My Turn, Sam Post: Investing in education — why the Knox-Overton K-8 project matters

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 19, 2023

I am writing to share my thoughts on the proposed Knox-Overton K-8 project in Salisbury. I am deeply concerned about the future of our community.

Despite the significant impact that this project could have, I have not seen any recent updates in the Salisbury Post since the cost estimate increased from $55 million to $69.6 million, more than a year ago. I am eager to know what the current status of this project is and whether it is still moving forward.

For too long, education has been treated like an expense by the Rowan County commissioners. We need to change this mindset and recognize that education is an investment in future prosperity. Salisbury is the county seat and the largest city in Rowan County, and its reputation is linked and intertwined with the reputation of the county as a whole. We should work together to improve both our reputations, especially when it comes to education.

Right now, 73% of the schools in Rowan County rate below average on Zillow’s school rating system. This is not the reputation we want for our county, and it wasn’t always this way. In the 1950s, the V.A. hospital chose Salisbury for the largest veterans hospital in the state. It’s an example of what can happen when a place has good schools. Investing in a new, high-quality school in Salisbury can help change the current situation and improve the reputation of both the city and the county.

As a Salisbury native and former student, teacher and parent of the Rowan-Salisbury Schools system, I have a personal connection to this issue. Even my mother attended Salisbury schools. Our community has a rich history of education, and we need to invest in its future.

The cost of education should not be the primary consideration when it comes to building a new school. Instead, we should focus on the possibilities that a new school could provide for the city of Salisbury and the Rowan community. Good public schools can bring numerous economic benefits, including attracting new businesses and institutions. When companies consider moving to this area, they look at the schools and discover that we have very low-rated public schools and a higher-than-average number of private schools. This is not the recipe for a prosperous future.

Salisbury/Rowan was once known for having good and even great schools. Since merger, we have seen a steady decline. It’s time for Rowan County to stop competing with Salisbury and start competing with counties like Cabarrus, Stanly, Davie, Davidson and Iredell, which all have higher-rated schools than we do.

Commissioner Greg Edds has certainly shifted things from the days of Jim Sides, but the hole we dug is deep. He recently said that renovating West End Plaza “will certainly breathe life into that side of town.” A new school can breathe life into a lot more than just one side of town. It can breathe life into thousands of small human beings, and the building can serve as a hub of activity in the community. Our local leaders should be excited about the opportunities that investments in our schools can provide.

It’s time for Rowan County to recognize that it cannot thrive if Salisbury doesn’t thrive. Saving money by doing less than what’s needed will cost a lot more in the long run. Investing in a new, high-quality school in Salisbury will benefit both the city and the county, creating a context for growth that will attract the kinds of industry and commerce that will make Rowan a better place to live.

Many people in our community are understandably hesitant to consider raising taxes, but we need to recognize that investing in education is an investment in our community’s future. The benefits of having strong, high-quality schools are numerous, from attracting new businesses to increasing property values — not to mention the fact that many, many people are likely to enjoy more fulfilling lives. If we want to create a context for growth that will make Rowan a better place to live, we need to be willing to explore all possible avenues to fund important projects like the proposed Knox-Overton K-8 school. This may include raising taxes, not just for this project, but for the entire school system. It’s time to recognize that investing in education is not just an expense, but an opportunity to build a brighter future for our community.

I hope that our leaders will take action and invest in our future by supporting this important project.

Sam Post lives in Salisbury.