However, before the board made its decision, the Sampson County Board of Education took commissioners on a tour of the currently closed facility to see what is in progress and what is needed to make this the next home for middle school students.
As the two boards toured the facility, superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker provided the board with a fact sheet showing exactly how much funding would be needed to make it possible to open school next year. On one side, Lenker provided a figure that he considered essential to make this a reality, $317,141; in the other column, a figure that he considered to be more effective, $397, 094.
Lenker stressed that the Board of Commissioners would not be paying for the renovations and construction at the school; those funds, he said, would come from QZAB funding that the board previously approved. The approximate $317,000 figure would go to pay for additional personnel that would be needed to open the new school, as well as the refurbishing of books for the media center and classrooms.
Joining in the tour was middle school director Rebecca Jackson who showed the education and administrative leaders the changes that would be needed to make the facility a middle school.
“The school will be separated by sixth, seventh and eighth grade pods,” said Jackson as she pointed to classrooms in the sixth grade area.
As commissioners and Board of Education members walked through, Jackson and Anthony Vann, executive director of Auxiliary Services, showed the boards to an area that is currently being changed from a high school shop area to additional classrooms. The group also went to look at some proposed self-contained classrooms that would have washers and dryers. As this was mentioned, commissioner Jefferson Strickland asked if the funding for supplies such as washers could somehow be absorbed by Eastpointe, due to the organization working with mentally challenged individuals.
County finance officer Sylvia Blinson expressed that this would be a question that leaders from Eastpointe would have to answer.
As the tour finished, commissioner John Blanton, a former principal, noted that the figure proposed for books, $75,000, was a small amount.
School board member Fay Gay, listening to Blanton’s observation, stated, “We’ll take $175,000.”
When the board finished their walk through, the Board of Education closed its meeting, and commissioners reconvened at the Clinton City Hall where the board took action on the opening of the school.
The discussion started when commissioner chairman Jarvis McLamb mentioned the tour and a recent visit he had at Union Elementary.
“They do have a crowding problem at Union Elementary School,” said McLamb. He also gave a professional pat on the back to the school leaders for doing the best they could with current facilities and limiting the amount of funding needed to reopen Union High School
“I say they have done an excellent job on what they have done so far,” commented McLamb.
With this, commissioner Malachi Faison questioned, “Do we have the revenue to support this?”
Listening, Blinson answered, “We do believe that we can do this for two years.”
To help clarify what the board was doing, McLamb explained to Faison and the audience that the board had asked Lenker and school leaders to prioritize.
“They set the priority, and they said that it was the old Union High School, and they have expressed a desire to work with us,” said McLamb.
As McLamb finished, Strickland made a motion to accept the school board’s request for commitment from the commissioners regarding Union High.
With spoken reservations on where the revenue will come in later to continue funding the school, Blanton seconded the motion saying, “We don’t want to end up at the end of a diving board with no water in the pond.” Then the board voted 4-1 in favor of the school board’s proposal, with Faison casting the only dissenting vote.
After the meeting, Faison clarified that he is concerned about where the funds will come from to keep the school open.
“I don’t want to put my employees in the position to hand out IOU’s,” if the revenue did not continue to be available, Faison said.
Katie Holland can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 136, or by email at email@example.com.