Board of Education gets update on facilities 

Board members make pleas for funding solutions

ALBEMARLE – The Stanly County Board of Education met on Tuesday, August 2, where they discussed facility upgrades throughout the county. Two board members gave a stark impression of the reality of funding in the state and county.

The board of education was given an update on the status of some of the county’s facilities and a potential plan of action for the future.

“Our last facility meeting was July 21, and we had quite a bit of discussion,” said board member Dr. Rufus Lefler. “We discussed a few things with our facilities staff. South Stanly High School is going to have a track resurfacing, and there’ll be new fencing at Locust and a roof and chiller at Norwood. Albemarle High School is on the list for resurfacing too, but that will be in the future.”

Dr. Lefler also discussed how SCS would be reapplying for grants funded from the NC Education Lottery in hopes of securing around $20 million in funding for additions and upgrades specifically to West End Middle School, Endy, East Albemarle Elementary, and West Stanly High School.

“We also discussed a 10 to 20-year plan because nothing’s been done for our buildings for about 50 or 60 years. After much discussion, we decided that we’re going to look at some options, and [Director of Maintenance Todd] Bowers is looking into that with some architects. We’re thinking about possibly updating two high schools in the county because, at this time, we don’t have equal academic, athletic clubs, and stuff in our schools. And we hope to get more broad representation for all those in our school system. For this to happen, we’ll have to go before the county commissioners, and for them to fund it, there will have to be a bond passed in the county.”

The board also gave its approval for the consolidated federal program spending that Stanly County Schools has been utilizing.

“This is an annual approval process that we go through with the board to keep you apprised of how we are utilizing federal dollars that are appropriated to us for Title I, II, III, and IV.” according to Dr. Amy Blake-Lewis.

The board then approved the 2022-23 Stanly County Schools fee.

“By policy, the board has to approve these fees before the beginning of the school year,” said Superintendent Dr. Jarrod Dennis. “We compiled these from all the different principals. You also have to set, by policy, the tuition for the year. Every year the tuition may change based on the ADM and the appropriation from the county. This year it’s going to go up a little bit based on what they think our allotment is going to be as far as the state goes. If you do those calculations, the per person cost for this coming year will be $1,613.82.”

Finally, the board approved a $137,196 budget amendment to the contract with Court One for the South Stanly High School track resurfacing project.

“We are redoing South Stanly’s track, however, the initial number we thought was not what it cost due to inflation and things like that,” said Dennis.

In final comments, board members Bill Sorenson and Anthony Graves aired their frustrations and laid out the reality of the state of funding for local North Carolina schools.

“People don’t realize how bad it is in North Carolina,” Sorenson said. “What’s really going to happen is that everybody in this room’s property tax is going to go up. They’re going to have to go up because every year, the state changes the formula, and they change the amount of funding that they send downstream to us, while also maintaining the same requirements of the counties. Eventually, you reach a point where to meet the constitutional obligations and to provide free and equitable education, the county is going to have to raise taxes.

“We were ranked by 47th in the USA for public school funding, again. EdWeek is a think tank that does criteria-based rankings for the state’s school systems. It’s the 20th to 30th time that our public school funding got an F. Our student achievement got a C. What that tells me is that our teachers, our administrators, and our local school systems are overachieving. We’re paying for a hamburger, and we’re getting champagne and caviar.”

“Our school system and the school systems in North Carolina are in a funding crisis at the state level,” Graves said. “It’s a crisis. We are having difficulty attracting and retaining staff, and the county needs to be prepared for what happens when we don’t have people to fill these classrooms. Qualified, competent teachers, assistants, and professional staff across the board like bus drivers. Students are going to have substitutes… that may not be qualified to teach them in the subject that they are in. We are likely to be put in that position. We’re already struggling. The superintendent, the staff, and the central office are struggling to try and fill those vacancies, and it’s only going to get worse. We’re going to have to come together in Stanly County, and we’re going to have to talk to the elected officials.

“The commitment to local education in North Carolina has just been… there is no commitment anymore. I hate it for everybody that’s in this profession, having to deal with this, but we are certainly grateful for all the hard work and effort you’re putting in on behalf of the education of the children of Stanly County.”

The Stanly County Board of Education will next meet September 6.