Falcons flying highPublished 9:49am Tuesday, May 20, 2014
WINDSOR – The superlatives kept mounting.
Terms were used like: ‘awesome’, ‘spectacular’, and ‘tremendous’.
This was just a part of how many of the hundreds who turned out for the ribbon-cutting-dedication of the new Bertie High School described what they saw during the ceremony here on Sunday.
The $19.7 million, 140,000 square foot project was some 10 years in the making and largely funded through a government bond program.
It was promised to be delivered in the spring of 2014 and it came in right on time.
An actual peregrine falcon was released for a fly-over by Falconer Chip Gentry of Lillington as dignitaries flanked the front doors to the main office area, and where a bright red silk ribbon stretched the length of those doors.
The actual cutting of the ribbon was done by Bertie County Commissioners chairman J. Wallace Perry and county Board of Education chairperson Emma Johnson.
Following a musical salute by the Bertie High School Falcon Regiment Marching Band under the direction of Band Director Torrey Hines, those in attendance were escorted into the school’s new auditorium for the dedication ceremony.
The auditorium dedication was overseen by Principals Daphne Williams of Bertie STEM High School and Ricky Eley of Bertie High School.
Following the invocation by retired teacher Rev. Shelton Barnes, pastor of Cedar Landing Baptist Church of Windsor, the recognition of special guests, and a stirring gospel rendition by members of the Bertie County Schools Adult Choir, remarks were then given by the dignitaries.
First District U.S. Congressman G.K. Butterfield spoke of how Bertie officials pressed his office to find the funding to make the school a reality.
“They said you’ve got to find us some money so we can get this school built,” Butterfield said. “And I told them I didn’t know where it was going to come from.”
But Butterfield’s efforts and those of the North Carolina Senate delegation used The Qualified School Construction Bond Program, tax credit program created in 2009 by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
The Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCB) provides tax credits, in lieu of interest, to lenders who issue bonds to eligible school districts. Because the federal government provides for the “interest” payment, the district is only responsible for repayment of the bond principal. The federal government covers all of the interest in the form of tax credits on these bonds, resulting in savings for these renovation and improvement projects. The bond proceeds may be used to finance new construction, rehabilitation, repair of school facilities, and the acquisition of land.
After Butterfield, other speakers before the hundreds assembled included Joyce Mitchell, Community Outreach Director, representing U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, and Fifth District N.C. House Representative Annie Mobley.
County Commissioner Perry, a member of the Board that pushed for the new school, spoke about what was more important than any edifice that could have been built.
“A good education is the most important advantage we can provide for our children,” Perry intoned. “We want our teachers to be inspired and our children to thrive as they prepare for life’s challenges after graduation. This new school campus creates part of (the environment) necessary to encourage learning. However, the most important part of the learning environment is the family home.”
Perry continued saying that from the home atmosphere come the building blocks necessary for good studiousness.
“We all have a responsibility to insure that our children are disciplined, respectful, and ready to learn once they enter this building,” he said. “We’re expecting many successes from our students.”
School board chair Emma Johnson’s remarks centered on how the state-of-the-art facility will be a worthy investment for all the county’s residents, whether they have school children or not.
“You (the county’s taxpayers) have invested in the very foundation of our civilization and our democracy,” Johnson said. “We are going to produce students that are college and career ready and prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century. We are honored for your support.”
A video presentation by filmmaker and Instructional Services director Joan McCullough followed which traced the 50-plus year history of Bertie High School.
Betty Jo Shepard, representing U.S. Senator Richard Burr, read brief remarks from the Senator and later presented to Bertie High JROTC Cadet Commander Janoah Wilson an American flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC.
“Our teachers and staff give so much every day in educating our children and they should have the very best facilities and equipment to utilize,” said Shepard, reading from a letter by Senator Burr.
Architect Jimmy Hite of Hite Associates of Greenville thanked not only the officials, but also the support staff of WIMCO Construction of Washington, NC; the inspectors; Bertie Schools Maintenance director Matthew Bond; Custodial director Mary Parker; and even the furniture company.
“As you go through you’ll see we’ve got not only a state-of-the-art building, but state-of-the-art furniture as well,” said Hite.
Hite said the building was built for 900 students and has the ability to be added on in the future. The cost per square foot of the building ($134) was below the state average at the time bids were taken.
Hite also mentioned how county officials fought for the school’s last minute additions, which included the back wing that was added on as well as keeping the huge auditorium in the plans.
“The commissioners realized that this was a special moment in history and they did not shrink from that challenge,” Hite contended.
Hite’s final act, assisted by builder Donald Bundy, was the unveiling of the school’s silver dedication plaque. The architect said the most important message on the plaque was what was not written on it.
“The important thing the sign says is not written in these words,” Hite said. “What it says is anybody who goes past this school will see that education is important in BertieCounty.”
After a closing song and remarks, the public was invited to tour the facility.
The school will open for students – and welcome its first freshman class, the graduating ‘Class of 2018’ – in August of this year.