Sunday, September 26, 2021

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
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Taxpayers aren’t laughing at school system’s ineptitude: no plan, no planning, just a lot of money they’re ready to spend

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Well, it was really a week for laughable public meetings of local boards (see adjacent editorials), but, as usual, the school board didn’t want to be left out from being ridiculous.

School board members actually scurried to hold a “special” meeting Monday afternoon so they could hear all sorts of ideas from central office bureaucrats about leasing or buying additional properties – at taxpayer expense, of course – where they might be able to stash other educrats.

So where have most of these previous school system employees been hidden?

Why at the Sellars-Gunn Education Center on Apple Street in Burlington.

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Why can’t they keeping working there?

Oh, because, school officials reported to the school board with a straight face, the building is falling into disrepair.

Really?

Falling into disrepair?

And, whose fault is that, we wonder?

The s-c-h-o-o-l s-y-s-t-e-m.

Why hasn’t maintenance kept the building at a usable level?

So now, we guess they expect that taxpayers are supposed to reward the abject failings of the school system, which failed to keep up maintenance on one of its properties, by suddenly leasing or buying other properties?

Oh, school officials were just full of creative, non-sensical options.

Why, let’s rent out some retail space at Holly Hill Mall was actually one of the options presented to the school board.

Retail space in a mall?

(What was disappointing is that school board members didn’t hoot with laughter when some of these concepts were broached.)

How about buying a former daycare center on a one-way street? Another real winner, we suspect.

But school officials are never restricted by either practicality or price.

There continued to be consideration this week about leasing or buying the former BB&T bank location on South Main Street in Graham.

At the low, low price of $2.05 MILLION. (Plus another cool million to renovate it into usuable space.)

Or how about another Graham location, an office building in an industrial park, for slightly less than half the bank building’s price – of either lease or purchase – but a twice its tax value.

It’s a hodge-podge of options with little to no rationale, no long-term planning.

Indeed, it doesn’t look like any thought was given to the possibilities until the school system came away with a larger pot of money from commissioners than perhaps they thought they might get.

There’s no consistency in even knowing what they think they want – for which departments, for how many people, for how long a period, or anything else.

It’s no wonder that the county commissioners keep hounding the school system to provide some evidence of a maintenance plan – and Sellars-Gunn probably provides a vivid example of why school officials want to avoid any oversight of their failure to plan and implement a maintenance program.

It seems to us that school officials ought to start considering cheaper options, starting with the repair of the building they already own.

The Sellars-Gunn building has been a source of pride in the black community in east Burlington, where it once served as a segregated school, and later as an integrated one.

Significantly, it has a brand new roof (at a cost of $713,000), which is the first, fundamental prerequisite for preserving or restoring the facility.

Why would school officials consider abandoning an existing building that they’ve just poured $713,000 into improving?

It makes no more sense than half the other decisions school officials make.
This one’s just likely to cost taxpayers more than most.


Read the news coverage of the school board discussion on these issues: https://alamancenews.com/school-system-looking-to-rent-or-buy-new-properties-for-special-programs-possibly-no-2/

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