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School Board members deny knowledge of draft report

January 09, 2001

School Board members deny knowledge of draft report



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


Washington County Board of Education members said they had no idea that a draft report on possible school consolidation projects existed and that the information released in the report was not approved by the committee formed to discuss consolidation.

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The Washington County Commissioners, on the other hand, said the projects have been discussed at public meetings.

"We all thought consolidating some of these schools was a good idea," said Commissioner Bert Iseminger.

Iseminger made the comments as Dennis McGee, the School Board's director of facilities management, presented the school system's 2003-2007 Capital Improvement Plan to the commissioners.

"I thought that was the direction we were going to go in," Iseminger said.

At a budget work session just before the joint meeting, School Board members questioned how they should deal with concerned parents.

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"We've been answering questions and getting calls left and right," Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett said. "I've been asked to speak at two PTA meetings about what's going on, and I honestly don't know what's going on."

Board member Roxanne Ober said the board had not taken an official stand on any school consolidation project.

Board member Mary Wilfong, who is also a member of the consolidation committee, said none of the information in the draft report was approved by the committee.

"We've never seen any document at all," said Board President J. Herbert Hardin, who is also a member of the consolidation committee.

In addition to Wilfong and Hardin, board administrators McGee and William McKinley and County Commissioners William Wivell and John Schnebly are on the committee.

Schnebly said the committee has met at least four times to discuss consolidation. He said most of the committee members, with the exception of Wilfong, agreed that a possible consolidation of schools could be a sound financial and educational decision.

"This is not something that was cloak and dagger," Schnebly said Tuesday night. "We need to put that right out on the table in full glare in a public presentation."

The draft report states the county could save about $2 million a year if it consolidated about nine or 10 schools. The combined schools would hold about 500 students. Schnebly said a few schools in the county have similar enrollments and that the quality of education has not suffered.

"We don't want to ruin any child's educational opportunity, but we would want to be reasonable on how we spend our money," Schnebly said.

Taxpayers pay about $70 million toward education a year, he said.

"It's a big bill."

He also said he knows that talk of closing schools could upset a lot of people.

"It is an emotional issue," Schnebly said. "It's stomach-churning. People go wild, they start to cry. That is to be expected.

"But the 12 elected officials need to have the courage to go to the public sessions and hash through all the economic and educational issues involved."

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