Bladen County’s Board of Education has been forced to accept numerous negative responses over the past few years — both from the county’s Board of Commissioners and the voting public — in its quest to strengthen its financial coffers. Some of that is understandable, while some is pure stunning.
The local school board finds itself between a rock and a hard place. It is maintaining too many schools that are decades old and slowly crumbling; it is also managing a bank account that can’t sustain itself.
There is a bullet to bite here by someone.
On Monday, the school board laid out its most recent potential path to solving its problem — not only closing three schools, but building at least one new one. Of course, that plan puts board members on a direct collision course with both the county commissioners and the public, and neither seems willing or able to budge.
Since both the county commissioners and taxpaying residents are the hands that feed the Board of Education, it seems unlikely to us that any plan to consolidate, close or build any schools in the immediate future will fail miserably. The county has no money — thanks in part to the state-mandated new detention facility being built — and the voting public isn’t in any mood to approve a bond issue less than 20 years after the last one (that built East Bladen and West Bladen high schools).
We can blame neither the Board of Commissioners or the public for casting a jaundiced eye. And we certainly can’t blame the school board for exploring potential solutions to its biggest challenge.
But here, in a nutshell, is our gripe: Nobody has offered any workable solutions.
While it’s not the county commissioners’ responsibility to oversee the actions of the school board, manage its money or come up with solutions for its problems, we still think it would be helpful if there was more of a partnership between the two entities in working toward a solution.
And the public, which has gone to great lengths to do little more than complain about the school board and veto any potential remedy for fixing the facility conundrum. On top of that, the most fair and viable solution — the sales tax referendum offered up by the county commissioners that would have raised about $500,000 per year — was pitifully and overwhelmingly nixed by voters.
We have no idea where the Board of Education goes from here. Either the public has to accept the fact that schools must close and/or a new one will be built; or the school board is going to have to find a way to eliminate positions (and we’d suggest looking at the Central Office first); or the county commissioners are going to have to find some monetary assistance to give.
Anyone have any other valid ideas? We’d be happy to hear and share them.
Until then, we hope all parties will explore and present wise and logical plans that can take Bladen County into the future by improving its educational value and economic foundation.