06/03/04 — Consultant woos Duplin school board

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Consultant woos Duplin school board

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on June 3, 2004 1:58 PM

KENANSVILLE -- A consultant tried to woo Duplin County school board members for the job of helping figure out what to do about overcrowding and racial imbalance.

Robbie Ferris of Shueller, Ferris, Lindstrom & Associates in Fayetteville told the board Tuesday that he can do the job, and he wants it.

"This is an exciting county with issues to resolve," said Ferris. He said he has designed more high schools in North Carolina in the past few years than any other architect.

He said he has about 40 people in his architectural firm. Three of them are retired school superintendents. They specialize in designing schools, and they subcontract with other consultants to do the enrollment projections.

"Those who do enrollment projections just count numbers," he said. "We look at what do you want the high school graduates to be able to do."

When asked how much he would charge for his services, he said he could lose his license for telling now. But he told the board members if they can make education relevant to the community and meaningful to the individuals in it, the county commissioners will find the money to pay for the solution.

He said the cost of the job will depend on how fast the school board wants it done. He said he can do his part of the job in a month, but it can take up to four months for the less expensive consultants to run the numbers and do the enrollment projections.

In May, the school board decided against hiring Jeff Tsai of the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at N.C. State University after he said his area of expertise doesn't cover what the board is seeking. The board directed Superintendent Tommy Benson to find someone more scholastically oriented.

Ferris said that school design is what he does, and he designs the schools to help communities accomplish their educational goals.

"What are the goals of this county?" he said. "We look at those goals and the educational system, and we try to bring those things together."

He suggested that the board form a steering committee. He and the steering committee would discuss school size. A lot of schools are becoming academies, with 300 or 400 students in them.

Emily Manning, who presided over the meeting in Chairman Doc Brinson's absence, told Ferris the Duplin board wants whatever he does to improve academic achievement.

"We need to analyze your goals and what this community is about," Ferris said. "We will look at the goals of the community in general. What do you want to accomplish?"

Reginald Kenan asked Ferris if he could help the board decide between a consolidated high school and a new middle school and find a cost-effective way to achieve racial balance.

"That's what I love to do," said Ferris.