10/10/13 — Commissioner changes his mind on school

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Commissioner changes his mind on school

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 10, 2013 1:46 PM

Wayne County Commissioner Joe Daughtery has withdrawn his support of a new K-8 Grantham School in favor of the middle school originally sought by the Wayne County Board of Education.

Daughtery said Tuesday at a joint meeting of commissioners and the county school board that his previous support for the K-8 school had been based on incomplete and incorrect information from what he had thought to be a trustworthy source.

He did not identify the source.

None of the other commissioners responded to Daughtery's comments during the meeting held to discuss facilities financing with the Board of Education.

However, a revised capital improvement plan unveiled during the meeting includes new middle schools at Spring Creek and Grantham.

The capital improvement plan commissioners adopted by a 5-2 vote in June included a $30 million K-8 Grantham School, even though the school board supports the building of a separate middle school.

That K-8 school is missing in the revised plan, which had not been discussed publicly prior to Tuesday's meeting. Instead, the plan contains $35,279,680 for middle schools on new sites at Grantham and Spring Creek.

Also, a sewer line to Grantham School, projected at $3 million in the June plan, has been revised to $3.9 million. The line would run from Mount Olive to Grantham and could serve both schools.

Daughtery and Commissioners Steve Keen, Bill Pate, Wayne Aycock and Ray Mayo proposed the K-8 Grantham School in June. Their proposal was to demolish the existing school and to build the K-8 school on property already owned by the county.

Keen went as far to secure the services of Greenville architect Jimmy Hite to prepare possible designs for the school and other school projects. Also, Keen and Daughtery visited Hite-designed schools in Johnston County, which Keen said could be a model for Grantham -- an elementary and middle school that share a common campus.

Before the June plan was approved, Keen offered a motion to move the school project from fiscal year 2015-16 to 2014-15. A second motion was added by Daughtery that the county schools' central office staff and overhead be cut by $500,000 a year "to help pay" for the school. Both were approved as part of the 5-2 vote to adopt the plan.

Commissioners John Bell and Ed Cromartie voted against it.

As the Tuesday session was ending, Daughtery said that sound decisions are based on sound facts and information.

"We sometimes are tempted to allow our egos and quest for political resumes to manipulate our actions," he said.

Daughtery said he had supported the abandonment of the current Grantham School campus based on information that he had trusted to be "complete and accurate."

"I failed to do my due diligence and verify that information," he said.

Daughtery said that he and two other commissioners toured the campus after hearing objections from residents of the Grantham community about the K-8 proposal.

He did not identify the two commissioners, but after the meeting Pate said he and Aycock had visited the campus with Daughtery.

"I should have done this prior to taking any position on this subject," Daughtery said. "I am disappointed and embarrassed with myself that I would have ever supported the closing of the Grantham School and building two schools to replace the existing campus.

"The majority of the buildings are in excellent condition at Grantham. That was my error and I take full responsibility for it. I will work harder to separate facts from opinions and agendas in the future."

Daughtery said he now supports the school board's original plans for a new middle school, leaving the elementary grades at the current campus.

"The old adage holds true in this case," he said. "Those closest to the problem generally have the best solution to the problem."