School Board Five: Let us decide
In light of the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors’ recent decision to approve funding to construct new school facilities on the condition that the school board agree to one consolidated secondary school complex, the matter resurfaced at Monday’s regular school board meeting.
After brief discussion, a motion was made to rescind the school board’s vote for Option 4, which outlines separate secondary facilities for the east and west sides of the county, and a new, amended motion to go with Option 2, which outlines one consolidated middle/high school campus for the entire county, was presented.
The motion failed by a 5-4 vote.
School Board Chair Dale Sturdifen first told those in attendance that contrary to what some seem to believe, the supervisors cannot tell the school board what to decide. Rather, they can only allot or deny funding. Sturdifen advised that he had spoke with the board’s attorney, who said the board could rescind its previous vote in light of the supervisors’ decision and in the interest of coming to an agreement.
While the matter was not up for discussion, only on the agenda under action items, the board did briefly discuss the matter. Board member Wanda Bailey spoke in favor of two schools, while board member Glenn Edwards spoke in favor of one.
“This board voted for Option 4,” Bailey said. “I regret that we can’t come to an agreement with the supervisors yet regarding new facilities. I’m not trying to be disobedient or extravagant with taxpayer money, and I do not think I am smarter or more informed than my constituents, and I have not been elected to disregard what I know my constituents want.”
“Mecklenburg is not in an unusual situation with school facilities,” she continued. “Counties all over the state are worrying about what to do with aging facilities. Their conversations usually start with what taxpayers can afford. The tax-levying body comes up with a total figure, and the school governing body then takes that amount and puts it to work for the citizens. This is not the model of governing that we have followed. Our supervisors have instructed us to consolidate schools, which they have no authority to do, and still have not committed themselves to any specific dollar amount to upgrade facilities or increase teacher pay.
“All I am asking is that the supervisors decide how much money they want to spend and let us hire an architect to see what we can do with it. I would like to see our constitutional system work with the supervisors paying for what the school board thinks is best within the budget that has been set forth. If that cannot be accomplished, the only way to move forward is to put it to the citizens for a vote in the next general election. If the supervisors stand in the way of that, then I think it is quite obvious that they think they are smarter, more informed and above us all.”
Edwards responded, saying, “There is no reason to talk about facilities anymore. We are at a deadlock in this county. I guess when all our children are wearing raincoats, somebody will make a decision. We have a lot of issues, and we are going to sit on this thing too long.
“This is the first time that the supervisors have ever committed to do something in this magnitude — $100 million plus. The reason is this is not a school building that this school board is supposed to be planning. We are supposed to be presenting to the supervisors an educational plan. In that plan is a new facility or facilities. It’s money included in that plan for teacher raises. Our supervisors are behind us 100 percent. I tell you, I have been here a long time and know them. If we keep shoving this in their face, they are going to put it back on the shelf and we are going to be sitting here a long time with no raises, no schools, because they can’t do it without a tax increase. They have offered us the option to give them something to work with and the public has said they will accept a small increase. But I am discouraged with this whole situation.”
After discussion, Sturdifen made the motion, saying, “I make a motion that in light of the board of supervisors’ decision to not fund our original Option 4, the school board approves Option 2 of the schools facilities proposal, which is a consolidated high school/middle school complex, centrally located, and rescind the option that we previously submitted.”
Edwards seconded the motion.
Edwards and Sturdifen in addition to board members Dora Garner and Kenneth Johnson voted in favor of the motion, while Bailey and board members Brent Richey, Lindell Palmer, Gavin Honeycutt and Rob Campbell voted against it.
The motion died on the floor.
A special closed school board meeting has been called for Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the school board office at 175 Mayfield Drive in Boydton beginning at 6 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss legal matters regarding school facilities. There will be no public input at this meeting.