Seven Scotland County residents have applied to fulfill the term of school board member James Underwood, who died in October.
The board is currently in the process of verifying their eligibility, as the position is an at-large seat and applicants cannot live in the Stewartsville Township.
The applicants are Charlie Fipps, Loretta “Rena” McNeil, James Oxendine, Emma McNeil-Stone, Jeff Shelley, Jamie Sutherland, and Stacy Stewart.
The Laurinburg Exchange was unable to contact Oxendine with the information that applicant gave to the school board.
Those applicants eligible will be invited to give a brief presentation during the Jan. 7 meeting of the Board of Education, and the board expects to select a new member by February.
The term will expire in 2014.
Charlie Fipps, owner of Charlie Fipps Agency in Laurel Hill, has served on the school board twice in the past: from 1972-1974 and most recently from 1998-2006.
Fipps has taught in Scotland County’s public schools as well as Richmond County schools, and holds a master’s degree in school administration. Currently, his agency works with schools in Scotland, Hoke, Richmond, and Moore counties to focus on the retirement and insurance needs of their personnel.
“I would like to ensure that all Scotland County students receive a 21st century education enabling them to function well as literate citizens in functional jobs,” Fipps said in a statement. “I would also like to see programs develop that encourage a more welcoming atmosphere for the public in the schools, thus restoring publicly perceived integrity.”
Loretta McNeil of Laurinburg is retired from the U.S. Army and presently serves in a volunteer capacity as adviser to the Scotland County NAACP youth council. She has also volunteered in schools, with Scots for Youth, and with American Legion.
McNeil said that her motivation for running is to help promote a system that will develop each child’s potential to its fullest.
“Those of us that have some wisdom should want to give back and make sure that each generation is stronger, academically, in development as individuals, and in the creativity that God has given them,” she said. “That’s something that we want for ourselves, for our children, and for those to come: always to be open-minded as there may be an answer in any one of these students and we want to make sure that they have the resources to develop it.”
Emma McNeil-Stone, a resident of Laurinburg, retired last year from the position of principal of I. Ellis Johnson Elementary School. Prior to her retirement, she worked in education for 39 years and holds a masters in education administration.
McNeil-Stone is a native of Scotland County and a graduate of Carver High School. As the wife of a Marine Corps office, she taught in schools around the world.
“Every place I went I taught school: Okinawa Japan, Quantico Virginia, Beaufort South Carolina,” said McNeil-Stone.
Having worked with Underwood at I.E. Johnson, McNeil-Stone was motivated to fill his position on the school board by his love for children.
“I felt like knowing James Underwood prompted me to want to follow his dream for the kids of Scotland County,” she said. “I believe that the kids in Scotland County are first and foremost receiving a quality education, however I also believe that there are areas that we can improve and that they’re being addressed… I really feel that the vision that the board has in place and the superintendent has in place are solid, and I want to make sure that those values and missions are carried out.”
Jeff Shelley, a Laurel Hill native, is a self-employed business owner who says that he wishes to work in the interests of Scotland County’s future.
“The farm that I live on, my children are the fifth generation on this farm,” Shelley said. “I would like to give back a little to what the county’s given me. I just think I can bring some fresh ideas and be a new face.”
Shelley has worked with children and youth in several capacities.
“I’ve coached football at the high school for the last five years and at Carver Middle School,” he said. “I’ve been involved with kids for all of my adult life and I think education is of the foremost importance for the future of our kids and also our nation.”
Jamie Sutherland, a resident of the Williamson Township, works as a physical therapist with Carolina Therapy Services. His three children attend school in Scotland County.
“My grandfather was on the school board and public service has always been something that we’re actively involved in and we want to be involved in provided a quality education to the students of Scotland County,” said Sutherland.
He also serves on the board of directors of Communities in Schools of Scotland County, a nonprofit dropout prevention program currently working in North Laurinburg Elementary School and Carver Middle School. He is a past president of the Laurinburg Optimist Club.
“I know there are some hot button issues, and outreach is an interest of mine,” he said. “The school board is something that I’ve watched and observed over the years and saw this as an opportunity to get actively involved.”
Stacy Stewart began her career in education as an English teacher at Scotland High School before working as an assistant principal and principal at elementary and middle schools in Hoke County. For the last seven years, Stewart has worked as executive director of federal programs and school improvement for Hoke County Schools. She is a resident of the Williamson Township.
Like McNeil-Stone, Stewart has worked with James Underwood, when teaching at Scotland High School.
“I too share the passion that he had for all children,” said Stewart. “My knowledge and skills as a central office administrator position me to be an ideal candidate for the school board vacancy. I want to be an active team member on the board who leads not only from experiences but from the heart.”
Stewart said that she has “no hidden agenda,” and hopes that her experience facing the difficulties of public education will enable her to serve her community.
“When you think about all children from a federal programs perspective, that includes the AIG students, the student from diverse ethnicities, the students from a limited economic background, the students with disabilities, and the limited English proficient student,” she said. “I realize the challenges that are facing public education when it comes to the limitations of funding as well as the accountability that is not only something that students have to face, but also the individual teachers as well as principals in the school.”