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Bertie Boards turn new leaf

WINDSOR n A new chapter in Bertie's storybook has begun.

In a joint meeting held here yesterday (Monday) afternoon, Bertie County's Board of Commissioners and Board of Education promised to set aside their past differences and move forward for the betterment of the citizens and the students of the county's public school system.

Following the formality of introducing new Bertie Schools Superintendent Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart to the Commissioners, the meeting turned to nurturing a better working relationship between the two elected boards.

That relationship had become strained over recent months with allegations running rampant throughout the county over alleged financial improprieties by school administrators. That issue was addressed by the Commissioners when they ordered a $50,000 audit of the school system. Later, the Commissioners sliced roughly $300,000 off the school system's current year budget.

On Monday, leaders of both boards n County Commission Chairman Rick Harrell and Board of Education Chairman Rev. Gary Cordon n cited a need for open dialogue between the two entities.

"You need information from us to make wise decisions with taxpayer money," Cordon said. "That open information lends to our credibility. When these boards become more familiar with what each other is doing, then the citizens will know exactly what is going on."

Cordon went on to say that neither he nor the Board of Education question the capabilities of the new superintendent and, under her leadership, his board would be very interested in meeting with the Commissioners on a regular basis to present specific ideas on bettering the county's education system.

"There are some hurdles we both need to overcome," Harrell noted. "There is an issue of trust. It's imperative that we trust your decisions. Let's talk about these hurdles and develop a trust between the boards, the citizens and the students. We'll all be better off down the road."

"We have nothing to hide," Cordon responded. "We are open to building that trust."

Each of the Commissioners welcomed Dr. Collins-Hart and promised to work hand-in-hand with the county's educational system. Their remarks were highlighted by veteran Commissioner Jasper Bazemore who remarked, "A good relationship begins with a good understanding. If things are wrong, we need to make them right. I can tell you that my heart, my ears and my eyes are open to your ideas."

In response, Seaton Fairless, the Bertie Board of Education's senior member, said, "We were walking different paths, but that path now narrows as we begin to walk the same path. I see us going places together."

Fairless went on to suggest a monthly meeting between the two boards, an option that appeared to gain favor as members of both parties seemed eager to put aside their past differences and move in the same direction.