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State Board of Education suspends Northampton County Schools superintendent over district performance

Superintendent Pamela Chamblee

The State Board of Education (SBE) suspended Northampton County Schools (NCS) Superintendent Pamela Chamblee on Thursday, citing state law that gives the board authority to do so if a district is perennially low-performing.

The SBE hired veteran educator Del Burns as interim superintendent of the small, rural school district in the northeastern part of the state. The district has fewer than 1,500 students and only eight schools. Burns is a former superintendent of the Wake County Public School System.

Burns’ tenure as interim superintendent is effective immediately, the State Board said in a statement.

“The Northampton County School System has been a low-performing school district for a number of years and remains so despite many opportunities to improve,” the State Board said. “The time has come for the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction to use the authority vested in them to take a more direct role in addressing the needs of the Northampton County Schools by appointing a highly experienced Interim Superintendent who has an impressive track record of helping to lift achievement levels in school districts across the State.”

The Northampton Board of Education immediately called a “special meeting” Thursday afternoon to discuss Chamblee’s suspension.

“We’re committed to working with the NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) and the State Board to ensure that our students continue to receive the best education possible,” said Rhonda Taylor, chairwoman of the NCS Board of Education.

Taylor said the board will release a statement after its meeting.

The News-Herald reported that five out of seven district schools are considered low-performing

The State Board cited NC General Statute Sections 115C-105.39 and 115C-274 (b) and (c), which allow it to remove a local superintendent if the superintendent:

  • Fails to cooperate with an assigned DPI State Assistance Team.
  • Takes actions to hinder the ability of the school system to improve its low-performing status.
  • Is in a district in which more than half of the schools are identified as low-performing.

State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis

State Board Chairman Eric Davis noted that the Northampton has been assigned an “assistance team” by NCDPI to help improve student performance. He said the board has received “evidence” that more assertive steps are warranted.

“Our preferred approach is one of collaboration and partnership through the assistance teams with local boards of education and local superintendents,” Davis said. “The State Board also has specific authority under state statutes to provide additional support through more direct intervention in the operation of low-performing districts if the board deems it necessary to improve the instruction in those districts and students’ academic achievement.”

Chamblee has been superintendent of Northampton County Schools since 2019. She was hired as an interim superintendent in April 2019, then as the permanent superintendent in August 2019.

According to The News-Herald, the school board voted 5-2 to fire Chamblee in June 2020. Many of the votes to terminate her contract, however, came from board members completing terms after unsuccessful reelection bids, the paper reported. The new board sworn in two weeks later rescinded Chamblee’s termination, the paper said.

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