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School talks turn testy

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Thursday, September 20, 2018

NASHVILLE — Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education members weren’t happy Wednesday with three items placed on its joint committee meeting agenda by the Nash County Board of Commissioners.

The items: “Future Plans for IB Program at Rocky Mount High School,” “Discussion on recent test scores and ranking” and “Turn-over Rate and Teacher Retention” should have been discussed chairman to chairwoman before being placed on the agenda, said school board Chairwoman Ann Edge.

Nash County board Chairman Robbie Davis said the school board wanted the committee meetings to be public in the name of transparency, plus the agenda was sent to the school board ahead of the meeting and no objections were raised.

The committee briefly discussed the International Baccalaureate Program, but didn't talk about the other two items.

International Baccalaureate is a college prep program that sets internationally high standards for rigor, relevance and learning, according to the school's website.

Davis said the community was abuzz with rumors the program's coordinator would soon retire, leaving the program in jeopardy.

Superintendent Shelton Jefferies said there are contingencies in place so that the IB Program would continue if its coordinator left.

School board member Evelyn Bulluck reiterated what Edge said, telling Davis that items like the IB Program concerns should be brought to Edge so she can have the matter investigated.

School board member Wendy Wilson said both boards should be careful about losing the kids in the politics of it all. She said children face a myriad of issues beyond the capacity of the school system, which should ask for help when needed. She said they face difficult discussions but should always put students above political territory.

In regards to the test scores, Davis said commissioners need to know the school system is moving up hill.

“We are not here to get into your business, we are here to help improve schools,” Davis said. “We're here to help you any way we can.”

The committee also discussed building a new Northern Nash Elementary School to replace three aging schools in the Red Oak area.

School board member Wayne Doll said residents made nine references to transportation concerns during a forum Tuesday night, so it's something on which both boards should focus.

Nash County board Vice Chairman Wayne Outlaw asked the earliest time students get picked up and the latest they get dropped off.

School staff said the times were around 5:45 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. for early college students.

Outlaw asked about elementary students, and school staff said they would get back with him with exact times.

“So we have students on the bus for more than an hour?” Outlaw asked. “Not good.”

Bulluck said that there are students in sparsely populated remote areas of the county and it's going to take time to get them to school. She again floated the idea of more than one new school being built in the area.

Davis said he supports public schools. He went to public schools, his three children went to public schools and his three grandchildren attend public schools. Davis said commissioners want to do whatever it takes to keep students and bring in new students, but it will be difficult to build more than one school in the area. But the county needs to be able to maintain the schools it builds.

Nash County Manager Zee Lamb said the commissioners set aside $750,000 for the new school. He said based on estimates of $20 million for a new school, a 15-year loan with 3.65 percent interest rate would end up costing $26 million and a 20-year loan with 3.70 percent interest would cost $28.4 million. Factor in a $10 million state grant for the school, which would mean a loss of five years of lottery funding, the cost comes out to $18. 6 million for 15 years and $19.8 million for 20 years.

The Federal Reserve is expected to raise rates two or three times in the next 18 months.

“We won't know until we go to market,” Lamb said of the estimates.

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