When Rocky Mount High School opened its doors a year ago for all the world to see, visitors marveled at its state-of-the-art features. It stands today as a world-class facility in a community where education has been identified as an area of critical need in the effort to recruit new industries and jobs.
If Nash County commissioners had been in charge of overseeing the planning and construction of Rocky Mount High, would the school be here today?
We have our doubts.
Former Nash-Rocky Mount schools Superintendent Rick McMahon once described the campaign to build the school as one of the more frustrating challenges he ever undertook, largely because of the reluctance of some Nash County commissioners to help pay for the facility.
There are good reasons for Nash-Rocky Mount school board members to be in charge of school construction. They spend virtually every moment of the time they devote to public service looking at the needs of students, educators and parents.
Nash County commissioners are called upon to consider dozens of functions of local government – from law enforcement to zoning ordinances to landfill management to economic development. Even in a utopian world in which commissioners eagerly looked for ways to modernize school buildings all over the district, they would have little time to do so.
That’s why responsibility for school construction should remain with the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education – and boards of education all over the state.
An attempt to include the Nash-Rocky Mount system in legislation that would cede the oversight of school construction to Nash County commissioners is short-sighted. As school board Chairwoman Evelyn Bulluck told Telegram reporter Darla Slipke last week, it’s “a solution in search of a problem.”
Students, educators and parents – the people most affected by the quality of local schools – should be able to count on their school board members to consider their concerns and make decisions accordingly. They don’t get that guarantee from a board of county commissioners who face so many pressing issues that have nothing to do with education.
Commissioner Robbie Davis has argued for a change in responsibility. County commissioners should have the ability to build schools as an option, he says, “just another tool in your working tool box.”
We don’t know many carpenters who buy hammers to simply stow them away unused. Carpenters buy hammers when they want to bang on something.
The Nash-Rocky Mount Schools System has faced enough battering.
Why not work with the board of education to make sure the system serves its students and teachers as fittingly as the world-class high school we opened a year ago?