Scotland school board urged to hire local attorney

By: By Amber Hatten-Staley - Assistant editor

LAURINBURG — The search for a school board attorney has yet to begin, but some are already advocating for Scotland County native Brandi Jones Bullock to get the job.

Jacob Pate, a school board candidate, and Laurinburg Councilwoman Mary Evans spoke in favor of hiring the Laurinburg lawyer during this week’s school board meeting.

Pate and Evans said the board needs to hire someone with roots in the community.

“We were told recently that no one is interested locally in this position, but I would like to let the board know Ms. Bullock is very interested,” Pate said. “As a citizen of Scotland County, I want to stress the importance of investing in our local community because if we don’t, no one else will.”

Evans agreed, saying the board should give preference to “local, qualified” applicants.

“Brandi Jones Bullock, whose office is located right across the street from the A.B. Gibson Center, has always wanted to work in the education system of Scotland County,” Evans said.

The board is looking for a new attorney after Nick Sojka announced last month he would be leaving the district after two decades. Sojka accepted a full-time position as the attorney for Cumberland County Schools and its board of education.

In his absence, the school board voted Monday to hire Tharrington Smith LLP out of Raleigh on an interim basis. The contract is open-ended with a 30-day cancellation clause that allows the board to cancel the contract by giving the firm a 30-day notice, according to board Chair Summer Woodside.

The contract allows time to find a permanent replacement for Sojka, since according to Woodside, the board has not discussed a time frame for filling the position or the requirements.

Evans also issued a thinly veiled threat to the board that if they failed to hire locally.

“Scotland County School Board, please do the right thing, keep your dollars in Scotland County,” she said. “I’m going to hold each and everyone of you accountable for what happens when we get our new attorney and the community will do so as well.”

Pate and Evans listed Bullock’s qualifications and the fact that she was a 1996 graduate of Scotland High School.

After graduating, Bullock moved to Durham where she earned her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of North Carolina. She then went on to obtain her master’s in history from North Carolina Central before receiving her law degree from North Carolina Central School of Law.

Bullock attended Monday’s meeting but did not address the board. She told The Laurinburg Exchange that she would like to be considered for the position and submitted her resume to the board.

“I am interested, but there has been no talks of an interview process yet,” she said. “I want people to know I have a lot of experience when it comes to school matters. I understand the curriculum and instruction side, as well as the legal side. Not every attorney has been a teacher, but I have which gives me a unique perspective and a greater ability to understand what’s going on in the schools.”

Bullock taught social studies for Durham Public Schools in addition to being the district’s magnet program coordinator.

Bullock returned to school to obtain her law degree and worked for the North Carolina Department of Education’s legal counsel along with the United States Department of Justice’s education department.

In 2016, Bullock returned to Laurinburg with her husband and two young children and opened Jones Bullock PLLC.

Bullock’s children are third- and fourth-grade students at Marlboro Academy because there was no plan for consolidation in Scotland County when she and her family moved back.

“I didn’t know where my children would be going to school each year,” she said. “I wanted them to have a rock solid foundation and not move them into a situation where they were constantly in flux.”

Despite her personal views on consolidation, Bullock said she would not voice them to the board because that would be stepping out of her role as attorney and into the shoes of a board member.

“As a citizen I have my opinions, but my role would be to advice the board on the legality of what they are doing and council them about the law,” she said. “They would be my clients and it would be an ethical violation on my part to give them my opinion on such decisions.”

Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]


By Amber Hatten-Staley

Assistant editor