07/13/05 — Taylor hopes for 'positive progress'

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Taylor hopes for 'positive progress'

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on July 13, 2005 1:45 PM

With their next meeting set for early August, members of the Wayne County Commission and the county Board of Education are reaffirming their determination to not only reach an agreement on a budget for the next fiscal year, but to continue to work with each other toward a solution that combines the best interests of the county and the schools.

After the groups' second mediation meeting Monday, Wayne County Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Taylor said he was pleased the information-gathering process has begun and the two groups are actively seeking a resolution to the budget question.

"I'm just pleased that we could agree to let the staff get together as we had earlier proposed," he said. "We look forward to the process and hopefully will make positive progress."

Both boards agreed at their mediation meeting that they needed more information before entering the negotiation process.

Taylor said he is anxious to complete the process so the school district can begin planning for the next school year, which begins in late August.

"I just think that we can work together, all work together for the same goal - educating our children," he said.

During the school board meeting later that afternoon, several members referred to the issue during the board comment period.

Board member Shirley Sims said both the county and the school board should remember the students and develop a budget solution that takes those needs into consideration.

"Pray for the boys and girls of Wayne County Public Schools, that hearts will be touched, that we can get what we need to meet the needs of all the students in Wayne County Public Schools," she said. "We'll just have to do the best we can unless we get more consideration. That's my prayer and hope throughout this ordeal, that we do what we have to do and pray to God for the very best."

Board member Rick Pridgen thanked board attorney Jack Edwards for representing the board in the mediation process.

Board Chairman Lehman Smith expressed confidence that the issue will be resolved soon.

"I have a lot of faith in our staff and their staff in working it out," he said. "I know we'll move on from here."

County commissioners reiterated their committment to educating Wayne County students during their meeting Monday, which occurred before the mediation session, saying they wanted to work with the school board.

During the comment period of the meeting, commissioners said they hoped to resolve budget issues with the school board.

Commissioner Jack Best said the county wants a good education system, but the board also needs an accounting of the money.

"I feel like we've been portrayed as child-haters, and that's not true," Best said.

Best said one of the reasons he decided to run for office was because of the constant bickering between the two boards.

As a businessman, he said he believed he could bring another perspective to the discussions.

Best said the issue had not been as easy to resolve as he had thought.

"Last year, we offered the 5 percent increase if they would do certain things, and they agreed," Best said.

The commissioners gave the schools money last year to fund teacher supplements, but asked that the school board make cuts where possible.

Best said the commissioners were extremely specific that those cuts not affect the classrooms.

Best said the county received word later from some teachers that the administration had asked them for suggestions on where to cut in the classrooms.

Commissioner Atlas Price said the county wants to work with the school board, and wants to "do for education."

Commissioner John Bell said the county had always been very generous with the school board.

"To be accused of not funding enough is a disgrace," Bell said. "It's an insult."

Board chairman J.D. Evans said he thought the commissioners had been very responsive to the needs of the school board, and had always been committed to working out solutions.