Board chair questions commission attitude
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 2, 2005 2:09 PM
School board members said Monday night they have been optimistic about resolving their differences with the county commissioners, only to be blindsided by critical comments made during a commissioners' meeting broadcast on television.
Board Chairman Lehman Smith said that when he walked out of the courthouse last month after receiving instructions from Judge Braswell encouraging the two boards to come to an understanding, he had high hopes that an agreement on school funding would be reached. It was only later, when a taped commissioners' meeting was aired on PACC 10, that the school board said it learned how the governing body really felt.
"I was extremely disappointed that they chose to use their board meeting immediately prior to our next joint meeting to take turns criticizing the Board of Education," Smith said.
Board member Pete Gurley said he was also disturbed by it.
"They had met that morning," he said. "We went into a meeting with them that afternoon with a total understanding that we were going to resolve our differences, (only) to go home that night and see the meeting on TV.
"It just seemed to me that they already had an opinion with what we were doing before we even went into that meeting."
Board member Shirley Sims called it one of the most devastating situations she has experienced since joining the board.
"Going to a meeting right after such comments have been made about us, I don't know how we could ever be at a table to bring this to closure as suggested by the judge if we're going to feel the way that was expressed at the meeting prior," she said. "They'd already made up their minds ... (they were) not going to give us the money.
"You cannot change those already-made-up minds."
Smith said he hopes the commissioners will rethink their comments and join the school board with open minds for the benefit of every child in Wayne County. He said he believes the school board's biggest mistake has been in not requesting adequate funding over the last few years to provide for a quality education and the needed facilities in the county.
"Not only is it hurting the children of Wayne County, but in the long run could cost us Seymour Johnson Air Force Base," he said. "The federal government could easily look unfavorably on a location with a school board and commissioners at odds and funding in the lower 25 percent in the state for current expense and facilities."
Board member George Moye agreed that the board had been derelict in its duties for not asking for enough and that it has a moral obligation to request what it needs.
At the same time, he said, the board should congratulate itself for taking the high road and "not stooping to the depths that some might and already have in talking about either board.
"I think it's imperative that keep on the high road...Whenever we stop doing it would be irresponsible, it would be shallow character, it would be deceitful to people who elected us."
Board member John Grantham said that nothing will be accomplished by passing the problem back and forth, and that the two boards need to work through whatever differences they have.
"We're not going to agree on everything," he said. "You can accomplish a lot more by having discussion."
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