School board goes along with supes’ plan, sans location compromise

At its regular monthly meeting on Monday night, the Mecklenburg County School Board voted to approve the recent resolution passed by the board of supervisors in regard to school facilities, which does not include the school board’s location compromise.
The resolution calls for the hiring of a firm, consultant, architect or other entity to begin scouting locations for a consolidated secondary school facility to serve the entire county.
At its January meeting, the school board agreed to a consolidated middle/high school complex — a compromise amid longstanding disagreements over whether to consolidate the county’s four middle and high schools into one — but stipulated the general location should be between Boydton and South Hill as opposed to locating the school in the geographic center of the county, Boydton.
The board of supervisors at its January meeting responded with a resolution reaffirming its commitment to construction of a consolidated school but explicitly stating it would not commit to a specific site or area as the location at this time. Instead, the supervisors resolved to study and compare costs for potential sites, including land acquisition, extending utility lines, etc., as well as the distance traveled by students to attend the consolidated school.
On Monday night, all school board members voted in favor of the resolution, with the exception of board member Rob Campbell, who abstained from the vote, and board members Kenneth Johnson and Dora Garner, who did not attend the meeting.
The motion that passed on Monday states that the school board “accepts the recommendation of the board of supervisors to hire an architect to evaluate potential building sites.”
Although the motion passed smoothly, many concerns were expressed by multiple school board members after the motion was made by Dale Sturdifen and seconded by Glenn Edwards. However, school board chair Brent Richey assured that the decision on the location is ultimately the school board’s to make.
“(The supervisors) weren’t suggesting that they were going to select the site, but they were not willing to narrow it down,” Richey said.
School board member Gavin Honeycutt said he is concerned that the board of supervisors is ”hovering over” and “controlling” the school board and its decisions, leading him to believe the supervisors do not have faith in or trust the school board members to do their duly elected duties.
“I’ve been doing some thinking since the board of supervisors met, and there is not another municipality or agency in this county of which they hover over like they do with this school system,” Honeycutt said. “Is it because of lack of trust? What is the issue? When our sheriff’s department goes to buy new cars, I doubt very seriously that the board of supervisors goes with them to pick out the cars. At what point do the supervisors turn this over to this body, which was elected by the citizen of this county, to do our job? At what point do we say no more?”
Honeycutt went on to say that the supervisors’ responsibility, in regard to new school facilities, is to fund the project, nothing more.
“At what point do we step up and take over this process?” he asked.
Edwards and Sturdifen expressed disagreement with Honeycutt’s remarks.
Edwards responded that the supervisors are simply trying to hurry the process along and “point us in the right direction.”
Sturdifen answered Honeycutt by saying there is no other entity in the county that absorbs more county funding than the school system, and that is why the supervisors are so involved with the school board’s decisions.
“We take up the biggest portion of the money in this county,” he said.
Honeycutt said he could understand those remarks but still feels that passing the resolution to hire a consultant “for site location” would be a “waste of taxpayer money.”
Honeycutt said the proper course of action should be that the supervisors allocate funds to the school board for a consultant that the school board could work directly with to begin “land acquisitions.”
Sturdifen said, to his understanding, basically that’s what is happening.
Edwards said since the school board doesn’t have “taxing power,” it has no money, therefore, “That’s just the way it’s going to be.”
School board chair Brent Richey reiterated that any site chosen would have to be approved by the school board.
Honeycutt again said that other county entities funded by the supervisors are not controlled or monitored so closely as the school board.
“I don’t see the same interaction like I’ve seen with this board,” he said.
He said the issue deeply concerns him that the supervisors seem to have “no faith” in the school board’s abilities.
“It really does bother me,” he said.
Campbell also expressed concern, asking how the consultant or supervisors would be able to scout or pick a site when “we haven’t told anybody what we are looking for.”
“Should we tell them what we want before anybody starts looking for a site?” Campbell asked.
Edwards said that any steps that are being taken are in the interest of “moving things forward.”
“We haven’t planned anything,” Edwards said of the school board. “We’re sitting over here doing nothing except arguing with each other. So now, at least we have a direction.”
School board member Lindell Palmer also expressed concern, saying, “This procedure has been done before.”
School board member Wanda Bailey expressed concern as well, saying that the motion the school board passed to consolidate schools included a location compromise.
“From my perspective, it would have been nice for the supervisors to acknowledge that either they agree with our motion or they disagree,” Bailey said. “The resolution that they have passed seems ambivalent to our motion. It’s what they have been saying all along, without any regard for what this board has done. That’s my issue, that we aren’t being taken into consideration. And that they think they don’t have enough information to decide on a location. Well, this school board has determined that we have decided on an approximate location. For them to disregard that minimizes our work here.”
“This is really no longer a compromise if they pick the location,” Richey reminded. “They gave on the consolidation part in exchange for five minutes up Highway 58. Now they don’t want to agree.
“This board voted to compromise.”
“Let’s vote now then,” Edwards demanded.
The board did not vote at that time, however, and continued to discuss that the supervisors’ resolution did not outline where the school board resolved the potential building sites should be. Certain members expressed concern that the location may end up not being what they thought was agreed upon — a location between South Hill and Boydton.
Later in the meeting, after a vote on the matter was called for, discussion continued for a lengthy period of time. Bailey also demanded a vote.
Discussion continued for another few minutes; finally a vote was called for. Sturdifen, Bailey, Palmer, Honeycutt, Edwards and Richey voted in favor of agreeing to the supervisors’ resolution.