LUMBERTON — Public Schools of Robeson County leaders heard a nomination Tuesday to name the Fairmont High School gymnasium after the school’s athletic director.
During the PSRC’s first meeting in which the public could attend for the first time since 2020, PSRC Athletic Director Jerome Hunt read a nomination to PSRC School Board members to name the school gymnasium after Michael Baker, who has coached basketball and volleyball teams at the school. He also teaches science and serves as the school’s athletic director.
Baker graduated from FHS in 1977 and was inducted into the Roanoke College Hall of Fame in 1998 for his contributions as a former college basketball player, Hunt said.
“I support this nomination 100% and I’m sure the Fairmont community will as well,” Hunt said.
Hunt said he would speak with FHS Principal Kent Prater and set up a public forum to get feedback from the public on the matter before he presents it again to the full board in April for a vote.
School Board member Linda Emanuel said Baker has always shown leadership throughout his tenure with PSRC.
A passionate discussion ensued after Doug McBroom spoke during the public comments session.
McBroom spoke of the board violating its policies and referred to an action by the board to vote on an informational item regarding a policy amendment. The board voted to set aside policy to vote on a policy, which was placed under informational items.
“Policy 2420 clearly states that you will not adopt a policy until a subsequent meeting,” McBroom said.
The act of setting policy aside is supposed to be done when emergency conditions or special events happen before the next meeting, McBroom said.
“You guys keep setting aside policy. You don’t do that. That violates your own policies … you guys have done it forever. Stop doing it,” he said.
Board Attorney Grady Hunt chimed in during McBroom’s allotted time in the comments session.
“McBroom, what you need to do is you need to read the policy because clearly this board with a super majority has the right to set aside their own policy. It’s their policy, not yours. Just understand and read the policy before you be critical,” Hunt said.
McBroom said he’d supply the policy for board members.
McBroom also spoke of several other items such as using taxpayer money to buy out contracts of superintendents in the past.
“It would be nice if you would come here and try to help instead of smearing all the time,” said Board Member Dwayne Smith.
“But every time you come here it’s in somebody’s face and I’m tired of it. If you got a problem with me I’ll be outside when this is over with. Ok? But, but I’m tired of your slandering comments,” Smith said.
McBroom said he did not consider his words slander, and that he could back his words up. Smith then told him to “sit down and shut up.”
Board member Randy Lawson stood from his chair and walked over to Dwayne Smith before asking McBroom to leave. An officer entered the room at that time as shouting ensued. McBroom then left the room.
Smith later apologized to the superintendent and board members for his actions.
Jeff McNeill, a Wakulla resident, also spoke during the public comments session.
McNeill said if board members applied as much effort to bettering the school district as they do to save their seats, the school district would be the “best” in the state.
“We wonder why we have so much negativity and trouble in our schools,” he said in a calm tone. “Teachers, staff, custodians, bus drivers are all afraid to voice their concerns for fear of retaliation of a sitting board member or principal, or superintendent or someone in Central Office and some have even been told ‘be thankful you have a job.’ This part needs to stop before someone is sued for harassment or discrimination.”
At the request of School Board Member Henry Brewer, Board Chairman Mike Smith said moving the public comments session from the end of the meeting to an earlier portion of the meeting could be placed on a future agenda for discussion.
In other matters, School Board members heard several updates from Loury Floyd, dean of the School of Education at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Floyd told the board that the Brave Scholar Project has been awarded funding through a charitable grant from Anonymous Trust.
The funds total more than $2 million and will launch a program to produce 30 educators in elementary education from kindergarten through grade 6 and special education from kindergarten through grade 12, she said. Areas served will be Robeson, Scotland and Columbus counties.
“It fully supports the launch of what we call the Brave Scholars Program,” Floyd said of funding.
Floyd said the gift is the largest in the School of Education’s history.
“This is monumental,” she said.
She told Board members that the university is doing its part to help address the need for educators.
One effort the university is deploying is a free Praxis Blitz on March 25-26, she said.
The event will include workshops and support to allow limited licensure teachers to take the licensure exam, Floyd said.
Leslie Locklear, director of Educator Engagement and Student Success at UNC-Pembroke, said there are currently 26 Undergraduate and MAT student teacher interns in PSRC Schools. There are 250 requests for spring 2022 field experience.
School Board member Craig Lowry said it “sounds fantastic.”
School Board member Brenda Fairley-Ferebee voiced concerns about gas prices and their effects on employees.
“At this point we do not have a supply issue,” said PSRC Superintendent Freddie Williamson of gas regarding school buses.
School calendar and testing dates
In a 10-1 vote, PSRC Board members voted to approve a school calendar for 2022-23, which makes the first school day for PSRC students in kindergarten through grade 12 Aug. 22 and the last day June 16, 2023.
Conversations arose about having students test before Christmas break rather than after.
Teachers review information with students for 11 days before they test, according to school officials.
Bobby Locklear, PSRC Assistant Superintendent of Auxiliary Services, said the school system has moved the testing dates in the past. However, it didn’t yield the favorable results expected.
School Board member Dwayne Smith voted in opposition.
“Teachers don’t want it, they want it before Christmas,” he said of testing.
Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]