ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Board of Education elected a new chairman and vice-chairman at its Monday meeting before tackling the rest of its agenda.
Wilbur Smith won a 5-3 vote over Alan West to take over the chairman’s post from Ophelia Munn-Goins, and Vinston Rozier won a unanimous vote to take over as vice-chairman from West.
Smith was almost immediately faced with a citizen participation discussion from Phyllis Miller, who wanted to talk about the recent proposal to close Clarkton School of Discovery and Booker T. Washington beginning with the 2016-17 school year.
“I understand cutting back on expenses and I know his board has had a very hard time finding ways to do that,” she said. “But I think the proposal was done too quickly — in other words, we got the cart before the horse.
“I think we will open 13 schools in 2016 just like we did in 2015,” she added. “Can you confirm that rumor or not?”
Smith wasn’t willing or able to give a nod either way.
“I am not in a position to say either way,” he said, “because I don’t know.”
In other board activity, Robert Heavenridge gave the members a presentation concerning the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s Needs Survey, which is put together by the district every five years.
“As of now we have a total student population of 4,621,” he said. “The projection for the 2020-21 school year is for 4,634 students.”
Heavenridge went on to discuss some of the individual schools and their current situation. For examples, he said Booker T. Washington currently has 197 students and has a classroom capacity of 311; Bladen lakes Primary now has 236 students with a classroom capacity of 376. He said each of the schools’ media and kitchen areas have a capacity of at least double the classroom capacity.
“That means if we were going to operate at those higher levels, we would have to add classrooms,” he said.
He added that only three county schools — East Bladen, West Bladen and Dublin Primary — were at total capacity.
In other action, the board:
— Heard from Valerie Newton concerning the start of the district’s new electronic newsletter. She showed a presentation of what the eNewsletter would include and said it would be sent via email to parents and community members.
— Recognized 11 West Bladen students for their ServSafe certification. The group’s advisor is Gail Morris.
— Recognized three East Bladen and six West Bladen students for bringing home awards in the recent Regional HOSA District IV competition. East Bladen’s advisor is Patty Nancy; West Bladen’s advisor is Mary Todd.
— Recognized West Bladen student and FFA member Allison Morris for her election as an FCCLA officer.
Recognized the National Beta Club winners from Bladenboro Middle for its four awards. The school’s advisor is Holly Hancock.
— Recognized West Bladen’s JROTC instructor Col. Eli Ballard, who was recently named the Alpha Kappa School Employee of the Year in a three-county region.
— Recognized the newest winners of the monthly attendance banners: Booker T. Washington in the elementary division with an attendance rate of 95.83 percent; Clarkton School of Discovery in the middle school division with a rate of 96.84 percent; and East Bladen in the high school division with a rate of 94 percent.
The next meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled for Jan. 11 at 6 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.