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How did we land up in this school bond mess?

By Gerald Totten
Posted Thursday, January 15, 2004

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Ms. McManus, Cadle Cooper and Ernest Dark were scratching like a cat on a hot tin roof.

The events of last Monday night when Ms. McManus, Cadle Cooper and Ernest Dark were scratching like a cat on a hot tin roof, jamming all they could dream up into the proposal - and still came up short - seem surreal! It was less than a month earlier they had agreed to wait for the professional, independent study to be done by North Carolina State University because the board of education was split 3:2 on going to the commissioners.

It is still split 3:2 with Ronnie Collins and Allan Zimmerman asking for a little more time until that study (by a group not obligated to anyone in the county incidentally) is completed, then going forward with a needed bond based on facts, not emotion.

Anyone who believes this latest attempt by McManus, Cooper and Dark to slam dunk a school bond down the commissioners' and later our throats is an intelligent way to develop a financial plan needs to check into some land for sale about 3 miles due south of Key West. That might be a better buy in the long run.

Consider how we came to this juncture:
1. A group of citizens had been asking for years to be heard by the school board.

2. The school board created five committees to advise them on the bond amount created by a March 7, 2001, plan submitted to the state.

3. That plan was grossly outdated and a numb er of the projects called for in it had already been completed - but the committees had to discover that themselves!

3. The data given about planned developments was also old in that many of the developments had already been built and many of the children the school administration was showing as needing school spaces were already in school. In other words, they were being double counted!

4. These committees were originally only allowed one month from the time the incorrect data was given to them to correct the data and make reports to the school board. That deadline was extended three weeks when it became apparent time was needed to gather the correct data, present it to the public and then collate the responses for the school board.

5. On 6 October the four committees (Dark's never even met as a committee) along with an independently organizaed group of parents made reports to the board. Each of them called for an independent professional study to determine with credibility where schools should be sited, what kind they should be and where district lines should be made. Each committee also called attention to the school board's continued failure to redistrict, a factor causing some schools to be overloaded and others to have large amounts of unused spaces.

6. Based upon what the state Separtment of Public Instruction shows, we have capacity for 10,244 students including mobile classrooms but only had 7,291 as of 8 September 2003, the end of the first month of school. Registered students are even less today.

At the "bond workshop" on 18 December when the decision was made to hold off because of a lack of consensus, Dr. Mabe made the statement that the County Commissioners are not likely to question the school board on any amount they propose. I hope the latest act by McManus, Cooper and Dark does not mean they have confirmed what Dr. Mabe said.

What changed their mind? To go ahead without any plan shows a gross lack of intelligent planning and if everyone could have heard that meeting last Monday, I think most would agree with my assessment. Laughable but tragic!

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