Parents protest school chief; board forbids personnel talk
By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on November 11, 2009 1:46 PM
Protesters chat Tuesday before a Duplin County Board of Education meeting. The crowd of about 250 people gathered at Warsaw Middle School to support the county's schools and protest against superintendent Dr. Wiley J. Doby.
When Karen Scalf of the Concerned Citizens for Duplin County Education got up to speak before the Duplin County Board of Education, she took a broom with her.
"It can be used to clean up a mess, or it can be used to sweep it under the rug," Ms. Scalf said about the prop. "Are you going to clean up this mess, or sweep it under the rug?"
About 250 people attended the meeting Tuesday night at Warsaw Middle School, many wearing red in a show of unity and carrying signs supporting schools or protesting against school system superintendent Dr. Wiley J. Doby and the school board.
The concerned citizens group gathered about 500 signatures on a petition asking the school board not to renew Doby's contract, a petition Ms. Scalf said the board members did not take seriously.
"This meeting is all about leadership," she said, after scattering the papers from the podium. "We need to get their attention, and at least we have it tonight."
The concerned parent reported she had spoken with each board member about her concerns, and "the response was, 'it's just not true,'" Ms. Scalf said. "How can our leadership not trust our parents and our teachers?"
School board lawyer David Phillips interrupted her during the public comment period as she read the title of the state document, "North Carolina Public Schools Standards for Superintendents."
All people signed up to speak before the board had been made aware, and by signing their names on the sheet, had agreed to not address specific personnel issues during the public comment period, he said.
"I'm just reading the title of the document," she said in response.
Resident Jimmy Dixon also received a warning from the school's legal representation for mentioning the word "superintendent."
"Are you going to deny me the right to say the word 'superintendent'?" he asked.
Phillips reaffirmed that the sign-up sheet for public comment said not to address specific personnel issues.
"I want it on the record, in the minutes (of the meeting), that I am not allowed to say the word 'superintendent,'" Dixon said.
As he took his turn to speak, Dixon picked up the wooden podium and turned it around to face the crowd, so the school board was at his back.
"I'll face this way, because it's been my experience that they don't listen anyway," he said, to a burst of applause from the crowd.
Dixon told board members he wanted the board to conduct its business with more transparency.
"You people go behind closed doors," he said. "Why don't you record your meetings on board policy of Duplin County? ... You're conducting the people's business."
Resident and parent Annette Smith brought a personal concern about her daughter before the board. The Duplin County student was the victim of inappropriate contact by a male student last year, but there had been no disciplinary report and the girl's teachers were not made aware of it, Mrs. Smith said.
"I still feel like my daughter has not had her justice," she said, fighting back tears. "... I want my school to be safe for my child. I want to know where her justice is."
Resident and former Duplin County student Bobby Moore also appeared before the board, but with a message pointed at teachers and parents.
Teachers are spending too much time gossiping when they should be teaching their classes, and students are picking up on the gossip, he alleged.
"Our school is not a place for gossip," Moore said.
He also had strong words for teachers and parents dissatisfied with the school system.
"I have three words for you: equal opportunity employment. You have the choice to teach somewhere else," he said. "Parents, I have two words for you: Private school."
Board chairperson Emily Manning thanked the speakers for their comments, but none of the board members further addressed the speakers.
Doby could not be reached for comment by publication Wednesday morning.