Commissioners ready to discuss new central office for school system
By Jessie Burchette
While Rowan County commissioners are ready to meet with top school system officials to discuss a a new central office, some parents say the focus should be on students.
And one member of the Board of Commissioners took issue at Monday’s board meeting with Chairman Arnold Chamberlain’s appointing a committee to deal with the central office issue at this time.
Chamberlain appointed himself, Commissioner Jim Sides and County Manager Gary Page to the committee. He asked Page to contact Jim Emerson, chairman of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education, and set up a meeting if the school board still considers a central office a top priority.
Chamberlain said he had promised to deal with the central office issue starting in August and is keeping his word.
While other commissioners supported Chamberlain’s move, Jon Barber questioned the timing.
Barber said two seats on the Board of Commissioners will be decided in the November election, along with three seats on the school board. He suggested the county should wait until the new boards are in place before tackling the central office issue.
“I said I would do it,” Chamberlain replied. “If they want to do it, so be it.”
Sides said anything the committee comes up with will come back to the full Board of Commissioners.
Commissioner Tina Hall suggested it could be a good time to resume joint meetings with the school board.
Chamberlain agreed, saying that possibility will be added to the discussions.
During public comment at the start of the board meeting, two North Rowan High School parents called on commissioners to force the school board to deal with inequities in the school system.
And a former school board member criticized the school system and suggested the school board is wasting money.
Ada Fisher, currently a candidate for the 77th N.C. House District, said she asked repeatedly for a list of all properties the school system owns and never got it during her four years on the board.
She called on the school board to buy back the Dunbar Center in East Spencer and use it for an alternative high school.
She noted that 666 students dropped out during the past school year and said, “The board of education can do better.”
Corine Mauldin, a North Rowan parent, held up a jar filled with asphalt she said came from the North track, which was resurfaced three years ago.
“It’s a disgrace,” said Mauldin, adding that the track is coming up in bits and pieces and unsafe for track meets.
She cited problems throughout the school system, saying the school board’s job is not to serve the needs of administrators but to serve the needs of students.
Mauldin said the focus should be on providing equal opportunities for students at all schools.
Wynna Howe, another North Rowan supporter, criticized the school board for what she called its failure to take any action to fill the 300 empty seats at North Rowan High School.
Howe said the public was told during the last school bond campaign that all county high schools would be filled to 85 percent of capacity, but North is at 58 to 60 percent.
She urged commissioners to push for better educational opportunities instead of supporting a central office.
“These are the faces of children left behind,” Howe said, holding up an open yearbook displaying dozens of pictures of students.