First Posted: 1/15/2009
RALEIGH - A former Robeson County schools superintendent is among eight people the House elected Tuesday to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors. Purnell Swett will serve a four-year term.
“It's an honor,” Swett said. “I hope I can be a good strong voice for higher education in this area and throughout Southeastern North Carolina.
Swett worked as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent before serving as superintendent of the county school system from 1977 to 1989. Following merger of the county school systems, Swett served as superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County from 1993 to 1997.
Swett also worked with the Department of Education in Washington from 1971 to 1975 and for two years in the 1990s.
“My experience in education spans from the local, state and national level,” Swett said.
Swett, who lives in Pembroke, resigned as superintendent of Public Schools of Robeson County in 1997 after he was accused of illegally taking more than $17,000 from his school system. Swett said he was due the money as a bonus.
He received a 45-day suspended sentence and was ordered to pay back a portion of the money as part of a plea deal after being charged with misprision, a misdemeanor. The plea arrangement did not require him to admit guilt.
The last person from Robeson County to serve on the UNC Board of Governors was Ruth Dial Woods, who served from 1985 to 1993 and again from 1999 to 2003.
Every two years, the House and Senate each name eight people to the 32-member policy board for the 16-campus university system. The Senate plans to elect its eight members this week.
Ronald Leatherwood of Waynesville received the most votes from ballots cast for 14 candidates nominated by the House, followed by Swett, and Marshall Pitts, the mayor of Fayetteville from 2001-05. The other five winning candidates were re-elected to four-year terms. They are:
– Brent Barringer of Cary, a commercial real estate attorney.
– Charles Hayes of Sanford, chief executive of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership.
– G. Leroy Lail of Hickory, chief executive and of the Hickory Furniture Mart.
– Gladys Ashe Robinson of Pleasant Garden, executive director of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of the Piedmont.
– Priscilla Taylor of Chapel Hill, a retired foundation executive.