Hertford County should choose itself

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 4, 2006

&uot;Everything happens for a reason&uot;.

Now that the Hertford County School Board has selected Dr. Mary Jo Allen to fill the Superintendent’s job on an interim basis, the future of the county’s school system is as clear as it was two weeks ago.

For those of you that didn’t realize it, I was being sarcastic.

One of the first issues that Dr. Allen will get bombarded with is the future of the teacher apartment project, which has been touted as the answer to the county’s shortage of qualified teachers.

Dr. Allen will be forced to articulate the future of a project that up until last week had about as much relevance to her personal life as the price of beans in China, or the Hertford County school system.

So now that the bickering, backstabbing and actions unbecoming of public leaders are behind us, let me offer a suggestion to Dr. Allen and whomever else may find themselves trying to fix the mess that the Hertford County school system has become.

Kill the building project idea.

You can begin your &uot;hate mail&uot; now.

So of course some &uot;journalist come lately&uot; individual like myself is going to notice all of the events that are conspiring to derail the building project initiative, without having the luxury of having watched the idea blossom into the darling of many county citizens including many of my coworkers here at the News Herald.


I’m glad that I didn’t see the project from its inception because now my viewpoint is not prejudiced by any personal allegiances or grudges.

I just don’t think that it is a good idea.

More aptly put, I think the county has already been implementing better ideas for several years now.

It is my understanding that over $2 million dollars has been pledged toward the construction of the facility that would be used to recruit and house teaching professionals from out of the area.

The lion’s share of that funding would come from the State Employees Credit Union, an organization that traditionally has an exemplary track record in supporting community initiatives.

Nucor, Berry/Kerr Plastics, GEO and Metal Tech are all local businesses that have offered financial aid towards the project.

Two politicians, the Town of Ahoskie and the Hertford County Commissioners have all contributed or pledged something tangible toward the effort and it looks like the school board, which has come under fire lately for its handling of the previous superintendent, may have unwittingly saved the day.

I am not alone in my opinion that such a facility would do nothing more than serve as an upgraded version of a college dorm for transient teaching professionals. Apparently I’m just the only person unafraid to say it in public.

When I see elected officials, financial institutions, private business and school boards in bed together with issues like construction costs, and supplemental housing costs at stake, nothing but horror stories come to mind.

Everyone says the same thing, &uot;It’s all about the children.&uot; Really now?

One of the biggest selling points of the building proposal is that the revenue generated from the rental units would be used for scholarships. Huh?

So let me get this straight; we are going to take over $2 million dollars, and instead of just putting it into a scholarship fund that the local credit union and county leadership could manage and maintain as an incentive for local high school and community college graduates to enter the teaching profession, we are going to build an apartment complex for strangers to come live in, hoping they will decide to stay in the area?

I do not see the selling point to a prospective teacher, especially if you are still paying them rural wages.

There are already several apartment complexes in the region and certainly developers will build even more as the population growth expands.

Like some Howard graduate is going to be sitting at home saying to his or herself, &uot;You know, I was going to move to Arizona and get a teaching job, but they just built that new housing complex in Ahoskie, North Carolina.&uot;

Yeah, that’ll happen.

Roanoke Chowan Community College has just been given the green light to qualify teachers looking to utilize the lateral entry program.

No new complex needed for that.

I just visited Bearfield Elementary School the other day and listened to Ronald Gatling explain how every summer he has college students beating down his door trying to become instructors at the Hertford County Summer Enrichment.

Students like Ahoskie’s Ronica Watford of North Carolina Central University who is majoring in what else but elementary education. Aside from being an Ahoskie native, Watford was also a student in Gatling’s summer program several years ago.

No new complex needed for that.

Earlier this week I also met Christshawn Gilliam the new Director of Student Activities at RCCC. Gilliam was a football standout at Bertie High School and then East Carolina University. He has now been hired to teach and mentor the local students who may want to become the next Christshawn Gilliam.

No new complex needed for that.

The people who have openly lobbied for this building project are obviously more qualified than I am to make such decisions.

When it comes to finance, building codes, fundraising and the ability to teach students, I do not have the qualifications to challenge such esteemed professionals.

Me, I just think that if local officials spent less time fighting amongst each other and spent more time and money trying to develop the abundance of local talent that resides here in the region they could get more bang for their buck.

So when the new school year begins this fall, out of the four counties within our coverage area and only two of them will have a superintendent that has been on the job longer than one year.

So if it’s really all about the children, then build the children a new complex.