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School board seeks to overturn basketball team suspensions

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

EAST SPENCER – In closed session Monday the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education moved to pursue overturning the suspension of the North Rowan and Salisbury High boys’ basketball teams ordered by the N.C. High School Athletic Association.

The suspension was handed down on Feb. 19 after a confrontation between the two teams during a Feb. 15 game. The school system made an appeal Wednesday, which was denied by the full NCHSAA board Friday morning.

Supporters of the North Rowan basketball team filled the Long Street Board Room, and spoke up during public comment following the board’s closed session and announcement. Andrew Mitchell, Jr., the North Rowan coach, pleaded for the board to take action.

Many student athletes depend on the visibility granted by the state playoffs to help with college, Mitchell said. If they play well and are scouted, players can earn scholarships to good schools.

The North Rowan boys’ basketball team had five seniors, Mitchell said. Three had already been accepted to schools of their choice, and two were counting on impressing scouts at state playoffs to afford higher education.

“People make us out to be thugs and bad people, when all of our young people are going to college,” Mitchell said.

Parents of student athletes called the suspension an “injustice,” saying that it was wrong to punish an entire team for the actions of one or two members, saying that members of both teams worked hard to play well and work their way up the rankings.

“We believe they were treated wrongly, we believe they were treated unjustly, and because we believe that, we believe some action must be taken,” Craig Thomas said.

Prior to public comment, the board voted to have its lawyer, Ken Soo, pursue legal action in an attempt to overturn to ruling.

In other business, the board:

  • Set the first community meeting to discuss the consolidation of Woodleaf and Cleveland elementary schools and eventual closings of other county schools for Tuesday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. at West Rowan High School. The meeting was initially scheduled for Wednesday, April 27, until board member Dean Hunter said he would be at church and unable to make it.

“It makes me wonder, especially in that part of the county, how many people might be tied up,” he said

  • Agreed to pursue employing Barnhill Contracting Co. as its construction manager at risk for the new western elementary school.
  • Moved to advertise for upset bids for the Kizer School building and property, located on Cottage Street. On Feb. 16 the board received a bid from Grateful Heart Community Services for $51,000. The property was appraised at $51,500, Assistant Superintendent Anthony Vann said. The building itself was declared a liability during the appraisal. Dr. Richard Miller moved to start the upset bid process, and Chuck Hughes seconded.
  • Voted to approve a temporary easement to the N.C. Department of Transportation of roughly .6 acres behind Bostian Elementary School. The easement would assist the Department of Transportation with road-widening efforts, Vann said. The board was offered $6,250 for use of the land.
  • Amended policy to allow the superintendent to approve field trips “involving student competitions or honors where time is of the essence” as long as the trips are not overnight, out of state, out of country, non-required athletic clinics or exceeding a $150 fee.
  • Received an update on expenditures for the Wallace Educational forum. Of its $9.06 million original budget the board has spent $8.9 million on construction and outfitting the new central office building. There is $159,632 remaining in the budget, which Vann says will be spent by the time the building is complete.
  • Reviewed costs for installing water and sewer mains to the site of the new western elementary school site at the corner of N.C. 801 and Godbey Road. According to cost estimates submitted by Davis, Martin and Powell Engineers and Surveyors, the project totals at around $1.1 million. A water line would cost the school system roughly $242,000 to install. A force main sewer line would require a lift station to be built on the property and waste water to be pushed out to an existing lift station on U.S. 70, a route that would cost an estimated $948,926 for nearly two miles of piping. A shorter, cheaper route is available, but would require an easement with Georgia Power, which borders the property. Should an easement be granted, the shorter route would cost an estimated $899,078. Vann agreed to pursue conversation with the power company about the easement. Once the force main is built, the board discussed turning it over to the county for maintenance and repair.

Monday’s meeting was the board’s last in the Long Street board room in East Spencer. Starting Monday, March 14, at 1 p.m. the board will meet at the Wallace Educational forum. The March 14 meeting will be the only time the board meets that month, as the originally scheduled March 28 meeting conflicts with the school system’s spring break.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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