07/12/11 — Board renews contract; decries critics

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Board renews contract; decries critics

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 12, 2011 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Board of Education Monday night approved a one-year extension on the county superintendent's contract and a $6,500 supplement -- with four members in support -- but not before blasting the steady stream of "naysayers" of the school system from outside, and even within, the board.

Responding to recent criticism of Dr. Steven Taylor's contract by a county commissioner and a newspaper series on "city flight," they suggested that negative comments from a variety of sources are harming the schools and their ability to properly educate the county's youths.

The Wayne County Public Schools is "one system," said school board Chairman Thelma Smith, and will not thrive if the community remains divisive.

"This is what is killing Wayne County, our naysayers, people that have caused the problem and they want to blame the schools," she said. "Schools did not create the housing patterns. It was created by our city.

"People who have moved out of the city 'where they can get a better education,' you have created the problem," she said.

It has been traditional for the school board to consider an annual contract extension for the superintendent, as well as a raise based on performance.

Board Vice Chairman Eddie Radford made the motion for the extension, but did not include the "evaluative supplement."

"In the past, the motion's been made to extend the superintendent's contract by a year and award him either a full or partial evaluative supplement," said board member Rick Pridgen.

"I would like to award him the full evaluative supplement," Radford said.

Pridgen praised Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent since 2000, for his efforts, especially during a tight economy and state budget cuts.

"I think the administration has done an exceptional job," Pridgen said.

Pridgen also took issue with those who were "up in arms" and recently spoke out at a county commission meeting about the superintendent's salary and potential bonus.

"But I'm here to tell you tonight there's a lot of people that work in our county that have still got a job because of his leadership and I'm appreciative of that," he said. "Because of his leadership, I think he has well-earned his supplement. I think this county owes him a debt of gratitude and not criticism."

Board members Len Henderson and Flowers did not vote in favor of the raise.

Afterward, Flowers said he was "thrilled" with Taylor's performance but said that as a businessman he had difficulty renewing a contract that has three years left on it. He added that he also had a difficult time approving the supplement.

In his short time on the board -- he was elected in November -- Flowers said he has been on "a little bit of a campaign" for financial transparency of the board.

"I have looked hard. I don't see anything financially wrong with this board," he said. "But I think sometimes some of the ill will that we're getting is because we're not transparent enough."

Some of the most recent turmoil erupted when comments were made by Commissioner Jack Best, who accused the school system of paying Taylor's bonus from the teacher supplement funding, a charge he later admitted was incorrect.

"Since I am the one that started this thing with Mr. Best .... I didn't know he was going to make the comments he did," said Flowers, who admitted to sharing a letter with Best containing school board information.

"Jack is a friend of mine and like myself, sometimes he puts his foot in his mouth or doesn't present well."

Flowers said the city of Goldsboro needs to do more to encourage business growth. That would help stem "city flight," he said.

"I think if the city, if you go to the southern end of Goldsboro ... it's basically a ghost town out there," Flowers said. I think if the city realized that maybe we have set the standards too high, make it business-friendly for start-up business. ... If the city would back off some of its requirements for start-up businesses, you would have people that want to come here."

Mrs. Smith agreed.

"I live in the southern end," she said. "I cannot buy a sandwich after Walnut Street to the end of Goldsboro. (There are) no places to eat. I hope the city's listening."

Mrs. Smith took exception to Flower's comments about transparency.

"Mr. Flowers, we are transparent. ... We have information going out all over everywhere, but there's some people in Wayne County since 1969, when we integrated schools, started working against the success of it. They have almost succeeded because we're already back segregated again. But it didn't just happen because people took the flight at all. It was planned and there are people who are still trying to make two systems."

Even school board members weren't exempt from blame, she added.

"If you're not here to work together with this board, if you're here to find fault with everything we do, you ought not to be on this board. You ought to be out there on the picket line," she said. "The people (who are) taking information to the outside ... people believe you're telling the truth."