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Valerie Penny-Kirby, left, and her sister Vanessa Penny-Dennis hold signs Wednesday during a Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education meeting at O.R. Pope Elementary School.
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Telegram photo / Miranda Baines

Valerie Penny-Kirby, left, and her sister Vanessa Penny-Dennis hold signs Wednesday during a Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education meeting at O.R. Pope Elementary School.

School board votes to close Pope Elementary

By Miranda Baines

Staff Writer

14 Comments | Leave a Comment

“Save our school! Save our school!”

Those were the chants of audience members holding up signs bearing those same words at a Wednesday meeting in the O.R. Pope Elementary School gymnasium to determine the future of the school.

The audience members began chanting after a member of the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education made a motion to move the O.R. Pope School, including the students and staff, to the D.S. Johnson – Fairview adjoined facility effective the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

But the board voted to close the doors of Pope to students, with the Rev. Robert Bynum the only member voting no.

Kindergarten through second-grade students at Pope will be moved to Fairview and third-through fifth-grade students will be moved to Johnson.

The board also voted to form an ad hoc committee consisting of 15 members to explore possible future uses for the Pope facility.

Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Jackson made the proposal to move the Pope student body of 288 to another, newer facility, citing the safety of the Pope facility and the age and condition of the facility as reasons for the move. Pope was built in 1940 and was named after Oliver R. Pope, a respected principal and educator.

“I understand the sensitivity, I understand the commitment. I understand the community’s love for the building. My love is for the children,” Jackson said. “Can I say that something will happen in this building tomorrow? No? Can I say something will not happen in this building tomorrow? No. But ... there are systems failing in this building and there are facility issues that make this in my mind a building that we have to look at closely in terms of making the appropriate decisions in terms of what’s best for children.”

Several board members talked about their safety concerns with the Pope building and lack of funding to maintain the building as reasons for their decision to move the Pope student body.

“Our superintendent has told us that the place is unsafe,” said board member William “Bill” Sharpe. “With that said, life is more precious than bricks and mortar.”

Board member Doneva Chavis-Battle shared similar thoughts, saying she could not face a parent or grandparent in the room if a child was hurt or killed in the Pope building because it was unsafe.

Board member Reginald Silver said he wished the issue of allocating more funding to schools on the same side of town as Pope could have been addressed years ago, but as it is, the board has to move forward, and at this time, the money to keep Pope an active school simply is not there.

“If we’re talking about saving Pope School, we’re talking about millions of dollars,” Silver said. “Where is the money?”

Bynum expressed his concerns about what will happen if Pope closes its doors.

“This community is anchored to this school,” Bynum said. “There won’t be any schools in the black community ... because we will have closed them all.”

Bynum also made a motion to add public comments to the meeting’s agenda so the audience could have one more opportunity to speak before the board’s final decision on Pope.

One of the speakers, city Councilman Andre Knight expressed his displeasure with what he termed a “movement to close all schools in East Rocky Mount,” and pleaded with the board to keep Pope open.

“It is a sad commentary that we have the first black superintendent for the Nash-Rocky Mount schools, the first African-American majority school board, and the first business of the day is to close the oldest, historic school, the landmark of this community. It’s a travesty, and it’s unreal,” Knight said. “Teachers have fought, parents have fought, because we knew that these schools were not funded like the rest of these schools. We knew that, and today we have an opportunity to move those schools up to the top of the line ... Now’s the time to do right by our students and to do right by our school. Please save our school.”

Former Pope student E.C. Cooper expressed similar thoughts after the meeting adjourned.

“Every school that’s been moved or been torn down, it’s been from the black side of town. If you live long enough, there’s not going to be a school on this side of town, it’s all going to be on the Nash side,” Cooper said. “I think it’s important to keep something in the community that represents us.”

Former student Vanessa Penny-Dennis spoke passionately about her desire to keep the doors of Pope open, even after the meeting adjourned.

“We want to do whatever it takes to preserve this historical school,” Penny-Dennis said. “We want to leave Pope open, right where it is, fix it, make it safe.”

While the doors of Pope will close to students next school year, whether Pope will remain as the name of a school in the Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools has yet to be determined. The superintendent recommended changing the name of Fairview to O.R. Pope and the board was set to vote on that proposal, but Bynum recommended tabling that discussion to a later date. The board agreed.

