Board hastens quest for new superintendent|Wants new leader on the job by 2010

Published 9:32 am Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Staff Writer

The Beaufort County Board of Education is ready to speed up its search for a new superintendent of schools.
It hopes to have a new superintendent in place by Jan 1, 2010, instead of the end of the 2009-2010 school year, according to board Chairman Robert G. Belcher.
“We feel like we’ll get some good applicants this time,” Belcher said in an interview after Monday’s school-board meeting. “We’re a lot more stable than we were when we began the search before.”
The board’s Personnel and Curriculum Committee, when it meets Aug. 13, will begin the process of looking for a permanent replacement for Jeff Moss, who resigned in January. Since then, the schools have been overseen on an interim basis by William Rivenbark, a retired Craven County school superintendent.
The committee, headed by board Vice Chairman F. Mac Hodges, will begin the search by making some decisions about hiring a firm to begin the superintendent search, Belcher said.
As part of its new timetable, the board, at his request, unanimously approved changes to a contract with Rivenbark that was negotiated in the past few months.
“We appreciate the job you are doing for us,” Belcher said following the vote. “We hope the next six months will be as fruitful as the first six months you were here.”
Rivenbark’s contract will expire Dec. 31 instead of the end of the upcoming school year. He will receive $500 a day in salary for a contracted 75 days of work, Belcher said.
Rivenbark said he is pleased with the change and the new timetable for hiring a superintendent.
“I felt like it would be in the best interest of myself and the board to have a superintendent in place by Jan. 1, 2010,” he said. “I thought it was not in my best interest to go a whole year without a permanent superintendent.”
With a new assistant superintendent on the school staff, new principals in place at some of the county schools and an interim superintendent who can help with the search, Beaufort County Schools should now be well-positioned to attract a good pool of applicants for the post, Belcher said.
In other business, the board vetoed a request from Harvest of Dreams to lease the gymnasium at the Beaufort County Ed Tech Center for a boxing program.
Six members of the board voted against the lease agreement. Three board members voted for the measure.
Members voting against the proposal said they feared the exclusive lease agreement would interfere with the school’s use of the property.
“Our first priority is to the children at the school during the instruction day,” Hodges said. “The principal himself said that he had plans for the gym both during the day and during the evening. I don’t know how we’re going to juggle the schedule to accommodate both.”
Those voting in favor of the lease said they hoped that some compromise arrangement could be worked out that would meet the needs of Harvest of Dreams and the school.
“I think some compromise could be reached,” said Barbara Boyd-Williams. “We have the facility, and they need the space.”
Also at the meeting, the board gave tentative approval to a change in its policy governing requests from students wishing to transfer to another school.
Under the change, students denied transfer requests by their respective schools’ principals would appeal that denial to the superintendent instead of appealing directly to the school board.
“This is giving the student an appeals process beyond the principal,” Belcher said.
The change will now be reviewed by the county’s principals before coming back to the school board for consideration and possible final approval.
The board also gave tentative approval to changes in its transportation policy for field trips and extracurricular activities. The changes are being made, in part, in response to a previous incident involving members of an athletic team while riding a school-activity bus, according to Sarah Hodges, the school system’s public information officer.
Under the policy, if given final approval by the board, any student who throws anything off of an activity bus, including paper or gum, will be banned from athletic participation for 365 days.
Students also would be required to sit on the bus in a certain order, starting in the front of the bus and working toward the back rather than the front being empty and the back full. Also, a minimum of two adult chaperones would be required for every field trip or schools-sponsored activity with eight or more students, if given final approval by the board.
All board members attended Monday’s meeting.