The Board of Education voted 6-1 to hire Stuart Blount, the principal of New Bern High School, as assistant superintendent of auxiliary services effective Jan. 1. School Board Member Charles Brown was having back surgery at Duke Hospital and was not present for the vote.
Blount will manage several areas of the school system, including human resources, administrative services and policies.
Superintendent Rick Stout says Blount will be an integral part in his strategy for the school system.
"Stuart Blount is going to be an important key in my administration to transforming our operation into what will make a real positive impact for all of our Scotland County Schools, as well as the principals and the students," Stout said. "He'll have some interesting challenges ahead as we look at what we are going to do in the future, but he is also someone you can talk to and is a good communicator within the public."
Stout said Blount would make $110,295 – the same pay as Associate Superintendent Susan Chase – which is $17,594 less than his predecessor, Rick Watkins.
"We're going to try to be consistent in terms of what we offer," Stout said. "We are going to try to be consistent in what we do for people and not have a wide range of salaries that were offered to one person in a similar position."
Stout said Blount stuck out of the 25 applicants and six interviewees because of his leadership skills, something he attributes to Blount's years as a principal.
Blount, who has worked in education for nearly two decades, says he's excited about coming to Scotland County.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity of getting to know the people of Scotland County and getting to know the board and the members of the staff and of the school system," Blount said.
Blount has spent 12 years as a principal and also has worked as an assistant principal and a teacher. He is married with three children.
Vice Chairman Mary Evans, the lone vote against, said the board should have looked at promoting someone within the school system.
"I feel like we do have persons within our own system that are just as qualified if not more qualified," Evans said. "I think that, since we grow our own, we need to promote our own."
In other business:
• Evans told board members she felt the board should adopt a policy dealing with absences in light of Brown's absence from the board for the last four meetings. Board Member Paul Rush said such a policy has never been in place and he felt it better to leave the decision of who serves on the board to the voters of Scotland County. The item may be discussed at the December meeting.
• Tony Messer, finance officer, presented an amendment that would fix the 2009-2010 budget to account for more than $2 million in state cuts. In the amended budget, $494,122 was cut from the teaching budget, which amounts to nine teachers being cut, and $1,155,897 was cut from instructional support, including the the loss of 19 teacher's aides.
• Tom Hughes, of the architecture firm SFLA, gave a presentation on the Wagram Primary School Expansion Project. The project is currently being held up by securing a buyer for the $3 million, zero interest stimulus bond that will fund the project.
• Fannie Mason, who oversees the speech pathology programs, gave a presentation on anticipated spending in speech therapy. She said the system will save roughly $75,000 by changing several of the contractors. There are 298 students who are served by the speech pathologists in the system.
• Human Resources Director Larry Johnson presented policy changes to the board, pursuant to state-mandated policy changes. He also presented the Scotland County Middle & High Schools Athletic Code of Conduct, which will make system-wide policies on athletes. Currently, individual teams have their own code of ethics. These proposals must wait 30 days before the board can vote to adopt them.