Lee school board votes 4-3 opposing Stone's N.C. House bills

Apr. 11, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Choosing Andy Bryan as the next superintendent of Lee County Schools was far from the only action the Lee County Board of Education took in Tuesday night's meeting.

The board also addressed three local bills sponsored by Rep. Mike Stone — a Republican who took office in the N.C. House after defeating school board attorney Jimmy Love Sr. in 2010 — which have gained attention recently and would become law if approved by the General Assembly. With a 4-3 vote, the board passed a resolution opposing H490, H491 and H512. Cameron Sharpe, Wendy Carlyle and Mark Akinosho voted against the resolution.

H490 would force the Sanford City Council and the school board — which has been officially non-partisan since it was established in 1967 — to hold partisan elections. H491 would transfer control of school resource officers from the school district to the Lee County Sheriff's Office. H512 would take away the school board's power to appoint members of Central Carolina Community College's Board of Trustees.

The resolution calls Stone’s lack of communication with the school board, local media and fellow area Rep. Deb McManus regarding the bills a deliberate snub that was “highly improper, discourteous and a violation of trust and his fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of Lee County."

The resolution also accuses Stone of a "specious and poorly disguised attempt to dismantle public education in Lee County" and requests members of the General Assembly — all of whom will receive a copy of the resolution — to vote against the bills.

Board member Tamara Brogan, who voted in favor of the resolution, said she met with Stone in March and spoke with him about several other education-related topics, but he never mentioned the bills that he introduced just days later. In addition to frustration over his lack of communication, she said, she’s worried if school board elections become partisan, members might start making decisions with politics — instead of what’s best for students — in mind.

However, Carlyle said a lack of communication was actually why she voted against the resolution — only it was a lack of communication within her own board. Carlyle criticized the board for only adding the resolution to the agenda about four hours before the 6 p.m. meeting began, which she said gave her no time to review it. Being asked to approve such a strongly-worded rebuke, she said, wasn’t appropriate considering the lack of time and discussion beforehand.

Sharpe and Akinosho did not say why they voted against the resolution. Lynn Smith, Linda Smith and John Bonardi did not say why they voted in favor of it.

The board unanimously approved a funding request of $18,619,423 from the county for its 2013-14 budget, an increase of more than $3 million from the current budget. The vast majority of the extra funding requested is slated for new hires — mainly teaching assistants.

Superintendent Jeff Moss said the county is likely the last hope for the schools to fund teaching assistants in any grade other than kindergarten next year. Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget would cut teaching assistants in every grade but kindergarten, and Moss — who's often in Raleigh lobbying for a statewide superintendent group — said it’s likely to pass the General Assembly. If so, it would result in a $1.8 million cut to Lee County Schools. He also said the district will lose about $575,000 in federal funds designated for low-wealth schools that could have been used to make up for the potential state-level cuts.

The board also:

* Approved the hiring of Christina Womble as the next principal of J. Glenn Edwards Elementary School, with a two-year contract. Sylvia Bayer, the school's current principal, will take a job in the central office coordinating local public and private Pre-K programs.

* Approved the first reading of policy changes regarding school transfers.

* Approved the second (and final) reading of policy changes regarding End-of-Course exams and fundraising activities.

* Approved a consent agenda of eight items, including the continuation of an after-school tutoring program put on by the YMCA and an expenditure of $90,369 to replace floor tiles at B.T. Bullock Elementary School.

* Went through committee notes, including an update from Brogan regarding the magnet school/school choice research she’s doing with Linda Smith and Andy Bryan. There will be more discussion at the May meeting of the Elementary School Curriculum and Instruction Committee.

* Heard a presentation from East Lee Middle School students in the school’s robotics club who spoke on behalf of the district’s investment in technology and STEM programs.

* Listened to two West Lee Middle School students sing "Math Math Math," a parody of Taylor Swift's “Stay Stay Stay” with math-related lyrics they wrote to help study algebra.

* Recognized Southern Lee High School student Daisy Chang for being selected to study natural science at the West Campus of the Governor's School of North Carolina this summer.

* Gave the district's Clean School of the Month Award to the custodial team at SanLee Middle School: David McLean, Albert Atkins, Monica Hawes, Alice McIver and Fred Martin.

* Recognized Southern Lee history teacher Chad Shannon for winning the district's Classroom Webpage of the Month award.

* Heard public comments on autism awareness from SanLee Middle School teacher Laurie McCauley and on the superintendent search from former school board member Shawn Williams.