School board back to square one with central office
SALISBURY — Most Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education members reacted with sadness and anger Wednesday when they heard the city withdrew its school central office application after what city officials called interference by Rowan County.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s apparent there were forces working against us,” said Kay Wright Norman, vice chairwoman of the board. “That should give them some sense of satisfaction that maybe they’re in some control.”
Norman said she’s not sure what the next step will be for the school system. The Board of Education is still involved in a mediation process to resolve a budget dispute with county commissioners.
“That’s a very sad story for Rowan County,” Norman said. “I’m sure some people are smiling, but some want to just cry.”
Jean Kennedy said she was “very disappointed” to hear that the application was withdrawn, but she could not comment because she didn’t know the details.
L.A. Overcash said he doesn’t understand what the problem is. The school system would occupy the building, which was built to its specifications, but only as a renter. The city would own the facility.
“We’re just tenants,” Overcash said. “It’s not our building.”
He said the school board will have to sit down and talk about what to do next to address the many safety issues related to the Long Street building.
“We don’t have the means to build this building that’s desperately needed,” he said.
Board Chairman Dr. Richard Miller said he’s weary of “dealing with leaders who will do anything to control and manipulate every situation.”
Miller said if the school system continues to miss cost-saving opportunities to build a new central office, it soon will have lost enough cost-savings money to have paid for the building outright.
He said that includes a $1.5 million federal historical grant that was lost when the county did not approve a proposed lease-purchase agreement, as well as $1 million in savings from construction and $1.5 million in savings from interest.
“That’s $4 million. That’s halfway to paying for the building,” Miller said.
He said he has put in a call to the school board’s attorneys to seek their advice about the impact of this decision, and the board may have a called meeting soon to talk about it.
Chuck Hughes was the only school board member not to lament the withdrawal Wednesday. Josh Wagner did not return calls for comment.
Wagner has opposed the downtown building not because a central office isn’t needed, he said, but because of its location and price.
“It would be disingenuous of me to pretend I was distraught over the news,” Hughes said. “However, knowing the resources, energy and emotion put into locating the central office building on South Main, I can appreciate the disappointment of many who supported the project.”
Hughes said the Board of Education will need to work with the county to come up with a ‘Plan B’ to move forward. His own suggestions include ideas brought up and rejected by the school board in the past, like locating the office on land next to Isenberg Elementary School or even at the Salisbury Mall, which is for sale.
He said he would be willing to support another plan that seemed reasonable, but he hopes it will be a little while before the planning starts. The school board has more important things to deal with right now, Hughes said, like the budget mediation with county commissioners.
Susan Cox agreed that the school board needs to focus on more important matters, such as improving reading scores and the behavioral climate at schools.
Unlike Hughes, Cox said she’s disappointed the central office plans did not move forward.
“It will be a sad commentary if the school board has to start all over again with the building project,” she said. “I think this is a sad day for Rowan County.”
The Board of Education has just hired a new superintendent, Lynn Moody, who starts Oct. 1. Cox said Moody will have to deal with an issue that should have been put to rest already.
“She’s excited about serving the county, and she has priorities for the school system,” Cox said. “I feel that Dr. Moody is capable of dealing with this issue and willing to do it, but is it the best use of her time and energy?”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.