ELIZABETHTOWN — Amid allegations of backroom dealing, the Bladen County Board of Education voted against offering a contract extension to Superintendent Ken Dinkins.
In a special called meeting Tuesday, the board voted five to four against extending Dinkins through June 2010. His current contract expires on June 30, 2009.
An effort by several board members to garner support for Dinkins failed to gain enough votes before the show-of-hands vote was called.
Board member John Clark made a motion asking for the vote and inquired of Dinkins in the public session if he was offered an extension, would he accept it.
“Yes, I would consider it,” said Dinkins.
Clark also presented the board with a petition signed by several teachers at Bladenboro Primary School asking the board to consider keeping Dinkins.
Board attorney Gary Grady cautioned the board that any discussion of personnel matters should be done in a closed session. Members asked if the motion could remain on the floor and Grady said it could with the consent of the board.
After about a five minute closed session to discuss the issue, the board re-emerged and voted on the issue with members Roger Carroll, Bonnell Walker, John Clark and Bruce Dickerson voting in favor of extending Dinkins’ contract.
A motion to adjourn was made and denied when Dickerson asked in the form of a motion to see minutes of two meetings that were alleged to have taken place on Tuesday and Thursday of last week between members of the county commissioners and the board of education.
“If there was a meeting, I don’t know anything about it,” said Chairman Vinston Rozier.
“The chairman met with the commissioners to ask for a buyout of the superintendent’s contract,” said Dickerson. “If the board did not ask for a buyout, by what authority does the chair have to ask for a meeting and ask for a buyout?”
“The chair never met with the commissioners and asked for a buyout,” said Rozier.
“So the commissioner who told me that is not telling the truth?” asked Dickerson.
“Probably not,” said Rozier.
Following the meeting, board member Mike Cogdell said a meeting did take place on Tuesday. Cogdell insisted the meeting was informal and strictly to discuss recent newspaper articles and comments made by Dinkins.
“No discussion came up about buying anybody out,” said Cogdell. “He has the opportunity to fulfill his contract. It’s up to him if he wants to.”
Outgoing board member John Clark said the board learned of meetings between Bladen County Commissioner Chairman Margaret Lewis-Moore and Rozier to discuss the contract. Clark said he was invited to a meeting between the two boards on Thursday but declined to attend.
“I don’t consider those backroom meetings to be ethical,” said Clark.
He added, “It’s not about education in Bladen County. We went after the commissioners for money and ruffled some feathers. It’s all about our battles with the commissioners.”
Clark said the main reason he called for the public vote is to show the parents and the teachers who is against it.
“If anyone is going to buy him out, I want to see them explain it to the teachers,” he said.
Dinkins said after the meeting he had no knowledge his contract was to be discussed.
“All I knew was we were having a meeting about personnel matters,” said Dinkins. “I appreciate Mr. Clark and the board members who want me to continue here.”
Dinkins said he still stands by his letter he submitted to the board earlier. In it he alleges the board is divided and there are “too many personal agendas and political paybacks on the part of the board.”
Dickerson told the Journal on Wednesday that he was in favor of a dialogue with the commissioners, however, Rozier did not have the authority to act on behalf of the board.
“The day after the first meeting, the chair called and asked me to attend the Thursday meeting,’ said Dickerson.
Dickerson said he questioned Rozier about the nature of the “meeting” and Rozier informed him it was to discuss a direction the board of education was going to take with the superintendent position. Dickerson said he declined the invitation.
“I said our board has not discussed it. It needs to be discussed among our board first. I told him I would have no part of it,” said Dickerson.
He added, “He (Rozier) was not acting on behalf of our board. I had people calling me and asking why we were doing this. I didn’t know anything about it.”
Dickerson told the Journal he does not know the names of everyone in attendance at the meetings in question.
“I’m not blaming the commissioners. The commissioner who told me about it thought our board had asked for it (the meetings),” said Dickerson. “At least some of them went in good faith.”
Dickerson would not reveal the name of the commissioner who told him about the nature of the meetings between the two boards.
“I’d love to see some minutes of those meetings,” said Dickerson.
“Being a superintendent is difficult under the best circumstances,” said Dinkins. “My feeling toward the board is I’m here to do what’s best for the children from now to June 30, 2009.”
Dinkins said he has not yet made a decision on what he will do next.
“I don’t hold grudges. They have to vote what they feel,” said Dinkins.