They say “Better late than never” and, apparently, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners – after waiting nearly a half a year – will finally get the results of the $1 million school facilities study that they’ve been waiting on.
The county commissioners originally expected to see those results in September 2018. At the end of last year, a meeting was scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 10, but Guilford County Schools officials canceled that meeting and now a new three-hour meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 31 at 2 p.m. at the Guilford County Schools Administrative Offices at 712 N. Eugene St. in Greensboro.
In January 2018, the Guilford County Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners agreed to undertake the major joint study to discover the school systems security, facilities and redistricting needs. To that end, they hired Tallahassee-based MGT Consulting Group, with the county paying nearly $500,000 and the schools paying an equal amount.
The commissioners have a lot of major upcoming financial decisions to make regarding school repairs and security enhancements as well as potential new construction, and, to a large extent, the findings of the joint study are supposed to provide the information necessary to make those decisions.
September came and went and the commissioners didn’t get the results as they expected. Then after they only had a preliminary overview in October the commissioners became more irritated. About a month ago, a frustrated Commissioner Hank Henning said that, if the county couldn’t see the results, it should get the money back and, when the study was finished, “They can make a pillow out of it.”
Commissioner Justin Conrad also expressed his frustration that the January 10 meeting was cancelled because one or two school board members couldn’t make it. He said that, given the busy schedules of the members of the two boards, the meeting should have been held and anyone who couldn’t attend could be brought up to speed later.
Several commissioners have said in recent months that they hope school officials don’t have access to more information than the commissioners and that they aren’t trying to “tweak” or “spin” the results before the commissioners see it.
Guilford County school board members say that isn’t the case. This week, Board of Education Member Pat Tillman said that he for one certainly hadn’t had access to the study results during the waiting period.
“There is nothing amiss or untoward,” Tillman said.
Board of Education Member Byron Gladden also said there’s no reason for there not to be a high level of trust between the commissioners and the school board. He said he knows that there has at times been a rocky history between the two boards, but he noted the makeup of both boards has shifted over the years and said the school board is committed to doing its part to make efficient and cost-effective decisions.
“I know there has been some finger-pointing in the past,” Gladden said.
The commissioners are particularly sensitive to school funding because each year at budget time it is a highly emotional subject and about 45 percent of the county’s budget goes toward funding the Guilford County Schools and paying off school bond debt.