10/07/09 — Duplin set to study school population

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Duplin set to study school population

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on October 7, 2009 1:46 PM

The Duplin County Board of Education on Tuesday approved moving forward with the next step of an upcoming countywide school population study.

The board members previously voted to hire the North Carolina State University Operations Research/Education Laboratory to conduct the study, which will examine demographics and transportation distances for each of the county's schools.

Board member Jennings Outlaw asked to modify the extent of the transportation data that will be collected and provided by the study, particularly information pertaining to fuel and transportation costs. Board members Hubert Bowden and Reginald Kenan expressed concerns about the study and how it will be conducted.

"We've done a lot of planning, and planning takes money ... and yet we haven't done anything," Bowden said. "I think we need to stop planning, unless we plan on our own, and get the job done. I feel like we're wasting money."

Outlaw disagreed with Bowden's assessment.

"This is a very necessary study," he said.

"We have called other studies necessary studies," Bowden countered.

Board chairman Emily Manning spoke in support of conducting the study, but also spoke in favor of taking action on the information it will provide.

"I don't think data ever hurt," she said. "... I want to see us build a building."

Bowden said he is mainly concerned that the study produce results that the board will move to implement.

"If this study is going somewhere, I think the money is well-spent," he said.

Kenan also expressed reservations, calling attention to laboratory Director Jeff Tsai's recommendation that the school board form a committee of board members, community leaders, school principals and other community members as part of the study process.

"Why do I need someone to tell me what he's telling me?" Kenan said. "I feel like this could be done without committees. I think we could do it all ourselves. It sounds weird and way out, but we could do it."

The exact terms, conditions and guidelines for the study can still be negotiated, officials said.

In other business, the school system expects to receive several federally funded grants in the coming months.

Duplin was awarded a $95,000 grant to strengthen programs for English as a second language students. The county has the second largest population of students with limited English proficiency in the state, Superintendent Dr. Wiley Doby said.

"This is going to go a long way in helping the education of our limited English proficiency students," Doby said.

Another $100,468 federal grant will go toward the upkeep, construction and refurbishment of the school system's playgrounds. Playground equipment is expensive and playgrounds can cost upwards of $30,000 each, officials said, so the grant may fund up to three new playgrounds. Sites have not yet been selected for the playground work.

The school board also accepted a $1,200 donation from the Duplin-Onslow Hunters Association.