The Moore County School Board held their regular meeting before a packed house Monday evening. Part of the meeting included a period of public comment on the upcoming 2020 school budget proposal.

One key facet of that budget is to provide both a salary increase and a clearly defined pay scale for school support workers. School support staff are staff members who provide both specialized instruction and services to students. They include everything from school counselors, maintenance personnel and food service workers.

Several people spoke out strongly in support of the budget request in general, and specifically, the salary increases for support personnel. They consisted both of citizens, school support members and Dr. Anita W. Alpenfels who serves as the Moore County Schools Executive Officer for Human Resources.

Later on, in the public comment section, Board Member Bruce Cunningham commented “that four of the nine people who spoke at the public hearing were school employees.” He found it ‘gratifying that (school) employees felt comfortable enough to address the board and offer suggestions’.

The proposed school budget is approximately $125 million with $75.5 million coming from state funding, $7.4 million from the federal government with the balance coming from local funding. State and federal funding are based on school population.

The $35.2 million request for local funding is 14 percent more than this year’s budget and also exceeds the $850,000 increase that would be in line with the commissioner’s policy to cap school spending at 40 percent of the revenue. You can view the proposed detailed budget here.

John Birath, Executive Officer for Operations, made a presentation to the board concerning problems with the bid for the new Southern Pines Elementary School. Five bids were received and opened on February 26.

Artist rendering of the new Southern Pines Elementary School courtesy of Moore County Schools.

All of the proposals exceeded the project budget of $27.4 million with Clancy and Theys Construction, from Charlotte, being the low bidder. On March 4, the district was notified that the low bid was being withdrawal due to a mathematical error. Monteith Construction was the next low bidder, and the district has entered into final negotiations with them.

The current plan is for the school board to hold a special meeting on March 18 at 4 p.m. to hear a detailed proposal. It is projected that the budget will need to be increased by several million dollars, which the Moore County Commissioners have already approved. Board Member Dr. Betty Wells Brown expressed her appreciation to the commissioners “for stepping up and supporting the schools.”

The board also agreed to open the portal for community feedback on the names for the new schools in Pinehurst and Aberdeen. Initially, Pinehurst Elementary School was the only name being offered on the portal.

After discussion, the board decided to add the names Village Elementary School and Old Town Elementary to the suggested names.

Board Chairman Helena Wallin-Miller reminded everyone that the portal is to gain public feedback and is not a vote on any given name. The portal opens March 12 and will close March 26 and will be available on the Moore County Schools’ website.

Superintendent Dr. Robert Grimesey reported on the recent incident at the School Administration Building. A concerned citizen found a students backpack and dropped it off at the administration building before business hours.

However, there was no note attached to it, and in light of a recent event in Carthage where white powdery substance was mailed to a resident that turned out to be baby powder, the school felt it necessary to execute their emergency plan. No one was injured, and all clear was given about two hours later.

A proposal was also presented to the board to request the commissioners to establish a supplemental charter school account.

Dr. Grimesey emphasized “It is an apolitical issue. It is not a statement against Charter Schools but simply an attempt to establish an orderly and sustainable process to provide a funding stream for children who never attended Moore County Schools”.

Wallin-Miller added that it will make charter school funding a “transparent process.” The board approved the motion.

The board also authorized the renaming of the Union Pines High School Greenhouse to the Zach McNeil Greenhouse. Mr. McNeil was an agriculture teacher at Union Pines from 2014-2016 who was killed in traffic accident in June of 2016.

Union Pines Teacher Zachary McNeil. Courtesy Rogers-Pickard Funeral Home.

“We are sorry for your loss and are glad his memory will stay with the school and students for a long time,” Wallin-Miller told his parents and grandparents who were in attendance.

In addition to the special session on March 18, the board has a work session scheduled April 1 with the next regular business meeting set for April 8. 

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Local News/Government Reporter Chris Prentice.

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