SMITHFIELD – Johnston County Public Schools is reportedly considering a lucrative one-year contract with a former superintendent. The Johnston County Report has learned some members of the Johnston County school board want to hire former Superintendent Dr. Anthony Parker to perform a facilities assessment for a JCPS Bond Referendum to be decided by voters in November 2022. The work would involve identifying projects to place on the 2022 school bond referendum and the cost.
Parker, is the owner of Parker and Parker Education Consulting, a company he formed in August 2020. Under the proposed $180,000 contract with Johnston County Public Schools , his company would be paid $15,000 per month for 12 months plus reimbursement for mileage and lodging for one of the firms out-of-state specialists. The contract stipulates JCPS must make payment within 7 days of receiving an invoice, not the typical 30 day payment terms. If the work is completed earlier than 12 months, the school board must pay the remainder of the money due in lump sum within 15 days of receiving a final invoice.
Parker served as Johnston County School superintendent from Jan. 2003 to Jan. 2009. Current school board member Kay Carroll was the school board chairman during a portion of Mr. Parker’s tenure.
Parker resigned from Johnston County Schools in 2009 to accept a job as superintendent of Berkeley County SC Schools. He served until 2011 when he resigned.
From March 2011 to March 2016, Mr. Parker worked as the Director of Marketing for Hite Associates, a company frequently used by JCPS to design school buildings and additions.
From August 2015 to July 2020, Mr. Parker was the Chief Operating Officer for Harding Parker & Associates, a firm hired by Berkeley County Schools to do facilities consulting work several years after he resigned as superintendent. From 2017 to 2018 he was paid $382,310 by Berkley County Schools.
In July 2018, the South Carolina school board voted 5-to-3 to extend the contract paying Mr. Parker $7,500 a month plus expenses.
In October 2020, Dr. Parker resigned one day after his contract was approved as a consultant to Robeson County Public Schools. Parker was hired by interim Superintendent Loistine DeFreece to consult with the school district at a cost of $4,000 per month.
The reason for his 2020 resignation was not disclosed, but it came as some Lumberton-area residents voiced concern the cash-strapped Robeson County School board was spending over $10,000 a month to employ Dr. Parker and the interim superintendent.
The lucrative Johnston County contract with Dr. Parker was reportedly considered during a June 2021 closed session but was not approved. Some people have questioned why the contract was not put out to bid. It is an option but not a state requirement.
According to a public records law expert, Fraya Bluestein, Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government, only contracts for construction or repairs, purchases of apparatus, supplies, materials, and equipment are subject to the bidding requirement.
Even if the board was not required to put the contract out to bid, Bluestein said she did not know of any basis for the school board to discuss the contract in closed session.
School Board Ken Soo disagreed saying the JCPS Board is allowed to hear “privileged legal advice in closed session, including advice about contracts.”
School Board Chairman Todd Sutton said a decision has not been made on whether to do the work in-house or hire an outside firm. Sutton says he is awaiting a recommendation from Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy.
“The Board needs an up-to-date review of building capacity and student enrollment so that we can be prepared to serve our families as our county continues to grow. I am asking the Superintendent and his staff to study the best way to handle this question and make a recommendation to the Board on how to go forward, including whether to conduct an internal review or contract with an outside group,” Chairman Sutton said.
We attempted to reach Mr. Parker for a comment but were unsuccessful.