Board moves ahead school improvement projects

The Moore County Board of Education accomplished most everything it wanted at their monthly regular meeting Monday night, but not before a long and drawn-out three and a half hour meeting marked by a lack of consensus, difference of opinions and public comments critical of some board members.

After more than an hour of back and forth discussion, the board voted by a slim 4 to 3 margin to approve a prioritized list of 37 school improvement projects totaling $8.43 million over the next two years. The discussion centered around the priority order of the project and not the overall need for the improvements.  

Prioritized Project List 

The projects on the list run the gamut from $7,800 for a new water heater at Elise Middle School to $2.2 million to replace the deteriorating high school tracks at Pinecrest and North Moore. According to school officials, the projects on the list are part of $73 million needed over the next 20 years just to keep up with regular improvements.

Despite impassioned public comments, the school board could not agree to move the Pinecrest and North Moore track reconstruction higher on the priority list and the measure failed. Those projects remain at the bottom of the list, just as school officials originally proposed.   

How To Pay For Improvements

Still to be realized is how to pay for these improvement projects. In a previous agreement with the county, $750,000 annually is budgeted by the Moore County Commissioners for school improvements, and another $850,000 has been used from North Carolina Lottery funds. Given that these set-asides total $3.20 million over two years, and the project list calls for $8.43 million, school board members are left to find other ways to fund the improvement plan.

In a previous meeting, the school board made its intention known to use money from the sale of surplus elementary schools in Southern Pines and Aberdeen, and the expected savings from the under-budget Pinehurst Elementary School, still under construction. 

Final negotiations are underway to sell the old Southern Pines Elementary to Moore Montessori School for a reported $1.08 million, but the school board decided to reject an offer by Path Finder Investment Management Monday to purchase the old Aberdeen Elementary School when it’s bid dropped from $1.5 million to $800,000. It will be months before it is known how much savings can be realized from the Pinehurst Elementary School project.

Public Comment

In the public comment period that begins every school board regular meeting, several citizens voiced their concerns for what they saw as unprofessional behavior and a lack of accountability on the part of board member David Hensley.

“Our BoE seems to have very high standards for the behavior of students, teachers, and staff but very low standards of behavior for themselves,” said Cheryl Christy-Bowman in her written comment to the board. “Aside from a weak statement after the “severed ears” comment assuring the community that Mr. Hensley’s statements do not reflect the views of the entire BoE and a public plea for civility from the BoE Chair at last week’s work session, there has been no reaction from members of our BoE at all to Hensley’s dangerous rhetoric.”

At the end of the meeting, board member Philip Holmes said, “This is not the forum to project displeasure with Mr. Hensley. It is completely fruitless.” He went on to say, “The election is over with. I know people are upset with the results, but it is what it is.”            

State K-12 Social Studies Standard

Board member Robert Levy asked that the school board receive a presentation at a future meeting on the recently adopted K-12 social studies standards. Earlier this month, the North Carolina Board of Education approved changes to how teachers will present American history beginning next school year.

The recent changes will include mention of racism and discrimination in the curriculum. Some state political leaders have expressed concerns that the standards portray a negative view of American history.  

Closed Session

As is customary, the public portion of the meeting was preceded by a closed session. One of the published agenda items included the North Carolina Superior Court case described as J.M. Thompson vs. Moore County Schools. J.M. Thompson is the general contractor hired to build both McDeeds Creek Elementary and Aberdeen Elementary. Board members did not disclose if any votes were taken on the legal matter.

Feature photo: Pinecrest High School track by Sandhills Sentinel contributor Melissa Schaub.

Sandhills_Sentinel~Written by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.

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