Robeson County School Board outs superintendent with majority vote

PEMBROKE, NC (WBTW) – Robeson County School Board members voted to buy-out the superintendent’s contract Tuesday night in an unexpected vote, and the school board vice-chairman says a new leader has already been selected.

Robeson County Schools Public Information Officer Tasha Oxendine says in a closed session during the Robeson County school board meeting Tuesday night, a motion was proposed to buy-out the contract of Superintendent Thomas Lowry. School board vice-chairman Peggy Wilkins-Chavis proposed the motion, to which six board members voted in support of, and four board members voted against.

Robeson County School Board member Craig Lowry joined the school board in July. Lowry voted against the buyout Tuesday night, noting that the majority vote surprised him.

“Now we’re paying $400,000 dollars for one person working and we have needs in our schools as far as teachers buying supplies, they are always doing that and people talk about textbooks just many of things that amount of money can be used for in our schools,” said Lowry.

School board member John Campbell is also against the decision to buy out the superintendent’s contract.

“Our employees are scattered all over the county, maintenance is at one place, finances is at another place and here we are in the middle of the school year, we do something as unprecedented as this. It’s inconceivable,” Campbell mentioned.

Campbell has served with the Robeson County School Board for 21 years. Campbell says from his experience, a decision like this should take weeks and or even months to discuss.

“They are exercising that power regardless of the cost or who it hurts. They are flexing their muscles,” added Campbell.

The school board will have to pay $180,000 dollars to buy out Superintendent Thomas Lowry’s contract.

Superintendent Thomas Lowry carried Robeson County Schools through the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew, but board vice-chairman Chavis says low test scores and depleting morale forced a needed change. News13’s Jamarlo Phillips spoke with Chavis Wednesday morning, and during that conversation Chavis explained the board chose to buy-out the one year contract because it’s time to “step-up” and get someone to better help the children. The vice-chairman spoke on behalf of the board noting that the majority of members feel nothing was being done to move the district forward.

Oxendine says the interim superintendent is Dr. Shanita Wooten. Dr. Wooten is also listed on the Robeson County Schools website as Assistant Superintendent of Administration and Technology.

The person to lead Robeson County Schools toward a better future has already been chosen, according to Chavis. She says Dr. Thomas Graves, of Virginia, will assume the superintendent role February 1. Dr. Wooten is slated to serve as the interim until that date. Additional information on Dr. Graves’ experience was not immediately available, but Chavis notes that “Thomas Graves has already applied for his license in the state of North Carolina.”