The Moore County Board of Education has called a special meeting for Thursday morning at which it is expected either to fire Schools Superintendent Robert Grimesey or accept his resignation.
The swift-moving decision remained fluid Tuesday afternoon, and all school board members reached for comment declined to speak on the specific nature of Thursday’s 8 a.m. meeting.
An agenda for that meeting released Tuesday specifies the board will go into closed executive session to discuss a personnel matter and then reconvene in open session to take action. Two board members have said the meeting does not involve discussion about any teachers, principals or other personnel.
Grimesey, 58, declined comment when reached Tuesday.
"I can't say anything at this point. It would not be appropriate for me to say anything at this time."
Several people close to school board members and with direct knowledge of the situation say Grimesey was asked to resign during a closed session Monday evening after the board’s workshop session.
According to those people, who spoke on condition of anonymity, a split has occurred on the board between those who think Grimesey should go and those who wish to keep him on board. That split reportedly lines up with Board vice chairwoman Kathy Farren and members Laura Lang, Becky Carlson, Ben Cameron and Sue Black against Grimesey and Board chairman Bruce Cunningham and members Charles Lambert and Ed Dennison supporting Grimesey.
Those who support Grimesey’s dismissal say they have disliked his management style, especially with long-term senior staffers. Several people have said the board was similarly divided last year on hiring him.
Grimesey was hired last May to replace Aaron Spence, who left Moore County to take a job as schools superintendent in Virginia Beach, his hometown. Grimesey had been superintendent of schools in Orange County, Va., a relatively rural community in central Virginia.
Grimesey's salary under a four-year contract, set to expire on June 30, 2018, is $128,148 per year plus an annual supplement of $3,036 for a total of $131,184.
Grimesey's contract reads that in the event of unilateral termination, the board "shall pay to the superintendent, as severance pay, the aggregate salary he would have earned pursuant to ... this agreement for the upcoming 12 months of the agreement or the remaining time of the agreement, whichever is less."
Grimesey has spent much of his first year visiting classrooms around Moore County’s 23 schools. He also spent considerable time, as the school system’s leading “personality,” of involving himself in a number of community affairs and organizations.
As superintendent, Grimesey has continued to implement a digital learning initiative to put more computers into students’ hands. He also has worked with the Board of Commissioners on school funding issues and construction of new schools.
Those who have worked with Grimesey say he has been hands on in leading these initiatives, including plans for a new specialized high school that would be a partnership with Sandhills Community College.
College President John Dempsey said he was "shocked and angered" by what seems to be transpiring.
"I have no idea what goes on internally within the school system, nor is it my business, but I can't imagine any circumstances in which an employee is fired, short of an illegality, without giving that person a chance to be given counsel and to rectify whatever the problem is," Dempsey said. "I have worked with five school superintendents in my 20 plus years at Sandhills, and have liked them all, but I have never worked with one as well as I have with Bob Grimesey.
"I am told that the wish for his departure is not unanimous among board members, but still, if he leaves, it will be a sad day for me personally and for the advancement of educational goals in which Bob is so involved."
Dempsey said he has "no idea" if, or how, Grimesey's departure would affect the partnership between Moore County Schools and the college in advancing the concept high school.
"I hope the work will go forward and will remain on the front burner for the benefit of students and their parents," he said.
Before the executive session Monday, the school board had a regular work session to discuss several issues including a proposed new program at Robbins Elementary School that could help students, both English and Spanish native speakers, to increase their social and academic abilities.
Proponents say bilingual children excel in key areas such as higher self esteem, greater cognitive development and increased listening skills, along with achieving better results on tests than their monolingual counterparts. To that end, administrators hope to create a language program at Robbins Elementary School that will provide full bilingual immersion. The program is set to begin in the fall of 2015 pending board approval.
"Housing a language academy at Robbins Elementary School in partnership with VIF, the Visiting International Faculty of Chapel Hill, is very exciting," said Kathy Kennedy, associate superintendent for Instructional Design and Innovation.
"The development of a child's first language is critical to his or her overall development, and one belief is that students must be able to speak appropriately in their first language in order to develop that in their second language.
"By joining in the program, all participating students at Robbins Elementary will develop higher skills of proficiency in two languages, demonstrate academic proficiency at or above grade level, and demonstrate positive cross-cultural attitudes and behaviors. This will be true in English as well as in Spanish."
So far, 42 Hispanic families and 18 English speaking families have expressed interest in the language school.
Robbins Elementary School Principal Kim Bullard said the school provides a "great opportunity" for student enrichment.
"I am really excited about this because it provides a chance for our students to become globally competitive," she said. "It's a win-win for both English and Spanish speakers because both languages will be equally taught."