It hasn’t always been this way.
Not by a long shot.
In fact, through much of this century, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and the Guilford County Board of Education have been fighting like cats and dogs. That’s been changing in recent years, and county residents can look for that to change more now that the Board of Commissioners has so much school system blood pulsing through its veins.
The Board of Commissioners just added another former school board member to its ranks – new Guilford County District 3 Commissioner Pat Tillman.
Over much of the last two decades, there’s been a constant battle between the two boards – with the school board complaining publicly that the Board of Commissioners doesn’t come anywhere close to giving the school system the funding it needs, and with the county commissioners complaining that school officials don’t appreciate the fact that there are limited county funds and the county has to pay for everything from the Sheriff’s Department to the animal shelter to county-run parks.
The relationship between the county and the schools is so good now that some people forget that, about two decades ago, the Guilford County Board of Education went so far as to file a lawsuit against the Board of Commissioners – and at that time there were protests in the streets over how little the Board of Commissioners was funding Guilford County Schools.
However, the county does in fact have other needs, and, in recent years, it has been spending nearly half of the county’s budget on the school system and school debt.
The Board of Commissioners has been infiltrated in a major way by school advocates. In 2014, District 1 Commissioner Carlvena Foster, a former school board member, took her seat on the board, where she’s been pushing school initiatives ever since.
Guilford County Commissioner Mary Beth Murphy has never served on the school board – but she’s currently a teacher with Guilford County Schools. That unusual arrangement makes it very strange in commissioner work sessions when Murphy has to grill the superintendent of the schools – her boss – over how the school system is spending money.
Perhaps the most important thing in the new world order is that Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston is once again in the driver’s seat and Alston is so madly in love with the schools that he and the school system should just get a room at a local out-of-the-way but nice hotel.
Alston was the major force in seeing that the schools got a $1.7 billion school bond referendum passed – which he proudly touts as the largest education referendum in the history of North Carolina. Alston has already said that the school system needs more than that, and county residents should expect another school bond referendum in the not-too-distant future.
Now, the Board of Commissioners has added another commissioner from the world of Guilford County Schools: Tillman, who just took over the District 3 Commissioners seat previously held by Justin Conrad.
Tillman said this week that his school board experience should help him as a commissioner.
“Having that institutional knowledge will be a benefit,” said Tillman who had been in the middle of his second four-year term as a school board member.
“I believe in strong public education,” he added, “but you’ve got to do it the right way.”