Donation surprises school leaders

Published 5:45 pm Friday, May 1, 2020

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JACKSON – It appears that a recent donation of laptop computers Northampton County Public Schools caught educational administrators here a bit off-guard.

Superintendent Dr. Pamela Chamblee and Board of Education Chair Rhonda Taylor said they were surprised to learn of the donation from Enviva. Both stressed that the donation of any items to the public school district must first gain the approval of the county’s Board of Education.

A recent press release from the wood pellet production company, which has plants locally in Garysburg and Ahoskie, stated they would be donating laptops to the school district to help students who are unable to do their work remotely without adequate access to computers in their homes.

Along with the laptops, Enviva also pledged to donate wi-fi hotspots, which can be used to widen internet access for students in Northampton County.

The News Herald ran that contributed release online April 24 and in print on April 29.

“At the time the article was released, I didn’t know anything about it. I was not aware, and I was not a part of the conversation,” said Dr. Chamblee.

“We appreciate any donations that we get,” stated Taylor. “But if you’re going to donate something, it has to be approved by the Board.”

Taylor said she and the rest of the school board had a lot of questions about the donation after seeing the article. She said the usual procedure was for donations to go to the superintendent first who would then bring it before the Board for consideration.

Chamblee did confirm that Enviva had sent a donation for the wi-fi hotspots several weeks ago, which was approved at an earlier Board of Education meeting. The laptops, however, had been a surprise.

She reported they have now received nine laptops from Enviva, but that matter has not gone before the Board for approval yet.

The superintendent also emphasized that the school district had already been working diligently to prepare students for remote learning since schools shifted to that in March.

“We surveyed our students and parents. We knew exactly how many of our students were without devices and without internet access,” she continued, explaining that they received accurate data from their community-wide survey.

Chamblee also noted the school district had already recently received a donation of laptops from the North Carolina Highway Patrol. That donation of 236 computers was approved by the Board of Education during their April 15 meeting.

She concluded by expressing the school district’s commitment to making sure students are able to continue their education. Since March, they have worked to be able to deploy a number of hotspots throughout the county for student access, and they continue to stay in touch with parents and families during this time. Dr. Chamblee will hold two online “virtual town hall” meetings for parents to share any questions or concerns they may have.