09/10/08 — Board rejects commission comments on programs

View Archive

Board rejects commission comments on programs

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 10, 2008 1:38 PM

Jack Best wasn't the only member of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners to come under fire from the Board of Education Monday night, as comments made by Commissioners Efton Sager and Atlas Price also raised the ire of school board members.

Best, at last week's board meeting, said the schools were more interested in "planting flowers around the outhouse" than addressing real classroom issues. Sager questioned the wisdom of funneling money into more early childhood development programs, and Price said it was time for the school system to redistrict.

Sager said he would like to see lottery proceeds used for construction and "not add more early childhood development programs."

Sager said it appeared the programs do not work since graduation rates have not improved.

School Board member Rick Pridgen said it was interesting to him that Sager had commented about spending too much on early childhood education.

"In essence, that is one of the very few things that they funded us in our expansion budget we requested. I thought that we had proved to them it was a necessary thing to start a second Wee Wings (mobile classroom) bus.

"They provided funds for the bus that will be put on the road in November, but then turn around and say we shouldn't be spending any money in that particular area. One side of them gives us the money and helps us promote early childhood education, which I can assure you works in the community, yet they turn around and make the comment like they did in that (Sunday News-Argus) article that we should not be putting any money into it.

"We don't know where they stand. How can we understand where they stand? They are telling us one thing, but you don't know what to believe. Something comes out of one mouth and goes out another mouth and when they get in front of another group you have another story and that is the sad thing about it."

Wayne County Schools Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor also took exception to Sager's comments.

Reading a prepared statement Taylor said, "There is much research and information to support pre-K and early education programs and their long-term benefits.

"Preparing children to start school having them ready by being able to read and do math proficiently before entering third grade does in fact ultimately impact the graduation rate because many academic problems are eliminated which serve to keep high-performing motivated students in school as opposed to dropping out. The idea of front-loading the process is a sound one and our hope is that more funding will be found in the future for such programs."

He added that lottery funds can be used only for construction.

School Board Chairman Thelma Smith noted that relations and communications between the two boards had appeared to be improving before last week's commission meeting.

"We vowed we were going to let them know what we were doing and they vowed to let us know what they were doing," she said. "We had a lot of good discussions."

She said the boards had suggested they meet together four times each year.

"We have met twice and shared what each other is doing so we could understand. We thought we were well on the way. In these meetings it was an opportunity for anyone to put anything on the table that needed to be discussed -- anything they did not understand or we did not understand so we could share information. If redistricting was on the lips of anybody it should have been to put on the table. We still welcome it to be put on the table."

Mrs. Smith there will be disagreements, but communication is needed.

"If we redraw lines we are going to have to close (transfer) doors," she said. "If you change the district lines and still allow people to go where they want to go then redrawing the lines won't do any good. Do you want to redraw lines, close transfers? Then you are going to have an outcry, so let's talk about it. I have no fear of putting it on the table and let's hear what the community has to say about it."