Raleigh butts in

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 24, 2013

Raleigh to the rescue?

Until last week, the idea had seemed absurd — the N.C. General Assembly deciding for Davie County how to build a high school. A Senate bill filed last week would totally change the rules for Davie and a handful of other counties, turning over building and ownership of the schools to the county commissioners.
Now we can see clearly why three members of the commission have been dragging their feet on submitting a school bond referendum to the voters in November. Do they genuinely prefer an edict of the General Assembly to a decision of the voters?
There are two schools of thought on the high school: Build a completely new facility or refurbish the existing campus. The school board has voted 5-2 to build afresh. The commissioners seem to be 3-2 to refurbish. Unless the Senate bill becomes law, the decision lies with the school board.

Last week’s filing tangled the high school web even more. Will it take yet another decade to sort this out?
The 19th century axiom once again seems true: “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.”
The school board and Superintendent Darrin Hartness have a well-designed, well-researched pathway to a solution for this nagging high school issue.
A year ago, the commissioners told the school board that the only method of paying for the construction would be a referendum supported by voters. Commission Chairman Robert Wisecarver in his 2010 campaign said his preferred solution was to build a new high school in the middle of the county — supported by a referendum.
The school board has now asked for that referendum, but Wisecarver won’t put the request on the agenda. The commissioners must give the nod to schedule a referendum. They, instead, are banking on a legislative end-run.
State lawmakers usually allow local boards to sort out their problems. Sen. Andrew Brock’s bill would effectively declare the commissioners the winner of the school debate. If approved, the bill would gut the authority of the Board of Education, leaving the board members to little more than personnel decisions. Oddly, some of the commissioners say they are already too busy. If they can’t meet their regular duties, how will they handle more?
Turning over the deeds to the schools and building decisions to the county commissioners shouldn’t necessarily be bad if everybody had the best interest of good education at heart. In Davie County’s case, the high school has been the focal point of political bickering that has scarred us, pitting community against community. The high school is supposed to be our crown jewel, the uniting force that brings our children together as a county.
In fact, the children get along just fine. It’s the adults — we gray hairs — who have perpetuated the conflict.

The last thing we need is for the General Assembly to fix this for us.
If Sen. Brock is frustrated at the lack of progress, he can join a very large club. But the solution must come from within the Forks of the Yadkin, not from Raleigh. We will eventually figure this out. We may have a mess, but it’s our mess to clean up.
County Commissioner Terry Renegar, who favors the new facility, said the prospect of the referendum’s success is promising. “Momentum is with us, but it’s far from a lay-up,” he said, invoking basketball imagery. “Allow an honest debate, and don’t hit below the belt.”
His boxing term is also appropriate. Too many times over the past decade, we have KO’d ourselves over the high school. The new referendum request is the fourth major attempt to address the high school. If it succeeds or fails, at least the voters of Davie County will have made the decision.
The General Assembly should stand aside and be patient, and the commissioners should schedule the referendum.

Dwight Sparks is editor/publisher of the Davie County Enterprise Record.