Over the last two weeks – ever since an in-school group attack on a 14-year-old Southern Guilford High School student – there’s been a very lively debate between Guilford County commissioners and Guilford County School officials.
Each claim the other has been responsible for delays in the school’s spending of $10 million that the Board of Commissioners approved for school security back in March of 2018.
Much of that money still hasn’t been spent more than three years later.
At a Thursday, June 3 meeting between the Board of Commissioners and top school officials, Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras said several times that former Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing refused to free up much of the money the schools were trying to obtain. That claim seemed to be a big surprise to the commissioners in the room and Lawing wasn’t there to respond because he resigned a few days before Christmas.
At other times over the pasts two years, school officials have said that the Board of Commissioners has been the culprit causing school security spending to drag on.
Commissioner Justin Conrad, after the 2018 mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, made the motion to give the schools $10 million for security. It was clear when Conrad made his motion, over three years ago, that he and the other commissioners were making the move in order to provide money to the school system quickly to improve security.
Conrad said this week that he’s been very disappointed with recent public remarks from Contreras that continue to push the idea that county staff or the Board of Commissioners has played a role in those funds not yet being spent.
Conrad recently requested a timeline from county staff that laid out all actions taken by the Board of Commissioners to move the money as well as all the communications between the county and the schools on the $10 million. Conrad said that timeline shows clearly that the county has not been impeding the schools in regard to spending the money.
Conrad said one particularly egregious accusation is that the former Republican-led Board of Commissioners – in power until late 2020 – stonewalled spending and did so because of partisan politics.
Recently, WFMY News 2’s Jess Winters asked Contreras how long it usually takes for the schools to receive local funds.
“Not this long,” Contreras replied. “It’s been difficult, but we are optimistic about the new board of county commissioners. Sometimes things are lost in translation and I really, sincerely believe that commissioners thought that money was being allocated when it was not.”
The “old” board was one made up of a Republican majority that included Conrad. Even though the Republican-led boards increased school funding every year and agreed to put a $300 million school bond on the ballot during a pandemic, many school advocates argue that the Republican-led board never did enough. When Contreras said on News 2 that she was optimistic about the new board, Conrad said he didn’t appreciate the implication that the Republican boards of the past haven’t worked with the schools on school security.
“It has never been partisan,” Conrad said. “It just hasn’t.”
He said every commissioner on the board of both parties makes school safety a priority and has shown that in regard to this $10 million. According to Conrad, the Republicans on the Board of Commissioners along with the Democrats had worked very well together on getting this money to the schools and encouraging school officials to use it.
“Every vote we ever took on this was unanimous – every vote,” Conrad said. “This isn’t a partisan issue and it’s disappointing that someone would try and inject partisanship when there isn’t any.”
Conrad added, “I made the statement that, if you’re an individual in the public eye – whether an elected official or not – you need to be working on partnerships, not partisanship.”
He said that when school officials come out and incorrectly say that county commissioners and county officials have been the hold up, that’s not working on being a good partner.
“It’s frustrating because it’s just not accurate,” Conrad said.
After Contreras made the claim at a budget work session in early June that Lawing had been holding the spending up – and after hearing other allegations that Guilford County staff and commissioners had been the problem – Conrad made a request to the Guilford County Clerk to the Board’s Office to compile a comprehensive timeline of the commissioners’ actions and emails regarding the $10 million.
Conrad said that that information from the clerk verified that the county wasn’t the hold-up. Conrad also said this week that, if it were the case that Lawing had been holding up the money, one has to ask why school officials hadn’t been pressing new County Manager Mike Halford on the same matter?
Conrad said Halford began as the county manager at the start of the year and it is now well into June. He said that, from the timeline he received and from conversations he has had with county staff, the schools have not been making requests of Halford regarding the remaining portion of the $10 million that the county allocated in 2018.
In several meetings between the Board of Commissioners and the school board over the last two years, county commissioners have repeatedly asked school officials why it is taking so long for the schools to spend the money.
