Granville school board hires Sojka as its attorney

Aug. 05, 2014 @ 04:52 PM

OXFORD — At its regular monthly meeting Monday evening, the Granville County Board of Education hired Nickolas J. Sojka Jr. to be school board attorney.

The board voted 4-2 to hire Sojka. Patrick Cox and Leonard Peace voted nay. Chairwoman Brenda Dickerson-Daniel was absent due to a scheduling conflict.

Sojka has served as interim school board attorney since the middle of May. He was hired on the recommendation of the law firm Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey and Leonard LLP, which had conducted an investigation of the board’s contract procedures with the district’s top administrators, resulting in the resignation of Superintendent Timothy Farley.

When Sojka assumed the duties of interim school board attorney, the board excused then-school board attorney Jim Cross from representing the board for the remainder of his contract, which ran through July.

Boyd said four proposals were received to fill the position. Oxford attorneys A. Chance Wilkinson and R. Gene Edmundson submitted proposals, as did Richard A. Schwartz of Raleigh and Sojka, who is based in Laurinburg.

Because Sojka has an ongoing commitment on the first Monday of each month — the board’s regular meeting time — the board discussed changing the scheduled meeting times. The board changed its next meeting from Sept. 8 to Sept. 4. At that meeting, Sojka will present a suggested meeting schedule.

The board also approved revisions to the board policy dealing with the board attorney. The major change states the attorney will serve at the pleasure of the board rather than be retained on a one-year contract.

In the previous week, vice-chairman Donnie Boyd had released a statement responding to an Oxford Public Ledger article criticizing the board for the cost of hiring an out-of-county board attorney. Cost of legal services provided by the former board attorney averaged approximately $7,900 a month, Boyd said.

“Mr. Sojka’s most recent invoice for a very busy month (June 7 through July 11, 2014) is for $6,791,” the statement continued. “When considered in totality, and in comparing like services, Mr. Sojka and Mr. Cross’ fees are in fact very similar.”

In other business, the board approved a nearly $9.6 million contract with New Atlantic Contracting to serve as the prime contractor for construction and renovation at Granville Central High School. Architect Jon Long said five bids were received. Gus Gillespie, assistant superintendent for human resources and auxiliary services, said the contract amount keeps the cost of the project, including architect and engineering fees and furniture and equipment, within the projected $12 million total.

The board approved the following compensation levels — including salary, supplements, longevity and travel — for the three assistant superintendents:

• Gillespie: $116,087.

• Michael Myrick, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction and student services: $116, 087.

• Beth Day, assistant superintendent for finance: $116,754.

Lela Baldwin, director of federal programs and elementary education, reported on the Read to Achieve summer program. Third-graders who did not achieve proficiency were recommended to attend the program. More than 120 children attended. A number of students achieved proficiency on re-testing, while others qualified through alternative means, leaving 70 students who did not demonstrate proficiency at the end of the program. Principals will have the option of retaining these students in the third grade or placing them in a transition class where they will be taught the fourth-grade curriculum and receive special support in reading.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Angela Clayton, vice-president of NCAE District 7A, wore a “We love public education” T-shirt as she expressed the organization’s support for the school system.

The Rev. Ronnie Morton described a summer program at C.G. Credle Elementary School in which community members taught children to respect their teachers and exhibit positive attitudes.

“We don’t expect you to raise our children,” he said. “We’ll do that. It’s better if we all work together.”

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