LUMBERTON — After a member of the county Board of Education said Tuesday night that Rick Watkins does not have a valid educator’s license, the now-incoming superintendent has provided proof to The Robesonian that he does.
Watkins’ certification was called into question by John Campbell at a meeting on Tuesday during which a split board voted to name him superintendent.
Watkins was first criticized by board member Jo Ann Lowery, who called “illegal” his decision to do an interview with The Robesonian newspaper.
“Even before that mistake, there was another mistake in the application where he stated that he had a valid superintendent license. That is not true,” Campbell said after Jo Ann Lowery aired her concern. “His superintendent license is expired. So that on top of what Dr. Jo is talking about seems to be a history.”
Watkins provided a copy of his professional educator’s license to The Robesonian. The document is valid until 2018 and shows Watkins is certified to work as a superintendent. The N.C. Board of Education confirmed that Watkins does hold a valid educator’s license.
When contacted and told that Watkins was properly credentialed, Campbell initially apologized for misinterpreting the document, but later called The Robesonian and said that board member Loistine DeFreece told him that she had received a copy of his expired license in her packet.
The Robesonian began trying to contact other school board members for clarification, but it came from the state School Boards Association.
“The expired license is what we received from Dr. Watkins when he applied for the position, so that is the copy we mailed to the board when we sent all of his application materials to the board members,” said Scott Murray, an attorney for the North Carolina School Boards Association.
Watkins later provided his current license to the state association, which apparently did not forward it to the local system.
Watkins said that his “character and integrity as a person and as a professional” had been drawn into question.
“I have had a continuous and validated license to practice as an educator in North Carolina since 1980, which has never expired during my career as a public educator,” Watkins said in an email.
Watkins applied for the superintendent position on April 22, and was asked to fax information, including a copy of his educator’s license, to the North Carolina School Boards Association on June 16.
He said that the information that he provided was validated by the North Carolina School Boards Association and he could have clarified any misinterpretations before being offered the job.
According to the license, Watkins is also a certified principal, physical education instructor, health education instructor and curriculum instructional specialist. According to the the N.C. Board of Education, licenses expire, not the individual certifications.
Watkins has served as an assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent of Human Resources and an associate superintendent for Administrative Services.
According to Tasha Oxendine, public information officer for the Public Schools of Robeson County, Watkins is still reviewing the contract he has been offered by the system. The school system is not obligated under state law to release the terms of his contract until it is signed.
Watkins’ appointment was approved by the board with five board members voting against and five voting in favor. Board Chairman Mike Smith broke the tie in favor of hiring Watkins.
The Robesonian had hoped to have an in-depth story this weekend about Watkins’ vision for the local school system, but he asked that he be given more time to answer questions that the newspaper submitted.
Gabrielle Isaac can be reached at 910-816-1989 or on Twitter @news_gabbie.