Hunt to lobby for tech school
Will address county commissioners
by Kelly Mayo Staff writer
LUMBERTON — Schools Superintendent Johnny Hunt, the former chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, will go before that body and ask for financial support to construct a technology school.
The Board of Education for the Public Schools on Tuesday night approved a motion that Hunt ask the county commissioners to judge the feasibility of building the school according to floor plans created by Charlotte-based SFL+A Architects.
There was no show of hands on the motion, but two board members, Dwayne Smith and Steve Martin, voiced opposition to the school’s estimated cost of about $44 million. Smith and Martin said the money would be better spent addressing needs at current schools.
It is unclear when Hunt will address the commissioners, but their next meeting is Monday. The board meets on the first and third Mondays of each month.
Hunt served on the county Board of Commissioners for 18 years, resigning that elected office in 2006 to become schools superintendent. He was chairman of the board for 12 years, and served with current Commissioners Noah Woods, Raymond Cummings, Tom Taylor and Hubert Sealey.
Robert Ferris and Tom Hughes, representatives of the architectural firm, shared their finalized plans for the school during Tuesday’s meeting. The first floor of the 123,000-square-foot building would house classrooms and labs, as well as a common area, teacher lounge, 800-seat auditorium and Career Development Center. The second floor would include a media center, another common area and six general-use classrooms.
Hughes said the labs, which would include equipment for construction technology, firefighting, welding, motor sports and other classes, are vital to the school’s goal of “project-based learning” and technology-based instruction.
“They build in a computer first and then they go build it outside … because that’s what they’re going to be doing when they go out in their field,” he said.
Ferris said local industries would quickly want to partner with the technology high school.
“Businesses are going to be coming to you and asking, ‘How can we be a part of this?’” he said.
Board member Gary Strickland said the board could leave an impact “for generations to come” by building the school, but Martin said the school’s estimated cost could be better spent on Robeson County’s other 42 schools.
“I don’t want to forget the needs of students at other schools, and they have a lot of needs, millions of dollars worth of needs,” Martin said.
Smith agreed with Martin, saying school maintenance needs must be addressed soon.
“We pay millions of dollars every year to hem up our schools,” Smith said. “We can only keep putting a Band-Aid on the problem but for so long.”
Smith also worried about the effect on property owners in Robeson County. The county’s tax rate of 77 cents for every $100 of property is among the highest in North Carolina.
“I cannot approve of something when property taxes are sky high as it is,” he said.
In other business, the board on Tuesday:
— Recognized Ashley Berdeau and Karen Brooks-Floyd as Robeson County’s 2013-14 Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year. Berdeau teaches at Fairmont High, and Brooks-Floyd is principal at Red Springs Middle.
“We congratulate Mrs. Berdeau and Mrs. Floyd on their accomplishments,” Assistant Superintendent Stephen Gaskins said.
— Recognized Michael Lewis, a construction technology teacher at the Career Center, as Robeson County’s Career and Technical Education Teacher of the Year.
— Approved a motion that board member Mike Smith receive a leadership award from the Board of Education.
— Approved 2013-14 fundraising plans for 19 Robeson County schools.
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