County, schools join in ISD opposition

By: By T.C. Hunter -
Shanita Wooten

LUMBERTON — A plan was devised Monday to express joint opposition to Southside-Ashpole Elementary School being included in the state’s Innovative School District and information about the construction of a new school district central office complex was exchanged during a meeting of county commissioners and school board.

Both governing bodies voted unanimously to issue a resolution opposing the school in Rowland being taken over by the state and run by either a charter management organization or an education management organization hired by the state Department of Public Instruction for five years.

No formal announcement about the school’s selection has been made. But multiple sources have said Southside-Ashpole will be recommended as one of two schools to be included in the Innovative School District with the start of the 2018-19 academic year.

Four schools are on the final list for consideration. The other three schools are Glenn Elementary, in the Durham public school system; Williford Elementary, in the Nash-Rocky Mount school system; and Willis Hare Elementary, in the Northhampton school system.

The state Board of Education will decide in December which two schools will be in the ISD.

“If Johnston County and Forsyth County don’t want it, then why should we want it,” said Brenda Fairley-Ferebee, a school board member.

Interim Superintendent Shanita Wooten was tasked with sending a letter to the governor’s office and the state Department of Public Instruction stating the district’s opposition to Southside-Ashpole’s inclusion in the ISD. The letter would be packaged with a detailed plan on how the district will improve test scores at the school.

“We’ve got to do something,” County Commissioner Jerry Stephens said.

But that something should include helping the school board build a new district office complex, he said.

“We’ve got to build schools,” Stephens said. “We’ve got to teach students.”

No action about building a new district office complex. The school board and the county commissioners only discussed details, said Tom Taylor, chairman of the Board of Commissioners.

“We’re just trying to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” Taylor said.

The commissioners asked the school board to give them more details about what they want to build on 47.97 acres of land at 1399 N.C. 711, near the state Department of Transportation office, the school district has an option to buy.

School district plans are vague, but include spending $25 million for a central office and about $30 million for a technology school, Erica Setzer, district finance officer, told the commissioners. The district eventually would move all essential schools operations to the land.

The school board’s Construction Committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday to develop more detailed central office construction plans, Wooten said. The committee’s members also will discuss selecting an architect to draw up the plans.

“We want to come up with official specs,” Wooten said.

Another option being studied is having the school district move into the county offices at 701 N. Elm St. in Lumberton, Taylor said. The plan is to have county government move to the BB&T building on Chestnut Street once the renovations there are complete.

The district also has the option of staying at the Native Angels building at COMtech. Bobbie Jacobs Ghaffar told the county commissioners she has discussed a long-term rental agreement with the school board members with a price tag of $6.3 million.

The school system already downs 35 acres at COMtech.

Shanita Wooten Wooten
Boards talk central office options

By T.C. Hunter

Reach T.C. Hunter at 910-816-1974.

Reach T.C. Hunter at 910-816-1974.