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School Board member chastised at meeting

ELIZABETH HEFFNER
Staff Writer

Lincoln County Board of Education chairwoman Candy Burgin gave an official public statement related to a Times-News article prior to the board’s scheduled committee meetings Tuesday night.
On May 23, the Times-News published an article regarding internal tension within the Board of Education, as reported by board member Clayton Mullis. Mullis contacted the Times-News the day prior, and said that he would like to share his thoughts regarding the board’s budget request, presented by Bob Silver to the county commissioners earlier that month.
“This article indicated to internal strife within our board, and I just want to assure everyone there is no internal conflict,” Burgin said. “Do we disagree sometimes? Yes. But I can assure you, it is healthy discussion to get the best possible solution for this school system. I am proud of the board we have. Together, everyone brings different aspects and attributes to the table.”
During her presentation, Burgin referenced several quotes Mullis gave during his interview with the Times-News.
“We as a board, decided what priorities are to be presented to the county commissioners, per their request,” she said. “Not only did we give them those priority requests, but the reasons for them. We, through committee, made a motion of our requests, which unanimously passed. All the board members, including you, had the opportunity to discuss any disagreement of our decisions. There were no objections or disagreements.
“Secondly, you were quoted saying, ‘According to Lincoln County Board of Education member Clayton Mullis, there has been some disagreement among the board members as to the approach board member Bob Silver utilized in his presentation,’” Burgin continued. “The only disagreement voiced was yours! After reading the article, we were all quite surprised. How could you formulate an opinion to this presentation when you didn’t even show up for it? Your comment was purely based on the media’s report.”
Burgin also commented on Mullis’s quote that the board should have focused more on reaching out to state legislators.
“We need to invited them to our school system, walk them through our schools and show them the programs that we’ve got, investments made and say ‘this is what we need to do in public education,’ whether it be technology or keeping teachers in the classroom,” Mullis said in the article. “We need to show them firsthand, ‘this is what we want to do. This is the type of investments we need to make.’ I don’t think we’re doing that strong enough.”
According to Burgin, the issue was never brought up or discussed during committee or board meetings.
“This would have been a great initiative for you to focus in on, on behalf of the board,” she said. “Why would you report this to the newspaper and not bring this up in committee?”
Burgin also tackled Mullis’s remark that the Board of Education selected too many priorities and issues to present to Lincoln County’s Board of Commissioners.
“The commissioners requested our priority list of at least three or four items,” she said. “Do you really think having one issue is realistic? How much of an impact would that have on increasing our educational needs and student productivity? We would fall further and further behind on a variety of fronts and (would) never be able to compete academically with students from surrounding areas.”
During her statement, Burgin also took the time to address any misconceptions made regarding the Board of Education’s existing fund balance.
“In order to provide the technology, resources and materials needed at the school level, the Board of Education elected to make a request to the Board of Commissioners for these priorities, which total $808,700,” she said. “Why would the Board of Education ask for these dollars when they have an existing fund balance? As shared during previous meetings with the county commissioners, the current expense fund balance is being used to save teaching positions over a three-year period, at which time the fund balance will be depleted to $1.5 million, which is the minimal amount needed for cash flow purposes; the county also retains a fund balance for 2014 of $2.5 million and are recommending $2.2 million for 2015.
“In addition, as discussed at prior BOE committee meetings, any balance that has accrued in the capital outlay fund is designated for the construction of the Asbury Alternative School project to pay for costs that exceed the bond monies already designated and also to acquire warehouse and storage space necessary to meet operation needs for dry storage goods and potential food items,” Burgin continued. “The original plan was to use part of the old hospital for that purpose. However, after meeting with (county manager) Tracy Jackson, it was determined that the available space was not adequate for either temporary or permanent needs.”
Burgin concluded her statement by saying that both the Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners are faced with the prospects of many needs with a limited amount of dollars to allocate. The difference, however, she said, is that the monies invested in the school district are an investment in Lincoln County.
“A robust school district serves to benefit workforce development and economic growth,” she said. “Workforce development impacts every citizen of Lincoln County. A strong K-12 public education helps contribute to a local and regional workforce needed to attract and retain businesses that result in economic growth for the county.”
During the Building and Site Committee presentation, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Matthew Stover gave a brief update regarding the latest progress with the Asbury Alternative School project.
“We’ve taken the diagram the architect has given us and given it to the teachers, asking for their input on room design and what they would want in the rooms furniture- and technology-wise — all the way down to the receptacles,” he said. “They have us input as to where the door placement would be best, things of that nature.”
Stover added that his most recent meeting involved the directors and county office staff, where he showed them the collected input and gave the administrative staff an opportunity to share their thoughts as well.
According to Stover, the committee will meet with the architect this Friday to put the collaboration of designs together while operating within the budget.
Lincoln County’s Board of Education will hold its scheduled monthly meeting on June 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lincoln County Schools Administration Offices, located on North Generals Blvd.

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