No action taken on Byrd grievance

First Posted: 1/15/2009

LUMBERTON -- The Robeson County school board didn't take any action Wednesday night during a grievance hearing on a complaint filed by Henry Byrd, a former central office employee. The board rescheduled the hearing for October.
After the two-hour hearing in closed session, the board scheduled a workshop meeting to be held Sept. 3 when it will take the first step in its search for a new superintendent. The board voted in April not to extend Superintendent Barry Harding's contract.
Byrd, the school system’s former director of administration, was transferred by Harding to the Robeson County Career Center in May to be an interim principal. Three days later, Byrd said that he received a death threat over the phone. The threat was allegedly over documentation that Byrd says demonstrates fraud by a person who does contract work for the school system.
In April, Byrd was reassigned to Townsend Middle School in Maxton, where he serves as principal.
In June, Byrd claimed that employees at the Public Schools of Robeson County’s central office opened mail addressed to him without his permission or consent. He filed a complaint with the United States Postal Inspection Service office in Charlotte. The mail and death threat incidents are still unresolved.
Board Chairman Mike Smith said the grievance hearing was postponed to a later date because of scheduling conflicts among several board members. He declined to discuss any details of the hearing because it involves personnel matters.
Apology for delay
After the hearing, Smith apologized to Byrd for the lengthy delay. Byrd filed the grievance in May.
“We apologize for the delay,” Smith said. “We are trying to be fair and give you your due process. We do appreciate your cooperation.”
Byrd declined to comment after the hearing. Byrd came to the Robeson County central office from the Chesterfield County, S.C. central office in 1995.
Byrd is being represented by Cynthia Carroll, an attorney with the North Carolina School Boards Association. The school board is being represented by Nickolas J. Sojka Jr., a Laurinburg lawyer. School board Attorney Grady Hunt is representing Harding during the hearing.
The board set two arbitrary dates to resume the hearing: Oct. 9 or Oct. 23. Board members Patrick Bullard and James DeFreece said they would like to resume the hearing on Oct. 9.
“The sooner the better,” Bullard said. “We have prolonged this long enough.”
In other business, the board scheduled a Tuesday meeting with Allison Schafer, legal counsel and director of policy with the North Carolina School Boards Association. The board hired the association to assist it with the superintendent search. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the central office in Lumberton.
During the meeting, the board is expected to make a decision on a new timeline that was issued by the association at the board meeting on Monday. The first step on the timeline calls for community forums, surveys, and board meetings to identify characteristics desired in a superintendent.

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