Having a special meeting to discuss potentially consolidating Rosman and Brevard high schools and another meeting on the school bond were backed by the Board of Education Monday.
The issue was raised towards the end of the board’s meeting Monday when Board member Kimsey Jackson said community members have recently talked to or contacted him and others on the board about proposing the idea of consolidation.
Board Chair Tawny McCoy specifically floated the idea of a workshop to discuss the idea more thoroughly and added after the board has had discussion amongst themselves as to what direction, if any, the idea may go in, public comment should be allowed.
McCoy proposed three separate dates for the meeting, Oct. 10, 11 and 25. Jackson and Board member Courtney Domokur verbally supported meeting on Oct. 11 due to what they felt is the need to discuss consolidation as quickly as possible.
Jackson also suggested a separate meeting so the public can provide feedback on how the continuously stalled bond project should proceed.
“At these meetings I would certainly entertain, I guess the word is ‘guidance’ from the community as to how we might be proceeding with the bond issue,” he said. “Are there other ways to approach taking care of the schools other than waiting for the commissioners to (approve) the bonds, which hasn’t been done yet.”
He added there may exist alternative ideas but stressed it is necessary to provide the public a chance to also weigh in on the bond issue.
Jackson said there should be extensive advertising to ensure as many people as possible are aware when and where the meeting will take place.
“I think we’re looking at a tremendous expenditure of money,” he said. “(It’s) probably going to be a 20-year situation (referring to the bond) that there won’t be anything much done in the next 20 years that we’ve spent $68 million in fixing the schools … I absolutely agree we need to have the discussion about consolidation.”
Board Vice Chair Ron Kiviniemi said he didn’t think it was practical to mix the two topics into one meeting, preferring instead to hold two separate meetings: one on how to move forward on the bond and one on consolidation.
Jackson said he had no issue with that, but he was concerned about the possibility not enough people will be able to go to both meetings to adequately gauge the public interest.
Domokur said the likelihood of a large turnout at both meetings was high.
“I think we’ll have a good number of people coming out for both of them because this has been such a hot topic lately, and I do agree … I’m really happy that we’re moving forward with those public meetings,” she said.
Superintendent Jeff McDaris also supported having two meetings. In regards to consolidation, McDaris said he has worked on compiling information for this topic for years and spoke on what it may mean in the long run if approved.
McDaris said even if Transylvania County as a whole agrees with the idea of consolidation, there are a number of possibilities as to how it may turn out. One is the idea of “a brand new shiny high school,” in other words building one at a new site or on top of a school that already exists. For others it may mean using an existing high school and moving all students there.
Board Member Marty Griffin supported having the two meetings as well but stressed caution on the consolidation idea, citing opposition in the past to it.
“The only school bond in this county (that was) ever defeated was one that had the word ‘consolidation’ in it,” he said.
McDaris stressed the idea is merely a “consideration, not a reality.”
He added that regardless of what the school board decides to do, expenses will be inevitable.
“Every single option is going to cost money because we’re far beyond just a coat of paint,” he said.
A start time of 6 p.m. for the meeting was agreed upon and Jackson said the venue for the meeting should be someplace other than the Transylvania County Schools offices at the Morris Education Center to accommodate more people, an idea that received no opposition among the board members.
Also at Monday night’s meeting:
•Superintendent McDaris highlighted the Staff District Kick-Off for 2022-2023. “For the first time in many years, Transylvania County Schools held a ‘Back to School’ Staff Kick-Off for the 2022-2023 school year (which) took place on Aug. 23 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Brevard High School. It included breakfast, games, prizes and keynote speaker Jennifer Pharr Davis, a hiker, author, speaker and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year who has covered over 14,000 miles of long distance trails on six different continents,” he said.
•McDaris congratulated Rosman High School science teacher Sarah Reid for being selected as a member of the Standards Writing Team for the North Carolina Science Standard Course of Study.
•The board unanimously approved a budget resolution for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2022, through June 30, 2023, along with an expenditure report for fiscal year 2023.
•The board unanimously approved the purchase of 410 Lenovo 100e Gen. 3 Chromebooks and 306 Lenovo 300e 2nd Gen. 2-in-1 Chromebooks to replace current devices that are not up to standards in the elementary schools. The board approved the purchase of 716 devices at a total cost of $282,037.78 pending review and approval by the board attorney.
Tech Director Chris Whitlock said the financial cost will be paid upfront but will be followed up through a reimbursement request.