06/21/13 — Keen calls school board 'slack'

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Keen calls school board 'slack'

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 21, 2013 1:46 PM

Wayne County Commission Chairman Steve Keen on Tuesday morning called the Wayne County Board of Education "slack" in getting a school facilities plan to commissioners.

He also called the Board of Education "unbalanced" and "unsure."

Keen's comments are in sharp contrast to comments made just two weeks ago by Commissioner Joe Daughtery, who praised the school board for a "bold decision" to ask commissioners to share the cost of several school projects.

Daughtery said at that time that he had been in the county for "many, many years" and that it was rare to have the opportunity to come together and to get something done.

"I am hoping this board will step forward and do that," he said.

Daughtery had been making reference to a recent decision by the school board to ask county commissioners to share payment for several facilities projects and to pursue a loan to build a new school in Grantham.

The next projects on the school board's priority list are $1.9 million for air conditioning gyms at Carver Heights Elementary and Dillard Middle schools and creating a student commons area at Goldsboro High School; $3.8 million to construct 12 classrooms at Spring Creek Elementary; and $6.6 million at Charles B. Aycock High to renovate the cafeteria and to construct 20 classrooms.

Following the Tuesday morning budget public hearing Keen said it was the fifth budget he had worked on and that it was the first one that he had not seen anyone from Davenport, the consulting firm that assists the county in financial planning for capital improvement projects, including schools.

Keen said that every Davenport plan he had seen indicated that Wayne County is in "good shape."

"I am sure that we are in good shape this time," he said. "What disappoints me more than anything is that we have not gotten the information from the Board of Education in order to make a decision in reference to what Davenport is going to indicate what we can and can't do.

"What is sad today is that there are so many people that want to improve the quality of life for their children and education in this county. What is sad today is that we don't have the information. And what is sad today is the reason we don't have the information is because the Board of Education has been slack in giving us that information."

He noted that school Superintendent Dr. Steve Taylor had resigned and "all of a sudden came back."

"We have had 61 people to retire, and we really appreciate their service," Keen said. "I say all of this with a good heart because there is a lot of people today that need more than what they had yesterday and want more than what they had last year and want more than they had two years ago for their children, especially in Grantham."

The county also does not need to forget Charles B. Aycock High School, Spring Creek and the central attendance area schools, he said.

Education and jobs are needed more than anything else in the county, he said.

Keen said he had "pressed and hammered" on that for the past year that jobs are needed in order for people to get out of poverty.

The county needs education, but has substandard schools, he said.

"We have a way to get money," he said. "We have a way to borrow money. We have a good record. But what is sad today is we do not have the report and we have a week to go before we have to decide on the budget."

Keen said he had received more than 100 emails in the last 12 days, mostly from the Grantham community wanting a new school.

"I want a new school as a lot of people want a new school," he said.

As a new board of commissioners, Keen said he and the other commissioners had decided they would see where the waste and fluff was in the budget.

"And we would reduce the fluff in order to get you the new schools because we wanted to see what you could afford, as citizens, as taxpayers," he said. "We wanted to reduce the (tax) rate so that we could see what the rate could be. We wanted to see what the expense could be in order to afford a school, a new school, and other schools."