Greg Edds: School board is aiming for transformative change

Published 11:30 pm Saturday, May 7, 2016

The following posts by Greg Edds, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, were posted on his political Facebook page.

With all of the ridiculous talk of asking the our school superintendent and school board chairman to resign, some of the most significant, important, and transformative work in decades is being done. This is one of them and I believe the most important for our recruiting strategies.

For decades we have operated what would be defined as a “supply-side” education model. That means educators pick the skills and coursework that our kids will be taught and upon graduation they expect employers to hire the graduates. The problem is, our modern economy demands modern skills and our employers are concerned about the skills gap.

Our school system is transforming our old supply-side model to a new, modern “demand-side” education model.

This means that Rowan schools will spend time with business owners, CEOs and human resources directors to determine those specific skills needed to prepare our non-college bound students for the modern workforce.

This will be done through a series of academies and magnet programs spread throughout the system.

I think the overriding issue is the schools need additional funding. Along with the county trying to get them additional funding, they asked someone to take a look at their operations to make sure they are spending their money wisely.

I’ve not read the study but my understanding is we may have as many as 2,000 empty seats and that’s expensive to pay for year after year, especially if some of our schools are as old as they are. There are modern security needs, high ongoing maintenance costs and duplicative basic services that are driving up costs for the entire system. The thought is that if the system becomes more efficient they can use those savings to improve programming and results for the entire system.

Now, the community may say they are opposed to that, and that’s OK. But that doesn’t alleviate the challenges.

I really don’t think most folks are aware of the financial struggle our county is experiencing. Iredell county has revenues that are $50 million higher than us and they spend $34 million more than us on education. Cabarrus has $90 million more in revenues and they spend $47 million more on education.

Rowan is struggling with how to improve our education with limited funds. Just raising taxes won’t do it, either, since every $1 million additional spending adds a penny to our tax rate and we’re also trying to remain competitive for recruiting purposes. As it is, Iredell is at 55 cents and Davidson at 52. We’re at 66 cents. That’s tough.

So, nothing is easy. Schools need significant improvement and without it we have a tough time recruiting new jobs. We have a tough time giving them additional funding unless the tax base improves. Chicken and egg.

In addition, school leaders are working with our EDC board to provide specific academies that will assist in our recruiting efforts.

This is aggressive. This is forward thinking. This is important that our leaders are working with business and community partners to help transform our schools, our economy and our prospects for new jobs.

Don’t let the current distraction and distractors blur the fact that significant, positive work is being done.

…. Good to see that the school board and community worked through this issue. Glad that cooler heads seem to be prevailing.I made a conscious decision to stay out of this and here’s why:

The school board is an elected board just like we are. And while we are a funding partner for the schools ,we believe they need to be allowed to do their job.

It’s also a matter of respect. The school board members are our equals, not our subjects, and Chairman Wagner is my peer, not my junior.

Out of respect for the school board and Chairman Wagner, I chose to ignore the politically-motivated demands for me to publicly take a side. Doing so would poison the school board’s process and damage the relationship we have been working to build over the past year.

Bottom line: The process worked. The community spoke, the school board listened, and now the hard work of finding solutions begins.

Stay involved.