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The Pender County School Board wants the NAACP to say it's sorry. The school board is asking for a public apology from the civil rights group's state and county chapter for several allegations against the district and school board members.
The NAACP has criticized the county school system for months by claiming a lack of minority hiring and criticizing the recent hiring of a white assistant principal, who is related to assistant superintendent Rachel Manning.
School Board Chair Tom Roper says the woman was hired because she was the most qualified candidate and not because she is white or Manning's sister-in-law.
The NAACP also says Roper made derogatory and insensitive comments toward minorities.
"I don't have a racial bone in my body," Roper said. "Never have, never will. And so it just hurts. It really does. It's really a cheap shot in my book."
The NAACP says the school system has one African-American principal and 34 minority teachers compared to nearly 350 white teachers.
We called Pender County NAACP president Rachel Stephens to discuss the allegations today, but she did not return our call.
The Pender County Board of Education is issuing this press release to respond publicly to allegations by Dr. Rachel Stephens, President of the Pender County NAACP.
On October 26, 2009, Dr. Rachel Stephens sent a letter on behalf of the Pender County NAACP to Mr. Tom Roper, the Chairman of the Pender County Board of Education. The letter shows that a copy was sent to a County Commissioner and others. The letter was also disclosed to the media. In that letter, Dr. Stephens stated that it had been alleged that Mr. Roper was frequently absent from School Board meetings, that he rarely interacts with students and their parents or the Community at Large, and that it had been reported that Mr. Roper made derogatory and insensitive remarks concerning minorities and organizations that support equity of opportunity for all. The letter went on to say that the North Carolina State Office of the NAACP and the Pender County Branch of the NAACP would conduct an investigation into the allegations.
Mr. Roper made a public statement during the meeting of the Pender County Board of Education on November 9th, 2009, emphatically denying the allegations and expressing extreme shock and dismay that they would be made without ever being discussed with him.
Since that time, Mr. Roper and the Board have fully cooperated with Dr. Stephens and provided public records that she requested.
Now, nearly four months after Dr. Stephens said the State and local NAACP would investigate the allegations, neither Dr. Stephens nor anyone else with the State or local NAACP have produced any evidence to support those allegations. Neither Dr. Stephens nor the local NAACP have ever asked to meet with Mr. Roper to discuss the allegations. Also, they have not even informed Mr. Roper or the Board of the identity of the persons to whom Mr. Roper allegedly made such alleged insensitive or derogatory statements, the dates, times or places they were allegedly made, or the alleged substance of such statements.
Mr. Roper, the Superintendent and other Board members have on several occasions offered to meet with Dr. Stephens and the local NAACP concerning the allegations and other concerns of the local NAACP but they have refused to meet or to engage in any meaningful discussions.
Also, in an effort to alleviate any possible miscommunication, Mr. Roper, the Superintendent, and other representatives of the Pender County Schools, voluntarily met with Walter Atkinson, a community dispute resolution specialist from the U.S. Department of Justice, to attempt to open communications with the local NAACP. Representatives of the Board asked Mr. Atkinson to facilitate a meeting between representatives of the Board and the local NAACP but the local NAACP has not agreed to such meeting.
Instead, Dr. Stephens continues to make allegations of unethical and improper conduct against Mr. Roper and the Superintendent of the Pender County Schools. Dr. Stephens has recently accused the Superintendent and Board of improper hiring procedures with respect to the hiring of Jennifer Angel, for the position of Assistant Principal at Malpass Corner Elementary School. Dr. Stephens has alleged that Ms. Angel was not properly licensed to hold the position and that the Board’s nepotism policy was violated by hiring her.
These allegations by Dr. Stephens concerning the hiring of Ms. Angel are false. Ms. Angel does hold the required license and she was the most qualified applicant for the job. Ms. Angel will not directly be supervised by someone related to her by blood or marriage so the nepotism policy was not violated.
The Board believes that Dr. Stephens’ actions are capable of fostering a climate of mistrust among some parents, students, teachers and administrators. They are also damaging to morale within the Pender County Schools and to the professional reputations of those involved.
Therefore, the Pender County Board of Education hereby publicly calls upon Dr. Rachel Stephens of the Pender County NAACP to refrain from making or disseminating false or unsubstantiated accusations against Board members and Administrators of the Pender County Schools and to either promptly produce evidence supporting the allegations against Mr. Roper or issue a public apology to Mr. Roper and the Pender County Board of Education.
Also, the Board requests that Dr. Stephens issue a public apology to Allison Sholar, Superintendent, Rachel Manning, Assistant Superintendent, and Jennifer Angel regarding the accusations Dr. Stephens made concerning the hiring of Ms. Angel.
The Pender County Board of Education and its Superintendent have been and continue to be committed to equality and fairness in their hiring practices and will not allow false attacks and accusations to deter them from those goals.
Information from a news release sent to the WWAY NewsChannel 3 Newsroom.