11/30/07 — Duplin School Board will get back to work after commission rejection

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Duplin School Board will get back to work after commission rejection

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 30, 2007 1:46 PM

Members of the Duplin County Board of Education were surprised last week when the county commissioners suddenly rejected their long-standing facilities plan, but they say they are prepared to try again.

They did not, however, discuss the issue at their meeting Tuesday night.

And, said board member Jennings Outlaw, while the board might try to hold a work session within the next month, it will more likely be in early 2008 -- hopefully in time to prepare for the local quarter-cent sales tax referendum that will be on the May primary ballot.

"We need to do something soon," he said. "We need to have a facilities plan that has some agreement and that is a good plan."

But to him -- the only school board member to vote against the 2005 plan when it was re-approved in June -- the commission's action was a welcome one.

"I was happy about it," he said. "I think there were a lot of flaws in that plan, and I hope we can come up with a better one."

Of course now, other board members admit that they appear to have little choice.

"By (rejecting the plan), they have put the ball back in our court to tweak the plan, and I think it probably does need a little work," Chuck Farrior said. "The important thing is getting a plan in place that we can agree on and move forward on."

But that doesn't mean all the members like the fact their plan was rejected, or the way in which it was done.

"I was surprised they took that kind of action without some type of meeting with us to talk about it," Reginald Kenan said. "I don't quite understand what they thought was wrong with our plan, so I'm anxious to talk to them.

"I thought it was a good plan. We spent a lot of time on it. Not everybody was going to be happy, but we were doing what we thought was best."

The plan featured three primary components: the building of a new high school to consolidate students at James Kenan High School and students at East Duplin High School from the B.F. Grady area; the replacement of E.E. Smith and Warsaw middle schools with a consolidated middle school at the former James Kenan High; and the construction of a new elementary school in the B.F Grady area and the renovation of Charity Middle School.

"It did not have an adverse effect on any of the areas affected by it. Those are where our greatest needs are, and it was a plan that was acceptable to most of the system," Willie Gillespie said. "Going back is going to be very difficult."

But, while agreeing with the need for the new elementary and middle schools, Outlaw explained that he was concerned not only about the cost of an unneeded high school, but also that the plan would break up the closely knit B.F. Grady community, which he represents.

It was a concern very similar to that of the county commission.