Comments

How is it

that Wesleyan College can find $1.5 million for the rights to name a football stadium and up grades (Nash County) and Nash County can get $1.5 million from Goldenleaf to install sewer lines and make the Rocky Mount City Council approve the closed door deal BUT!!!! no one can find one cent for the up keep or renovations of a BLACK SCHOOL IN A BLACK COMMUNITY IN EDGECOMBE COUNTY? $3 MILLION + spent in Nash County in one day for some BS!!! The time has come and gone that the City Council and Goldenleaf need to spend some of our dollars in Edgecombe County where we live and most needed. Edgecombe County will rise from the ashes if you like it or not.

Good riddance ---Was an

Good riddance ---Was an eyesore and firetrap--

When

are blacks going to build for them selves the facilities needed to advance their agendas? When will the black community stop uniting to beg and plead but unit to build as their ancestors has done? When will the black community utilize their resources as did Nash County and Goldenleaf ($1.5) and Wesleyan College ($1.5) BLACK MAN GET OFF YOUR AS AND YOUR KNEES. CALL UPON YOUR BLACK BROTHERS AND SISTERS WHO LIVE IN MILLION DOLLAR HOUSES AND DRIVE $100K CARS. CALL ON THE BLACK "MEGA CHURCH" PASTORS AND COMMUNITIES AND TELL THEM THE SAME THING YOU'RE TELL THE "WHITE MAN" THEY HAVE THE MONEY TO DO MORE THAN (OUR) ANCESTORS HAVE DONE SO WHY ARE WE NOT ABLE TO MAINTAIN OUR HISTORY, WHY DO WE BEG OTHERS TO PRESERVE YOUR HISTORY, WHY ARE WE ENSLAVED WITH A "TO LITTLE TO LATE" MENTALITY? WHY DO WE DISHOUNOR OUR HISTORY FOR THE SAKE OF A SELFISH DOLLAR? WHEN ARE WE GOING TO REALIZE THAT OUR FREEDOM TO BE AND TO DO WAS GIVEN TO USE BY ALL THOSE THAT GAVE THEIR LIVES SO THAT WE COULD LIVE AND BE FREE TO BUILD, CREATE, DISCOVER, INVENT, EXPRESS. WHEN BLACK MAN ARE YOU GOING TO BE FREE? Johnny Cunningham 252-266-3858

SMDH!

SMDH!

Financial Decision?

Once again Andre shows that the math is irrelevant if it's on the Edgecombe side of the city. Event center any one? Let's hope Nash County can somehow undo this school merger and send this race monger with hat in hand to Tarboro for capital funding for his "folk".

SMDH!

Event Center monies and monies from the Bond Referendum are 2 different things.

He didn't go to

NC Wesleyan but he spoke in favor of making it a UNC System school but how well do other folks forget. Or they don't know, in denial or just don't care what he has done if he speak out for black issues. SMDH!

Benvenue

Where was Andre Knight when Benvenue Elementary and Benvenue Middle/former Benvenue Highschool were torn down to build a Walmart shopping center?

SMDH!

Where was he suppose to be?

Did he go to school at Benvenue or predominately black folks?

Just asking?

Benvenue

Where was Andre Knight when Benvenue Elementary and Benvenue Middle/former Benvenue Highschool were torn down to build a Walmart shopping center?

Childish

Mr. Knight looks like a man, but he acts like a spoiled child when he doesn't get his way.

Andre Knight, Race hustler

"Is everything about race for this man?"

The great Booker T. Washington wrote about people like Andre over 100 years ago:

"There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs."— from the book 'My Larger Education, Being Chapters from My Experience' (1911)

Andre is a divider, not a uniter. He is a troublemaker, not a leader. Politicians like him are a vile cancer on our society.

Getting paid?

Tell me how he is getting paid because damn I want a check too! LMBAO!

Things people say that mislead folks.

When black folks can not speak up about their black history then they may as well roll the hell over and die! But then again that is what some ignant folks white and black want certain black folks to do.

Now that is what is a sad commentary! Black folks being silent!

I will not allow anyone to stop me from speaking out on black issues!

"Now Run And Tell That!"

The problem is obvious

“It is a sad commentary that we have the first black superintendent for the Nash-Rocky Mount schools, the first African-American majority school board, and the first business of the day is to close the oldest, historic school, the landmark of this community. It’s a travesty, and it’s unreal,” Andre Knight.

Is everything about race for this man?

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