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James defends duties as superintendent, board members support him

Stanly County School Board members spoke up in favor of their superintendent as Dr. Jeff James reiterated his position and responsibilities during the board’s meeting Tuesday night.

According to the many distinct general statues laying out the governance of school boards, James said the board develops the school policies and the superintendent enforces them.

“For me to lead a consolidation or community-based charge without the full approval of the board would mean I violated the law,” he said.

School Board Chairman Melvin Poole compared the school board and superintendent to the legislative and executive branches.

“The school board is somewhat like a legislative branch in Congress or the statehouse,” Poole said. “We make and set policy, the same way the legislature does laws. The superintendent and his staff, much like the executive branch, is tasked with carrying out the wishes of the board and enforcing the policy.”

Dr. Jeff James

James mentioned school consolidation, which has been a touchy subject for many in the county.

He said even though he worked on school consolidation as assistant superintendent in Montgomery County, the county commissioners led the way on the issue.

The biggest obstacle regarding consolidation in Stanly would be which schools to close down, he said. In talking with students about the issue, James said they were against the idea of consolidation.

James said last year’s election was a clear indication the public favored community-based schools.

His words came in response to a recent Stanly News & Press article where he said “I shouldn’t weigh in on either side” of the school consolidation debate. The story received many Facebook responses challenging his position.

Many board members spoke out in defense of James and the school system.

Board member Jeff Chance said he was disturbed and concerned with the negative comments that have been made against the school system. He applauded James for speaking out.

“My opinion is if you can’t get in the ballgame to pitch for the right side, don’t pitch at all,” Chance said.

Board member Anthony Graves felt James was in a tough position of working with the public while also carrying out his duties.

“I feel for Dr. James because it is very difficult being in his position where he’s stuck between Facebook and the school board and trying to perform his job,” Graves said. “I’m excited about the direction that Stanly County Schools is going in. There’s no doubt that we’re headed in a positive direction due in large part to him (James) and his staff.”

Board member Vicky Watson challenged people in the community to come to the schools to see what’s really happening.

“You need to be there to see what’s going on,” she said. “And if you’re not, then take your opinion somewhere else.”

The next school board meeting will be 7 p.m. on Oct. 3.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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