This back and forth between the county and the school system, and the “finger-pointing,” comes at a time when the Guilford County Board of Commissioners is in the process of determining how much money the county should give the school system in the upcoming fiscal 2021-2022 budget.
Guilford County currently spends almost half of its budget on Guilford County Schools, and Halford’s county budget proposal for 2021-2022 calls for the largest increase in school funding in decades. However, school officials and school advocates say the schools need millions more than Halford is recommending.
The situation is absolutely CLEAR that what we need is a new school superintendent and NOT more money!!!!! We need someone who knows how to handle money and a better business mind and who understands students better and who will set a better example for all involved in the educational process.
Why was she ever hired? She revived a vote of no confidence in Syracuse. The school seems to almost always made terrible hiring decisions, Grier,Weast and now her. Mo Green was the best so their average is 25%.
Because the school board is worthless. A few good apples in a pot of rot. Same as the city council. Sweep them all out.
The superintendent is only part of the problem. As a highly paid employee of the school board, her job is to implement their policies, whether good or not. If she is doing what they want, then we should change the school board. If she is not doing what they want and they don’t replace her, then we need to change the school board.
What did you expect the socialists to say? Of course they blame the Republicans and folks who aren’t there. Those folks aren’t feeding their agenda to burn every soul, stop all free thinking, and permanently ruin future generations in order to create hordes of mindless zombie taxpayers.
95% of the Syracuse faculty had zero confidence in contreras and parents were ready to chase her out of town with pitchforks, and guilford county gives her $250,000 per year($50,000 increase from Syracuse) to be twice as ineffective.
Did anyone bother to check references? Probably didn’t even have to pee in a cup.
I can’t stand to hear her talk it’s like hearing finger slide down a caulk board she still needs to how the 10 million was spent or how much is left
“However, school officials and school advocates say the schools need millions more than Halford is recommending.”
If we doubled the tax rate and gave it all to the school board, they would still want more. They cannot be satisfied.
Could not have said it better myself.
Contreras is a mistake. I think our elected reps should do their jobs and correct this mistake.We have school children who deserve(and their parents also) a chance to get a good education.Enough mess has come to light to justify and require a change.Elected people–fulfill your promises to the voters–Get rid of this bad employee!
Time for a NEW superintendent! That woman has never presented herself as someone who should be in charge of a lemonade stand, much less a school district.
That’s consistent with the school board that hired her.
It’s taking so long for the School board to spend the money because THEY HAVE MORE MONEY THAN THEY KNOW WHAT DO DO WITH.
Cut the incompetent government schools – and provide vouchers for parents to choose.
Ok, so at the end of this article it was stated that 10 million wasn’t enough, well that has nothing to do with releasing what you “do” have and everybody be accountable for it being spent on school security!
Greensboro needs an insurrection by not paying our taxes until we have better persons managing our schools and our city by persons who are qualified to do the job in a respectful and proper way The way Greensboro is being managed in out schools is a disgrace to humanity and our life as humans. Can’t we find is our hearts to do better for our children and our citizens for a city that is worth saving for All of us to life a good life and to appreciate our reason to be alive. Please, lets do better. Help us all make life better for all of us.
Agreed. But how do we manage this. There was a mechanism when we had that clod Terry Grier here. Communities got together, meet snd did something. One word against this woman and racist screaming will rain down on everyone involved. I don’t mind speaking up. But as a community we have list our will snd our way. We bow down before the sacred cows.
It’s been pretty obvious for several years that the school district doesn’t need more money but better stewards of the money it has. I will never vote to give them more money until the superintendent, board, and top administrators are replaced. The school district has been a mess since the districts were merged and there should be some thought to splitting them again.
If the commissioners are in charge of the money then when they say that something is to be done, like improving security , then they must insure that what they have ordered is done. I was always told “inspect what you expect”. The buck always stops at the top.
Problem is, the commissioners are not in charge of the school board. We the people are, but we keep electing board members who have demonstrated a high degree of incompetence, so I guess we have what we deserve.