Meeting between county, school leaders ‘cordial’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The leader of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education described a Tuesday meeting with Jim Sides, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, as “very cordial.”
“It was a very beneficial discussion about the relationship between the two boards and what our next steps should be,” school board Chairman Dr. Richard Miller said after the meeting. “It was worthwhile.”
Sides did not return a call from a Post reporter requesting comment on his meeting with Miller.
During a meeting of the Rowan Tea Party Patriots on Tuesday evening, Sides called the meeting with Miller “very productive,” but went on to say the two bodies are not equal.
“It’s not 50-50, it’s 51-49 in our favor,” Sides said.
The school board can ask for something to be done, he said, “but if the commissioners don’t agree, they (the school board) don’t get it. …
“I don’t dislike the school board, I don’t dislike the teachers, I don’t dislike the kids,” Sides said. “But I think we have to support the taxpayer.”
The boards have been debating the cost and location of a proposed central office for the school system. Commissioners agreed last January to finance up to $6 million for the building but have since said the letter of agreement was not a binding document.
Last week Miller and Sides, along with school board Vice Chairwoman Kay Wright Norman, county Vice Chairman Craig Pierce and several staff members, met to discuss board relations. The meeting ended in less than 15 minutes after Miller and Sides failed to come to an agreement about whether the press should be allowed to attend.
Sides wanted to meet behind closed doors.
Miller felt the meeting should be open to the public, based on advice from a school board attorney who said it was a gray area and the two members from each board constituted committees. That would make the meeting subject to the state’s open meetings law.
The Post had also protested the closed meeting in emails to Sides and Miller.
Following that meeting, Miller characterized the relationship between the two boards as nonexistent. He and Sides scheduled another meeting for just the two of them, one not required to be open under the law.
Miller said Tuesday afternoon that the relationship is “developing.”
“We’re moving ahead now to try to get the full boards together,” he said.
During the tea party meeting, Sides said he’s writing a series of columns to run in the Post.
One will address the relationship between the board of commissioners and the school board, he said, noting the boards have “clear responsibilities.”
“I respect what the school board does,” Sides said. “They respect what we do.”
Freelance reporter Hugh Fisher contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.