By Gabrielle Isaac | [email protected]
LUMBERTON — The Board of Education this morning offered a three-year contract to Tommy Lowry to serve as the superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County after Rick Watkins withdrew his candidacy.
Watkins, a longtime educator and assistant professor at Wingate University, withdrew his candidacy through a letter to the board. When The Robesonian requested the letter, board Chairman Mike Smith said that he could not provide a copy. Watkins’ decision followed a board meeting last week during which the board voted 6-5 to offer him the job, doing so even after some board members criticized him in open session.
Watkins declined to comment on his decision to rescind his candidacy, saying any comments on the situation should come from the school board. He said he wished the board and the school system “the best.”
Lowry, who had been serving as interim superintendent, did not apply for the position that came open when Johnny Hunt retired. He will now be offered a contract that would expire on June 30, 2018. The motion to select Lowry was made by Gary Strickland and seconded by John Campbell, vice chairman.
A sub-motion was entered by Steve Martin to reopen the search.
“Mr. Chairman, I make a motion that we continue our superintendent search with the agreement of contract with the State School Board Association,” Martin said. “We have not finished that search as agreed by this board and I’d like to make a motion that we continue and not throw away $15,000 or $20,000.”
Board members Brenda Fairley-Ferebee, Campbell, Loistine DeFreece and Jo Ann Lowery voted to hire Lowry. Bosco Locklear, who originally supported Watkins, flipped his vote in Lowry’s favor. Board members Peggy Wilkins-Chavis, Randy Lawson, Dwayne Smith and Martin voted to continue the search.
Lowry was supposed to serve as interim superintendent until Aug. 17, when Watkins was to take the position.
“Let me say this to the board: first of all, thank you. This is not a position that I went after. But after some things and the way that things seemed to be going, that’s the reason why I — I guess you could say — put my name in the hat,” Lowry said. “It was not to cause any dysfunction between the board or anything, and I hope that you will believe what I tell you when I say that I’m here to serve the children.”