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Project shows glimmer of hope

AHOSKIE – The fate of the Early College High School project may not be dead after all.

According to a copy of a letter received by the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, sent from Roanoke-Chowan Community College President Dr. Ralph Soney to Hertford County Board of Education Chairman David Shields, the deadline for the grant proposal has been extended. The deadline for the grant proposal was originally January 23.

“I had a conversation with the people in Raleigh who are in charge of reviewing the grants and they agreed to extend the deadline,” Soney said.

The Board of Education voted not to submit the grant proposal during their January 23 meeting following changes made by the office of Dr. Soney. The changes dealt with the responsibility of renovations and upkeep of the former Small Business building on the campus of RCCC that is slated to house the new school.

“We are willing to go with the Board of Education to the county commissioners for the needs of that building,” Soney said.

“The Roanoke-Chowan Community College Board of Trustees supports this grant proposal,” Board of Trustees Chairman, Dr. Claude Odom said. “We have always been on board.”

“It has always been our contention that the project as proposed would be an impossibility without the securing of additional funds from the county for any renovation and upkeep of the facility,” Soney wrote in the letter to Shields. “This fact was agreed upon numerous occasions when the college and the school system have met.

“In my opinion, the breakdown in communication occurred over the question of who would be responsible for asking the county commissioners for monetary support. From the college’s perspective, the submission of the grant proposal and its acceptance was to occur before such a request was to be made to the county.

“When Dr. Odom and I spoke with you at your place of business (Catherine’s Restaurant) on January 20, he was explicit in stating that the college course of action approved by the trustees of the college has always been the same. He also stated that the college and the school system would go to the county jointly to ask for the necessary funds, provided the school system is willing to proceed with the grant as planned.

“When we met, I explained to you that I have some assurance that we may still be able to get the proposal in for consideration, provided we can submit it this week. In our conversation last week, you informed me that you had informally polled your fellow board members and the majority did not want to pursue the grant. It is my understanding from you that there will be another school board meeting today (Monday) or tomorrow (Tuesday night). Given the fact that the need is still apparent and that the college is still committed to the partnering with the school system on this project, we would like to see the grant submitted.”

“Our board has always been 100% behind this,” Shields said in response to Soney’s letter. “The board only changed our mind when the grant was changed.

“We have always been willing to go to the county commissioners with the community college to ask the commissioners for their support. That was never an issue.

“In our grant proposal we have always said that we support the program as long as the commissioners support it. I have doubts in my mind if they are really committed to this.

“I appreciate the Board of Trustees support for this project,” Shields continued. “If we are going to support this, the grant has to be in the original form and we have to see that in writing. I have not seen that at this point.”

Representatives from Hertford County Public Schools and RCCC had been working on the creation of the new school for over two and a half years.

If the grant proposal to create the new school is submitted and approved, the grant will average around $285,000 a year for five years, over $1.4 million total.

Hertford County Public Schools received an initial $45,000 grant from the Governor’s office, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to write the implementation grant to create the school.