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Email jeopardizes relationship between UNCW and NHC Schools, supt. says

Published: Mar. 17, 2015 at 8:00 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 21, 2015 at 9:08 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A StarNews letter to the editor forwarded by a UNCW professor to the New Hanover County Board of Education has put a long standing partnership in jeopardy, according to Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley.

The letter was sent to the School Board by Dr. Eleni Pappamihiel, an Associate Professor at UNCW's Watson College of Education.

The author of the letter, published in February, said she was disappointed when she did not see any school board members at a funeral service for Lieutenant Mary Green. Green, who passed away earlier this year, was the first African American lieutenant with the Wilmington Police Department.

The letter also brings up the issue of school redistricting, likening it to re-segregation and specifically criticizes board members Janice Cavenaugh and Jeanette Nichols whose names were two of hundreds suggested for a new elementary school.

The letter reads, "By any measure, Lt. Green's contributions to this place have been vastly more constructive than Cavenaugh's and Nichols' unrepentant segregationism."

After receiving the email, Superintendent Markley sent an email to the Dean of Education at UNCW detailing the concerns of the board.

"I have a school board that is very irate about the email below. So irate they are considering not signing the PD agreement that Summer presented yesterday. Some see this as just another example by the UNCW and Watson staff in particular to denigrate Board members when they do not agree with decisions that are made," said Markley.

School Board Chairman Don Hayes also sent an email to the board voicing his concerns.

"I find the letter to be contemptible and the professor's behavior atrocious. She not only slapped us in the face, but also the community that elected this board," said Hayes.

Board member Lisa Estep took issue with Superintendent Markley reaching out to UNCW on behalf of the board.

"I have an issue with presenting the entire board as being prepared not to sign the agreement. First, no one consulted me to ask my opinion on the letter, nor did I offer one; second, at no time did I indicate I was not going to vote for the PD agreement over one rogue letter from one professor," Estep explained in an email. "Instead of sending an email characterizing the board as 'irate', would it not have been more professional to initiate a discussion first with ALL board members to make sure we were on the same page and then with UNCW?"

UNCW's Watson School of Education has a professional development system with 14 local schools that assists the university with placing student interns in classrooms.

The New Hanover County School Board is scheduled to discuss the agreement at their April meeting.

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