Brunswick County Schools admits it ‘inadvertently’ broke state law in superintendent search

Brunswick County Schools broke law in hiring process

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Brunswick County Schools “inadvertently” broke state law when it failed to notify the public of two official meetings where board members interviewed candidates for superintendent and ultimately came to an agreement on its top choice, a school spokesperson said on Monday.

WECT first questioned the district’s superintendent search process on Friday when a spokesperson announced the school board had interviewed candidates to replace outgoing Superintendent Les Tubb, who earlier this year announced his retirement at the end of this month after nearly 40 years in education.

“The Board of Education interviewed the candidates on October 10th and 11th,” Daniel Seamans, spokesperson for Brunswick County Schools, wrote in an email. “After the interviews, each Board Member ranked the candidates. The HR Department summarized the results and the Board agreed on their top candidate.”

Brunswick County Schools admits it ‘inadvertently’ broke state law in superintendent search

On Monday, the board unanimously approved hiring an internal candidate, Dr. Jerry Oates, who is currently associate superintendent of Brunswick County Schools. Under the terms of his contract, he will receive a $157,000 annual salary, plus performance bonuses.

State law requires public bodies provide notices of public meetings, including closed sessions where “the qualifications, competence, performance, character, fitness, conditions of appointment, or conditions of initial employment of an individual” are being considered.

WECT was not notified of either the October 10 or 11 meetings.

“The (superintendent search) process has been a good one,” Seamans said following Monday’s board meeting. “The only catch here is we did make an inadvertent, unintentional oversight, and that was that we did not announce the closed session for the interview dates.”

Asked about any potential repercussions for not following the law, Seamans said the board’s attorney would look into it.

“Right now, it doesn’t look like that there’s anything that’s going to change the outcome of it, simply because that oversight would not change the end result,” he said.

It’s not clear at this time how the school system could inadvertently fail to notify the public of the process, considering this is the third superintendent search the district has conducted in the last eight years.

In 2010, the board hired Dr. Edward Pruden as the district’s leader, but fired him in late 2014, citing “irreconcilable differences.” Tubb officially took over in 2015 after being the only candidate interviewed in a $26,000 outside search.

When pressed for answers, Seamans indicated the board was trying to protect the 28 candidates who were interviewed.

“The big thing here is that the candidates – every one of them – requested confidentiality, you know, they wanted to protect their privacy because many of them are active in school systems and could jeopardize their school status,” Seamans said. “So, in getting caught up in that we made the oversight and did not send out the closed session announcement.”

Copyright 2018 WECT. All rights reserved.