School board will receive applications for vacant seat

By Mary Katherine Murphy

March 10, 2014

LAURINBURG — One month after the resignation of Police Chief Darwin “Duke” Williams from the Scotland County Board of Education, the board announced on Monday that it will begin taking applications from those who wish to serve for the remainder of his term.

Those interested, and living in the Stewartsville township, may submit statements of interest in the form of letters or curriculum vitae to Nancy Smith, the board’s administrative assistant, at the A.B. Gibson Center through April 10.

Williams’ term ends in December 2016. The board is expected to interview applicants during the April board meeting.

The board formally recognized Williams’ service on the board, from which he stepped down after seven years due to his new obligations as police chief.

“I was serving the community that nurtured me as a student in this district,” Williams said. “My fellow board members, we went through some things these seven years that were good and bad, but at the end of the day I would like to think we did what was best for Scotland County.”

Among the board’s achievements during his tenure, Williams counted the reunification of Scotland High School and relocation of the alternative academy to Shaw, adding access to a gym and other vocational enrichment. Addressing the remaining seven board members, he credited his mother, the late Fannie Williams, for teaching him the value of hard work and sacrifice.

“We’ve got to leave it better off than we found it, that’s what Mama taught me,” he said. “If you can’t, don’t touch it Duke, that’s what she always told me. I would like to think I made the board better than when I found it.”

Board Chairman Charles Brown characterized Williams as a “multifaceted person” with “a heart for children,” helping children in the county through both the Board of Education and as a youth athletics coach.

“He knows the importance of fairness and fair play, always has principles as far as leadership, cooperation, and doing the right thing,” Brown said of Williams’ service on the school board. “I’ve always depended on him to have a level head; even when some of our school board members had differences of opinion, he would be the peacemaker.”

During the meeting’s public input period, the board received two comments, from former Laurinburg city councilman Herbert Rainer and from East Carolina University senior and Scotland High School graduate Demonte Alford, on the board’s decision to wait until it has named a permanent superintendent to select Williams’ successor.

“Leaving any township devoid of total representation is tantamount to dismissing the needs and concerns of the students in that township,” said Rainer, a Stewartsville resident.

On the superintendent search, Brown said only that it is “going well” and that the board is in the process of interviewing “a number of applicants.”

“We are doing are very best to read thoroughly the applications,” he said. “To tell you how intense our work is, we had two interviews on Sunday evening. With all the people involved and schedules, it’s not an easy thing, but we’re doing our best to make it work.”

The school system’s interim superintendent, Randy Bridges, began work last week, filling the shoes of Rick Stout. So far, he has visited 13 of the 15 district schools.

“I had the opportunity to walk and talk with the principals about those things that are happening very successfully at their schools as well as some of the challenges,” he said. “It has been extremely pleasing to go into many hallways and classrooms and have individuals recognize me as Coach Bridges, which kind of takes me back a minute to a very enjoyable time in my life.”

In his career, Bridges taught in the Scotland County Schools for over a decade, and was an assistant principal at I. Ellis Johnson Middle School from 1988-1990. At the prompting of board member Jamie Sutherland, Bridges confirmed that he is not interested in the superintendent’s position long term.

“I think each one of us asked him during our individual meetings with him, and he may want to address that publicly because I’ve been asked about 1,400 times,” Sutherland said.

Also on Monday:

— The board approved a five-year contract, contingent upon a trial period, of a GPS hardware and software system to track the school system’s 83 buses. That program will cost $2,075 monthly, and is expected to save more than that in fuel and payroll expenses.

— The board recognized the Covington Street Elementary School Positive Behavior Intervention and Support team for earning exemplary status in its implementation of the statewide PBIS initiative.

— The Scotland High School Future Farmers of America club was presented with $4,990 from the Agricultural Education Program Improvement Grant, which will be used to purchase iPads for the school’s agriculture program.

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.