08/07/12 — Flowers wants more school board meetings

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Flowers wants more school board meetings

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 7, 2012 1:46 PM

Arnold Flowers wants more school board meetings.

The Board of Education member lobbied Monday night for monthly work sessions in addition to the board's monthly meetings.

"I came here tonight in the hopes of making a motion and the conditions of that motion were that our board agree to meet once a month in between our regular monthly board meetings for the purpose of regular work sessions," he said.

He stopped short of calling for a vote, though, since two board members, Rick Pridgen and Chris West, were absent. It is important that everyone have a say, he said, so he said he will present the proposal again at the September meeting.

Flowers said he was prompted to speak up because, in his year and a half on the board, he still feels there is more he needs to learn.

"I tell people around the county that I'm not an educator, I'm a businessman. I have been looking at things and studying things and there's a lot of things that I would like to talk to the board about."

The monthly board meetings don't always provide sufficient time for lengthy discussions and Flowers said at times he lacks insight.

"I would like to have a better understanding of our budget and have more input on our budget," he said.

Referring to the Evergreen Solutions analysis done in 2006 -- by a Florida consulting firm hired by the commission to assess the district's facility needs -- Flowers said he has long felt it important to better understand "the bottom line numbers."

The Evergreen study, which cost the commission $120,000, is just one of the things he would like discussed in a work session, he said.

"I would like to have a better understanding of this report that we paid somebody else to do," he said. "It's six years old now, but some of the facts now and some of the trends are going to be relatively the same.

"I would like to spend some time as a board studying this."

Flowers said he does not want to be controversial, but he has been studying the Evergreen report and believes some of the data it contains is noteworthy.

School capacity, for example.

At Spring Creek Elementary when the report came out six years ago, Flowers said, it had between 150 and 190 students more than the building was equipped to handle. By contrast, in 2005-06, Goldsboro High School was under capacity by 329 students, while Charles B. Aycock High exceeded capacity by 367 students and relied on additional modular units to accommodate students.

"It just bears (asking) the question, why aren't we looking at moving the Goldsboro High School district line and absorbing all those students?" he asked.

Flowers questioned the lack of discussion about redrawing district lines.

"I know when we talk about moving district lines that you're going to upset some families because if their child is a junior at one high school and you, well, you're going to have to graduate over at this high school. I know that this upsets some people and that's controversial, but we need some leadership, in my opinion," he said.

Board member Len Henderson said if a formal motion had been made, he would have seconded it.

"I concur with Arnold. I think that if we can get together and sit together and talk, the more unity we can have," Henderson said.

Board member Thelma Smith chose to reserve comment until it is put to a vote.

"That would be something I would certainly have to think about and give some serious consideration," she said.

Board member John Grantham, however, felt compelled to respond as he recalled being on the board when the Evergreen report was released.

"In my opinion, it was pretty much worthless and a waste of money," Grantham said of the 2006 study. "According to the report, we were supposed to hire about twice as many people (in some areas). There's no way we could do that."

Grantham suggested that in some respects, the commission-ordered study had been an effort to satisfy that board.

"I don't really put much stock in it," he said.