LUMBERTON — The Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County school board joined other school officials across the state in opposing proposed legislation that would allow county commissions to “unilaterally seize ownership and control of school property from local school boards.”
Board members on Tuesday voted unanimously to oppose Senate Bill 236, a bill that would allow counties to elect by resolution to assume control over some or all of school property powers. School property powers that could be affected by the law include: ownership; siting; acquisition; construction; equipping; expanding; improving; repairing; and renovating.
Grady Hunt, the attorney for the Public Schools of Robeson County school board, told board members that the “troubling” aspect of the bill centers around the freedom county commissions would have to determine what property powers now in the hands of local boards they wish to control.
“They can pick and choose control of the powers they desire,” he said. “This (bill) allows them not to have to take complete control, but allows for just partial control.”
In a letter to County Manager Ricky Harris, Hunt said that the “powers of school system control and supervision are statutorily vested in local boards of education. Property ownership is a fundamental element of control and supervisory powers.”
“Transferring basic powers of school property to county commissions would obscure the lines of authority between local boards of education and county commissions,” he said. “Where lines of authority are dulled, accountability to the public decreases.”
The board met without Randy Lawson, who is ill and hospitalized. Severio Kerns, who is recuperating from heart surgery, was also absent from the meeting as was John Campbell.
In other business, the board on Tuesday:
— Approved up to an additional $15,000 for repairs of the floor to the old Townsend School gym. Erica Setzer, the school district’s chief financial officer, said that $63,000 has already been allocated for repairs to the gym but not spent.
Late last year, the board authorized its attorney to draw up a lease proposal so the old gym can be handed over to the town of Maxton to be used for a community center. The lease has not yet been executed.
— Approved money to make roof repairs at South Robeson High School. Setzer said that the cost of work on the roof of the school’s main classroom building will exceed $375,000.
— Approved an additional $400 to be added to the athletic fund for each of the county’s 13 middle schools to help pay for an additional official for softball games. Currently, there is only one umpire for each game.
— Approved funding for school district employees to work a four-day work week in the summer.
— Approved about $107,000 to complete the work on Phase I of the Lumberton High School athletic complex. This includes expenses associated with parking lot paving, work on the soccer field, bleachers, and lighting.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the board also recognized students and employees for a number of achievements. These included the Battle of the Books winners for the second and third grades; the state Science, Math and Technology Teacher of the Year for grades kindergarten through eighth; the Future Cities competition winner; and Students of Excellence.
The Robesonian will publish this information on its Education page as soon as resources and space allow.