Controversial house sparks debate

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 19, 2007

WINDSOR – It seems there is a clear division among the members of the Bertie Board of Education regarding the infamous house on White Oak Road.

The dwelling in question has been controversial from the start, as it was constructed during the term of former school superintendent John F. Smith Sr., who in 2003-2004 allegedly used unapproved funds to build the house.

Students from Bertie High School assisted in the construction. Its initial purpose was supposed to be as a residence for teachers in the school system.

The board held a special-called meeting yesterday (October 19) regarding an offer they received to purchase the property.

Even though the board first voted to get rid of the property in June of 2006, this is the first time they’ve received an offer on the house.

Apparently, an unknown woman from out-of-state is interested in acquiring the property. Her offer to the board was $120,000, despite the house’s listing price of $169,000.

Board members Melinda Eure and Rickey Freeman were outspoken in their belief that the house should be sold.

Fellow members Gloria Lee and Emma Johnson were on the opposite end of the debate in their stance that the house should be kept to use for school purposes.

Alton Parker, the fifth board member, was not present at the meeting.

&uot;I say, we got an offer, it’s reasonable and you always ask way more than you think you’re going to get anyway, so why not,&uot; Eure stated.

Johnson protested that there was a $49,000 difference between the value of the house and the offer the board received.

At this Eure shot back, &uot;Well what are we going to do, let it sit there?&uot;

Johnson explained her stance, &uot;I believe it’s worth our time to keep it and recruit teachers if we market it right, but it hasn’t yet been marketed right.&uot;

Lee agreed, &uot;If we get back to the original purpose of what the house was built for… I’m sure it (the house) would stay full.&uot;

Freeman interjected that he had spoken with several teachers and they all said they wouldn’t want to live in the house because of how it was structured.

&uot;From what I understood in talking to people, that isn’t the style of living they want to see, what with the common entrance and living area… that wouldn’t be ideal for their wives or children,&uot; he explained.

Lee and Johnson pointed out that the house wasn’t built to attract married couples, but rather for single teachers.

Eure and Freeman were not to be swayed.

&uot;I still have a bad taste in my mouth; I think we need to just sell it,&uot; Eure said.

Lee insisted, &uot;Regardless of that, we need to be looking at what’s best for the children and that $49,000 price difference is too great.&uot;

Eure and Freeman discussed the possibility of making a counter-offer, but no agreement could be reached between the two opposing pairs.

&uot;Melinda (Eure) is adamant about she wants to sell it and I’m on the opposite end. I don’t want to sell it, I want to look into all avenues,&uot; Lee stated.

Lee made a motion to reject the offer and Johnson agreed, but Freeman and Eure opposed so the vote stood stagnant at 2-2.

The board agreed to table the matter until all five board members could be present.

Board attorney Carolyn Waller came before the group in August to inform the board that they could decide to take the house off the market and use it for school purposes.

&uot;If it’s a tool you all felt would be helpful, it’s certainly something the HR (Human Resources) department could look at such as housing teachers,&uot; she stated then.

Waller referenced the Hertford County Board of Education’s construction of a unit to house 25 teachers as an incentive to lure them into the school system.