by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
The Bladen County Board of Education hired assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Dr. Jason Atkinson to be the district’s next superintendent. The board failed to conduct a superintendent search and hired Atkinson at their meeting on Monday.
State statute says that “each local board of education has the sole discretion to elect a superintendent of schools,” so they did not appear to violate any laws when they hired Atkinson. But conducting a closed superintendent search strains the relationship between elected officials and the public.
From an article published in the Bladen Journal:
The vote capped a process that has been completely secretive, drawing the ire of both [school board member Gary] Rhoda and [school board member Cory] Singletary on Monday before the panel could even reach their closed session. The open meeting discussion, while yet to approve the agenda, indicated Atkinson had been the choice all along and at least one sticking point was whether to go with a four- or two-year contract.
[Board Chairman Roger] Carroll was first to offer congratulations afterward. No other board members spoke at that time.
Before the board voted on the hire, [board member Alan] West was the only one to speak and made clear his position.
“For the record, I was for doing the superintendent search,” he said. “I thought it’s not quite fair to the ones here in our district that wanted to apply. But I understand the board wanting to go in another direction, that the majority rules. And I will support Dr. Aktinson with a yes vote.”
Atkinson will replace former superintendent Robert Taylor, who resigned from the district after accepting a position at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.