Tensions high over furniture and voting policies at school board meeting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The interior of the Wallace Educational Forum may be neutral, but Monday’s Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education meeting was anything but.

Board members disagreed on several subjects throughout the evening – including a vote at the board’s last meeting, board relationships and funding for furniture in the new central office.

At the board’s last meeting, $500,000 from the district’s capital budget was approved to pay for furniture for the new central office building. The motion passed 3-2, with Dr. Richard Miller, Susan Cox and Jean Kennedy voting in favor and Chairman Josh Wagner and Travis Allen voting against. Vice Chairman Dean Hunter and Chuck Hughes were not present at the time of the vote.

After the meeting, Wagner approached Food Lion co-founder Ralph Ketner to see if he would be willing to donate any funds toward the furniture. Ketner informed Wagner of an existing fund for the school system that had been untouched for several years, and offered to donate the remainder of the fund to the district for furniture expenses. Through that fund, Ketner was able to promise $86,000 toward the central office’s furnishings.

Miller, who served as chairman during his last term, asked how Wagner’s actions were any different from his own as chairman. Miller was criticized sharply for seeking funding for central office pet projects during his time as chairman.

Wagner called Miller’s comments “childish” and “petty.”

“I have been far more open with information than you were as chair,” he said.

This came after Miller addressed the entire board about board relationships.

After the vote at the board’s last meeting about funding for furniture, Hughes wrote a letter to the editor featured in the Salisbury Post expressing his frustration that the board took the vote after he left the meeting.

Miller said he felt the letter showed a “lack of respect” and was a form of “bullying.”

He urged the board members to respect each other and to not take part in “public attacks.”

“We are not going to agree 100 percent of the time on every issue,” Cox said.

Hughes also took issue with the vote because according to the board’s 25-year-old policy manual, motions must receive four votes in favor in order to be passed. In last week’s board meeting, the vote was 3-2.

The board voted to change the policy to say that motions may be approved by a simple majority in the future, 5-2 with Allen and Hughes dissenting.

Hughes wanted the board to recall the vote made last week because four board members had not voted in favor of approving the funding.

Miller said that if they did that, they would have to go back and look at all the motions passed with a simple majority since 1990.

“We don’t just pick one last meeting that was contentious,” he said.

“I agree with Dr. Miller,” Wagner said. “We can’t change a motion that was made 5 years ago.”

Architect Bill Burgin brought color boards to the meeting to discuss a color palette for the Wallace Educational Form.

He said neutrals were picked because they cover dirt well and they don’t go out of style.

“It’s not uncommon for offices to be decorated like this,” he said, adding that color can be tied in through furniture and accessories brought in by individuals in each office.

 

In other news, the Board of Education:

  • Was updated on a potential piece of property for a consolidated elementary school in the western part of the county.
  • Decided to put off making a decision about a grant from N.C. Green Power that would allow the district to install a solar panel at Horizons Unlimited until the board’s attorney can address some issues in the contract.
  • Approved a one year rental charge waiver for The Cove Church. The church uses West Rowan High School’s facilities for weekly services and proposed updating electrical work and installing audio and visual equipment in the school’s gym in exchange for waiving the church’s rental fee. The church plans to leave behind many of the audio-visual items it installs when they eventually leave the school.

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