LUMBERTON — Although at least one school board member expressed concern about whether former Scotland County educator Rick Watkins was certified to work as a superintendent, Tommy Lowry, who was offered the job Thursday, is not certified by the state in that field.
According to the North Carolina State Board of Education, Lowry, who has been offered a three-year contract to work as superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, is licensed to work as a principal; to teach language arts, math and social studies to middle grades; teach physical education and safety and driver education to grades K through 12th; teach elementary education and to teach grades fourth through sixth.
His educator’s license is valid until June 30, 2020.
It is not required that superintendents in North Carolina hold a corresponding certification.
Scott Murray, staff attorney for the North Carolina School Board Association, which helped the Robeson County school system in its superintendent search, said that there are alternative guidelines if a candidate does not have the certification.
The Department of Public Instruction website says that someone without a superintendent certification should have “at least a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university and five years leadership or managerial experience considered relevant by the employing local board of education.”
Lowry has worked as an assistant superintendent since 2007 and served as interim superintendent while the school board sought a replacement for Johnny Hunt. He received an Elementary Education degree with a math concentration from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Lowry has worked with the Public Schools of Robeson County for more than 38 years.
Board member Gary Strickland said that he doesn’t mind that Lowry is not certified to work as a superintendent in North Carolina.
“He’s worked his whole life in our county,” Strickland said, noting that Lowry has worked as a teacher, principal, drivers education instructor and assistant superintendent in Robeson County.
Dwayne Smith and Steve Martin agree that Lowry is qualified for the position regardless. However, Smith said that the board’s response to Lowry’s lack of certification should have paralleled the response given to questions over Watkins’ certification.
“Why raise sand about it with Watkins and it wasn’t a problem with Tommy?” Smith said.
Watkins rescinded his candidacy after the board discussed his credentials in open session, and board member John Campbell stated that Watkins did not hold a valid superintendent certification but said on his application for the job that he did. Watkins then provided a copy of his valid educator’s license, which includes superintendent certification, to The Robesonian and his credentials were also confirmed with the Department of Public Instruction.
Lowry was offered a contract after Watkins withdrew his candidacy for the position. Five board members voted in favor of giving Lowry the job, while four voted to re-open the search for a superintendent.