It would be an overstatement to say that the Tuesday, April 25 joint committee meeting between Guilford County commissioners and the school board members was contentious.
But it would not be an overstatement to say that multiple county commissioners made it crystal clear at the meeting that they want school board members and school staff to start communicating better with the public about the way the school system is spending its $2 billion on school construction, repair and renovation.
The commissioners always have a lot of people coming to county commissioner meetings complaining about county government issues – so they were a little put out at the board’s Thursday, April 20 meeting when speakers came to complain not about county government issues but about school issues instead.
At the commissioners meeting, several speakers, as well as some commissioners, expressed concern over how the school board was communicating with the public on school projects.
So, when the commissioners got in the room with school officials on April 25 they had some things to convey to school officials at the meeting. There were several concerns people had about school board transparency, and many of those concerns centered on a planned new K-8 school near Colfax.
A couple of days before the Board of Commissioners met on April 20, school officials had held a meeting with residents in the area of the proposed new K-8 school.
At the April 25 joint committee meeting, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston described the speakers who came to the commissioners April 20 meeting.
Alston said, “A lot of them, when they came to our meeting two days after the school meeting, were very, very upset, about the meeting not being properly noticed, and they talked about safety concerns and traffic concerns.”
School officials agreed that the community meeting structure – an open house format – may have not been the best and they acknowledged that many people didn’t feel like they got the answers they wanted.
Alston said, “I think that therein lies the problem,” adding that he said that it they had a well-structured meeting that explained safety and traffic concerns in a clear manner then there wouldn’t have been the same kind of backlash. Alston said that the school officials, at the start of the joint committee meeting, had given the commissioners clear and straightforward answers and now the commissioners felt better about the project.
Commissioner Carly Cooke said to school officials, “So I wonder if you could explain to us, and to anyone that’s listening, so that we can continue to share this information, what is going to be the process? Because there’s a lot of these coming down the pipe. And how do we learn from this and go above and beyond in transparencies?”
Other commissioners expressed similar concerns.
School officials stated that this was a learning process and they were already planning changes for future school community information events regarding school projects.