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RSS responds to Knox criticism

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury School System spokeswoman Rita Foil sent a press release to the Post this morning about Knox Middle School, other schools in the system and the continuing discussion about a new school system central office.
Foil said the press release was in response to “recent coverage in the local media concerning the sanitary and safety conditions” at Knox. However, some of it appears aimed at refuting charges made by the Rev. Bill Godair in a letter to Rowan-Salisbury Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom, county commissioners and the Post.
Members of Godair’s church volunteered to clean and paint Knox and replace some items such as worn-out carpet, and the church raised several thousand dollars for repairs at the school, after hearing that conditions inside included rodent droppings and roaches.
They’ve been allowed on campus this week to paint outside the buildings, pull weeds and pick up trash on the grounds.
In his letter, Godair called for an independent committee including educators, elected and parents, to inspect county schools and recommend improvements.
“If it needs cleaning, let’s clean it. If it needs painting, let’s paint it. If it has bugs, let’s spray it. There are numerous churches and community groups lined up to help,” he wrote. “This community can get it done.”
Godair also called for an independent audit of the school system’s finances to determine if money has been set aside for a new central office. If so, he wrote, that money should first go to improving schools.
Godair, who at one time offered to sell the Cornerstone church campus on Webb Road to the school system, wrote in the letter that after touring current school system offices and seeing conditions in them, he supports a new central office “no matter where it’s located as long as all the details make sense.”
“As much as I’m in favor of those folks having good working conditions, I am also in favor of our children having a good, clean, safe working environment,” he wrote.
Here is the text of Foil’s press release:
RESPONSE TO RECENT MEDIA COVERAGE CONCERNING KNOX MIDDLE SCHOOL AND THE PROPOSED CONSOLIDATED CENTRAL OFFICE
Thursday, August 11, 2011 (Salisbury, NC) – This press release is intended to address the recent coverage in the local media concerning the sanitary and safety conditions at Knox Middle School. The Rowan-Salisbury School System and the Knox Middle School family are committed to providing an environment that is safe, clean, and inviting for student academic achievement.
Knox Middle School is composed of approximately 580 students and 80 staff consisting of administrators, clerical support, teachers, counselors, custodial staff, school food service staff, and transportation. In addition to the central office, Knox Middle is supported by an active PTA, Boosters Club, School Improvement Team, and community supporters including several churches and businesses that volunteer their time in many areas from academic support to maintenance support.
SANITARY CONCERNS
RSS has a “Clean School Inspection” program. Saffelle Inc., an independent inspection company, conducts annual inspections in all schools in the district twice a year. During each visit, a team of inspectors visits each school campus over a period of several days to inspect areas such as:
[0xb7] Lawn & Parking Lots
[0xb7] Entrance Ways and Sidewalks
[0xb7] Hallways and Office Areas
[0xb7] Restrooms
[0xb7] Custodial Supply Rooms
[0xb7] Material Safety Data Sheet Book
[0xb7] Classrooms
[0xb7] Auditorium, Gym, and Multipurpose Room
[0xb7] Lawn Equipment
[0xb7] Custodial Equipment
Each area is scored and the results from these inspections are sent to the principals of each school, with a copy to the central office. All schools that meet the requirements will display the “RSS Clean School Banner” at a prominent place in their building.
In addition, there are annual health inspections, and pest control inspections that are conducted in the schools.
In the spring of 2011, Knox Middle School did not pass the annual inspection conducted by Saffelle, Inc., which lead to personnel changes at the school. Results of all these inspections are on file.
During the 2010-2011 school year, the anonymous survey from the “North Carolina Teachers Working Conditions Initiative” stated that 85% agree or strongly agree that the environment in our schools is clean and well maintained district wide. More specifically, the results of the survey for Knox Middle School stated that 72% agree or strongly agree that the environment is clean & well maintained at Knox Middle School.
The 2009 NC Department of Public Instruction’s “Comprehensive Needs Assessment School Final Report” reported that, “The building is well-maintained, and the school grounds are clean and welcoming.”
These ratings reflect that the RSS maintenance and custodial staff is to be commended for their hard work and dedication in keeping school facilities clean for students and staff.
