignation as we had to wait longer than expected last week for confirmation following our request for information,” said Roanoke-Chowan Publications Editor Cal Bryant. “However, we promise our readers, many of whom have called or talked to our news staff in person in an effort to learn the reason behind the coach’s suspension, that we are making every effort to obtain that information.”

On Thursday, the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald sent a formal, public records request to Bertie County Public Schools, asking to either view or have a copy made of Spencer’s personal file as it related to the suspension. That request was based upon North Carolina General State Statute 115C-321 (Confidential information in personnel files; access to information). Subsection B of that Statute reads as follows:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of this Chapter, any superintendent may, in his discretion, or shall at the direction of the Board of Education, inform any person or corporation of any promotion, demotion, suspension, reinstatement, transfer, separation, dismissal, employment or nonemployment of any applicant, employee or former employee employed by or assigned to the local board of education or whose personnel file is maintained by the board and the reasons therefor and may allow the personnel file of the person or any portion to be inspected and examined by any person or corporation provided that the board has determined that the release of the information or the inspection and examination of the file or any portion is essential to maintaining the integrity of the board or to maintaining the level or quality of services provided by the board; provided, that prior to releasing the information or making the file or any portion available as provided herein, the superintendent shall prepare a memorandum setting forth the circumstances which he and the board deem to require the disclosure and the information to be disclosed. The memorandum shall be retained in the files of the superintendent and shall be a public record.”

In our public records request, we encouraged Bertie County Public Schools officials, “to be transparent in this issue, maintain the integrity of this public body, and public trust of the citizens whose tax dollars support public education.”

Ella Fields-Bunch, Bertie Schools Chief Human Resources Officer, responded to our request by saying, “After consultation with our Board Attorney’s office, we can only release the date of the suspension and type of suspension. This is all the law will allow us to release. My office submitted that information to you in an earlier email.”

She went on to provide contact information for the legal counsel – Tharrington Smith LLP Attorneys At Law – representing Bertie County Public Schools.

On Friday morning we contacted Rod Malone of Tharrington Smith. No return call was made as of the News-Herald’s copy deadline on Friday afternoon for Saturday’s edition.

In the absence of Coach Spencer on the sidelines of last Friday’s game at Swansboro High School, Will Harrell served as Acting Head Coach. Harrell, the son of former Gates County High School head coach Clark Harrell and hired this year at Bertie High as the team’s Offensive Coordinator, will now see that new title last until the end of the current football season, according to information supplied by Bertie County Public Schools.