Board members concerned about disparity

Last updated: May 14. 2014 9:20AM - 2265 Views
By James Johnson jamesjohnson@civitasmedia.com

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LUMBERTON — Some members of the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County expressed concern Tuesday night when presented with a report that highlighted how money has been spent on athletics at the six high schools.

The Athletic Facility Study was presented by Jason Suggs, the county athletic director, and focused on athletic facility spending of Purnell Swett High, South Robeson High, Lumberton Senior High, Fairmont High, St. Pauls High and Red Springs High from 2008 to 2014. According to Suggs, there are no numbers available for before 2008.

Board member Gary Strickland was the most vocal about the report’s findings, calling the more than $1 million disparity between Lumberton Senior High and Red Springs High “revealing.”

“I am not opposed to spending money at schools,” Strickland said. “But when we look at these numbers and we see the disparity throughout the county … When the public sees this list they have to wonder what is going on. In the future, from this point forward, before we arbitrarily do things, I am hoping we will be more cautious. When I see Red Springs at only $92,000, still without a baseball field, and I look at St. Pauls, and Fairmont, I think it makes it tough. What can we do?”

The report found that Lumberton Senior High received $1,232,665 for athletics since 2008, while the next highest amount of $448,944 going to Purnell Swett High.

The school to receive the least amount of money was Red Springs High with $92,706.41.

St. Pauls High received $161,525, Fairmont High received $160,424 and South Robeson High received $120,200.

The report took into account the number of students at each school as well as the number of athletes and determined that while Red Springs High School had received $622 spent per athlete, and Lumberton Senior High $3,128 per athlete.

“I understand the concern and believe this is something that we will have to look into,” said Loistine P. DeFreece, board chairman. “… I thought [the report] would be a little bit different.”

The subject was raised in March after the school board voted 8-3 to allocate $200,000 for improvements to the weight room of Lumberton Senior High. Strickland and board members Jo Ann Lowery and Vice Chairman Bosco Locklear all voiced opposition to the decision, expressing a concern that there are other schools within the district that are also in need of improvements to their athletic facilities.

The report was called for at that time.

The school board will hold its retreat on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the COMtech Business Park at 49 Livermore Drive in Pembroke.

In other business:

— After being informed by Strickland of what he called “inappropriate” behavior by guest speaker Ben Chavis during Palmer Prevention’s 11th annual Orange Ribbon Luncheon on May 1, the school board voted to consider supporting other drug abuse programs. According to Strickland, Chavis had been openly critical of the Public Schools of Robeson County.

The Palmer Prevention program has had a contract with the Public Schools of Robeson County for more than a decade.

— The 2014-15 school planning budget received approval, as did the financial report for the current school year and budget amendments proposed by Erica Setzer, school finance director.

— The tech provider company list was approved for the next school year with no changes.

— Students who participated in the Battle of the Books competition were recognized.

— Beth Jackson was named Bus Driver of the Month, Mary Gonzalez was named Certified Employee of the Month and Gladys Moody was named Classified Employee of the Month.

Severeo Kerns was the only board member not present for the meeting.

All board members were in attendance on Tuesday except for Severeo Kerns.

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