ELIZABETHTOWN — Despite rumors to the contrary, Bladen County Schools Superintendent Robert Taylor is staying in Bladen County. For now.
In a June 19 letter sent to the Bladen Journal, The Fayetteville Observer, Bladen County School Board members, Cumberland County School Board members, Bladen County commissioners, and Bladen County Schools principals, an allegation was made that Taylor was seeking the Cumberland County Schools position vacated by the Cumberland County School Board’s June 13 decision to allow superintendent Frank Tills out of his contract for the next school year.
“I have never spoken with any member of the Cumberland County Board of Education about my interest there, and if you ask each and every Cumberland County board member, each one would tell you the same thing,” Taylor said. “I work for Bladen County Schools, and my obligation is to do everything I can to improve the public schools in Bladen County. I’ve done that for six years and plan to do it for seven. If I do plan to look outside, I will be transparent with our board members and inform them of what I plan.”
He added about his intentions, “You’re never looking, but if certain kinds of opportunities become available, that’s something I would evaluate with my family. But right now, I work for Bladen County Schools.”
Taylor began his tenure as superintendent of Bladen County Schools on July 1, 2011. Prior to that, he served Clinton City Schools as assistant superintendent from 2003-2011. A 1990 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Taylor received his bachelor’s degree in history and political science. He went on to attend Fayetteville State University, where, in 2001, he earned a master’s degree in school administration and, in 2009, a doctorate in educational leadership.
The Bladen County Board of Education voted in April to renew Taylor’s contract for another two years.
In June, the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University’s College of Education announced Taylor to be a recipient of its prestigious Friday Medal. Given annually to honor significant contributions to education, particularly through advocating innovation, the award puts Taylor in the company of former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt, Harvard faculty member David H. Rose, and Bill McNeal, the 2004 National Superintendent of the Year.
In 2015, Taylor began to come under fire amid talk of school consolidation. Communities like Clarkton, East Arcadia and Tar Heel spoke openly and heatedly to board members against losing their schools, spurring the board to divert its attention solely from consolidation to consolidation with new construction, an idea sitting better with most constituents.
The same letter attacks Taylor for the return to Tar Heel Middle School of a specific guidance counselor and even includes multiple threats to sue the school system and Taylor for “not providing a safe environment for our children in regards to the guidance counselor …”
“When we hire someone, we do a complete background check, reference check, and resumé,” said Bladen County Schools Information Officer Valerie Newton, “so we’re not going to hire someone with a criminal background.”
“I can’t get into the content of personnel files, but I can say that (the guidance counselor in question) is still employed in this school system,” Taylor said.
The major issue in the letter seems to be the recent decision to transfer Tar Heel Middle School Principal Jennifer Smith to one of the high schools as assistant principal, a move the letter says reflects “poor judgment” and manipulation. Both Newton and Taylor declined to comment on the decision.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.