ELIZABETHTOWN — The tug-of-war between the Bladen County Board of Education and the county commissioners continues.
At Saturday’s BOE retreat, staff and board members spent considerable time talking about the topic that’s been a slowly festering wound for years now — what to do about consolidation.
“This is where the contradiction comes in,” said Superintendent Robert Taylor. “(The commissioners) are saying, ‘You all have never brought us a plan,’ and saying ‘We disagree with your plan.’ How can you disagree with our plan and say we haven’t brought you one?”
“I think we’re hearing one voice, and I don’t think it’s the voice of the people,” said board member Roland McKoy. “Putting it to a vote (by the county commissioners) is the right way to go … If they don’t agree with our plan, come up with a better plan, or give us what we need.”
Alan West agreed.
“I want it to be an action item on their agenda,” he said. “We don’t need one person speaking for the whole board (of commissioners) … We’ve worked too hard to just get a general answer.”
Taylor suggested the commissioners’ problem wasn’t with consolidation, but with construction of new buildings.
“They can’t agree with the closing of schools and not agree with the building of new ones,” commented West. “It’s all intertwined. We can’t close Plain View and Tar Heel and not build another school.”
Members seemed to be in agreement that rather than presenting the one option to the commissioners, they would give the three they had considered and get feedback, in the form of an action item on the agenda, from the county leaders.
Taylor outlined the three options. The first is the plan presented to the commissioners earlier this year involving the construction of a new K-8 school in Tar Heel and the closing or reorganization of numerous schools. Option B is the same as the first, but would involve a second new K-8 construction, to be located in the Council/Clarkton area. Option C is to go to one high school, and realign the two high schools as middle schools.
“I don’t think it would fly, and I don’t think it would be good for communities,” commented Roger Carroll about the latter option.
After some heated discussion about whether each board member should look out for his own community or whether as a board they should look out for all communities, they turned their attention to what to do about East Arcadia, which has just over 100 students. Taylor said the problem is with the infrastructure, which necessitates a long drive to get to or from East Arcadia and any community with a school.
“If we close the school, they’ll just go somewhere else, and we’ll lose the kids,” West speculated, adding that a longtime board member from East Arcadia said as much at the forum in the community earlier this year.
Staff and board members agreed to send Option A and Option B to the commissioners, and to ask for an action item on the commissioner’s agenda.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.