THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Edgecombe County Public Schools started off somewhat anew Monday during a special called board meeting by swearing in a new superintendent, a new board member and two other board members who were re-elected in the May.
The ceremony allowed John D. Farrelly to officially take over the duties as the new superintendent, Olga Dickens to begin her first term on the board and Janet Davidson and Keith Pittman to continue serving.
Farrely replaces Del Burns, who was operating as the interim superintendent. Farrelly was previously superintendent in Washington County.
"I'm excited to be here and start work," Farrelly said. "I've been looking forward to it for a couple of months. I'm very appreciative of the opportunity to work with the board and the community."
"I spent some time during the last couple of months getting to know the staff here at the central office and the board members. The next phase this week is spending time with the principals and getting to know them."
Farrelly has a track record that puts sub-par school districts on the right track. Under his leadership in Washington County, Plymouth High School went from 50 percent of students passing the end-of-grade test to 75 percent. ECPS has problems similar as Washington County and Farrelly seems to be prepared to roll up his sleeves and get to work.
"I'm not going to take everything that happened in Washington County and think that it's going to work here. It has to be an observation process," he said. "We are struggling particularly in reading, so I hope that some of my experience will translate. But it is important to get to know the strengths and the weaknesses here and what the community expects.
"As much as I would like to fast forward and get to a place and time where our scores are off the chart, it's going to take some time. But every day we will get better. If we take baby steps and focus on what the plan is, we can get there."
Dickens met Farrelly for the first time on Monday and said she likes his ideas after learning about him from newspaper clippings.
"Hopefully, he'll do the same thing that he has done in other districts — move our children to the highest academic achievement," Dickens said.
Dickens replaces attorney Teresa Deloatch Bryant, who did not seek re-election. Dickens defeated Quincy Robinson in the May election. As a new member of the board, she was also ready to go to work.
"I look forward to working with the school board to move our children in the right direction," she said. "I will support what they are doing and make sure that our children reach their highest potential. I will represent my district to the best of my ability."
Dickens said she has confided in Bryant and will continue to do so. Bryant served five years on the board and said she will support Dickens.
"I believe that we're in very good hands with Olga Dickens," she said. "She's not a lawyer, but she has some strengths that are weaknesses of mine. I'm looking forward to her serving. I hope everybody will support her. I know that I will."
She added, "I've had a good five years. I represented the district as well as I could."
Davidson and Pittman both have 12 years of service. Davidson defeated Albert Proctor to retain her seat, while no one ran against Pittman.
The next school board meeting will be Monday at the ECPS Central Office.