Raleigh, N.C. — The Wake County legislative delegation got an earful Monday afternoon from concerned parents and former Board of Education members over legislation that would change how the school board operates.
Filed by Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, Senate Bill 236 would give ownership and control of Wake County school buildings to the Wake County Board of Commissioners.
Currently, the Wake County Board of Education has ownership and oversight.
Parent Lynn Edmonds said the school board needs to maintain ownership and control of school buildings because it has the experience necessary to build as many as 25 schools needed in the county over the next decade.
“The school board knows better what teachers needs in their schools,” she said. “The school board has experience building schools, and the facilities department has vast knowledge in maintaining them. School programming is directly related to the space where teachers teach and students learn.”
Greg Flynn, a parent who said he formerly reviewed school plans for the tate Department of Public Instruction, said the people he worked with in Wake County were some of the more competent in the state.
“They were proactive in avoiding delays, and despite the size of their projects, they were largely error free,” he said. “Good school buildings are like finely tuned instruments. Our best schools do not supply just a collection of rooms and corridors.”
Two former Wake County Board of Education members spoke out against the change in control, both citing a partisan split on the board that has impacted voting on many recent issues, most notably student assignment.
Commission Chairman Joe Bryan said that county funds go to pay for the buildings, so Wake commissioners should have oversight of how they are managed and used.
Wake school board Chairman Keith Sutton opposes the measure, having said recently that the school board has more experience than county commissioners at managing schools.
"We think we do the best job at doing that," Sutton said earlier this month.
The bill would apply to all North Carolina school districts – not just Wake County.
Other proposed legislation affecting Wake schools would change how school board members are elected – changing some seats to at-large – and redrawing district lines.
Robert Seagle, a Wake County resident since 2002, said forcing a new election would be disruptive to the county's new assignment plan.
"We would be dragging Wake County to old days where the community is divided," he said. "If there are to be new elections, at the very least let an outside board draw the boundaries. Parents spoke out loud and clear in the election of 2011, voting for stability and continuity in student assignment."
Rev. Earl Johnson said the school board legislation is an attempt to punish and to control the school board.
"This is a nightmare – a political train wreck waiting to happen," he said. "Senate Bill 325 is another attempt by Republicans to ensure they will always have a majority on the school board."