SAFETY CONCERNS
Security surveillance systems make the school environments safer and deter weekend vandalisms and school break-ins. During the 2008-2009 school year, in partnership with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Department, RSS received a grant titled, SOS (Secure Our Schools) through COPS (Community Oriented Policing Service). At that time, RSS began the placement of security cameras in all high schools and several middle schools, including Knox Middle School. Security cameras were installed at Salisbury High and Knox Middle schools during the 2008-09 school year; and at East Rowan, North Rowan, South Rowan, West Rowan, and Henderson Independent high schools, along with Horizons Unlimited, North Rowan and China Grove middle schools during the 2009-10 school year.
RENOVATIONS AND REPAIRS
Between 2006 and 2011, 0ver $1 million has been spent at Knox Middle for major repairs, replacement and/or additions consisting of the following:
Security Cameras, (entire campus)
Gym, A/C, Windows, Painting, Locker Rooms and A/C
Athletic Field Accessibility Improvements (under contract)
HVAC, Boiler, Heating Replacement
Plumbing Replacement
Fencing Security
Flooring Replacement
Blinds Replacement
Hardware, Door, Environmental
Roof Replacement
New furniture and new white boards have been ordered for the upcoming school year.
**This excludes any general maintenance repairs, plumbing repairs, electrical additions and repair, painting or equipment purchase. Every effort has been made to meet the requested needs of Knox Middle School.
PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT
Over the previous year, a committee of stakeholders including parents, teachers, and administrators frequently met to brainstorm ideas and devise a plan to improve Knox Middle for the success of the students.
In addition, numerous meetings were held in the Spring to encourage parental support, including off-site locations for parents that were not able to attend the meetings on the Knox campus. Parents were engaged and these meetings resulted in more parental involvement and donations to Knox Middle.
FINANCIAL CONCERNS
RSS contracts annually with Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP, Certified Public Accounts and Advisors, an independent firm, that conducts an audit, in accordance with Government Auditing Standards, which includes the financial statements of the governmental activities, the business-type activities, each major fund and the aggregate remaining fund information of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education. This audit is located on the district’s website at: http://www.rss.k12.nc.us/Finance/Audit.html There are no secret accounts and no means for “hiding” funds.
NEW ADMINISTRATIVE CENTRAL OFFICE BUILDING
There is no funding budgeted for a new administrative building. A proposal has been presented to the RSS Board of Education to consolidate five central office locations into one specified location by Downtown Salisbury, Inc. through an investment company that would not require up-front funds. Up-front funds would only be available if the central office staff were to move out of all the locations and sell the buildings – but then staff would have no place to go. Please Note: This offer is specifically for a new consolidated central office at a specific location in downtown Salisbury.
Salisbury City Schools and the Rowan County Schools merged in 1989 with the understanding that the central offices would be combined in one location. Twenty-two years later, the central office functions are still not in one location – in fact there are five locations at Long Street, Ellis Street, Ellis Street Annex, Corporate Square (leased), and Horizons.
During the last twenty-two years, proposals/considerations have been made for a new consolidated central office building, many of which were presented to the county commissioners. They are as follows:
1. Bendix Building / Larry Jones
2. Elizabeth Court / Wallace Realty
3. Spencer Plaza / Henry Alexander
4. Statesville Blvd / Bill Wagoner
5. South Main Street / City of Salisbury
6. Old Winn Dixie Building / John Leatherman
7. Old Concord Road -RSS Bus Garage
8. Old DSS Building / County Commissioners
9. Belk Building / Randy Hemann
10. Cornerstone Church / Pastor Bill Godair
None of these options have been viable mainly because of the cost, especially the need for upfront funds.
There are other facility needs in the district – Woodleaf and Cleveland elementary schools, and Knox Middle School are old buildings that need to be replaced at some point. However, the cost of replacing these buildings would be approximately $55 million. The only way there would be enough funds to tackle these larger projects would be another bond referendum. There are no funds set aside for a central office that can be used. The funds needed for the central office cannot be generated until the current offices are no longer occupied.
There is no parallel between the funding for the upkeep of facilities at Knox or any other school in the district and the newly presented proposal for a new administrative central office building.
RSS will stay on course in doing what is best for students in providing a safe, clean, and inviting environment that creates an atmosphere conducive to academic learning and success.

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