Check is in the mail

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 15, 2008

JACKSON – Northampton County Board of Education have agreed to reimburse the Northampton County Board of Commissioners.

On Wednesday night in a special called meeting, school board members voted collectively to return $10,000 to the county that was allocated for the New Schools Project STEM.

Interim Superintendent Phil Matthews presented the board with documents relating to the issue, including a letter from County Manager Wayne Jenkins relaying the commissioners’ request for reimbursement and a copy of a prepared check made out to Northampton County Finance Department in the amount of $10,000.

“The administration recommends repayment to the local government,” said Matthews.

Board Vice Chair Bill Little made a motion to repay the funds; it was seconded by Board member Roland Whitted. The motion passed without objection.

Matthews then told the board Jenkins had been in contact and had informed him that Commission Chair Robert Carter (D-4th) had recently said if the repayment would put the school system in a bind, the $10,000 could be with held from a monthly appropriation the county provides to the schools.

“Ten thousand dollars is $10,000,” said Matthews.

The board agreed to keep their motion.

“It’s really about the children, not the $10,000,” said Board Chair Catherine Moody.

In March 2007, former Superintendent Dr. Kathi Gibson approached the commissioners seeking $20,000 to support a New Schools Project facilitator’s four-month salary.

The facilitator’s position heads up the North Carolina New Schools Project, which implements the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program, subject areas that would help Northampton County students be competitive for the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research or NCCAR. The program was to be implemented in the 2007-2008 school year.

The commissioners approved to fund half of the request and there was an expectation that the state would pick up the facilitator’s salary.

Over the ensuing months the commissioners made several requests to Dr. Gibson for updates on the STEM program and how the county funds were utilized, but to no avail.

Matthews provided that report via letter and it was presented at the commissioners February 4 meeting.

In that letter, Matthews wrote the allocation had been placed in the schools fund balance and “appropriated into the 2007-2008 budget to support staff developments for the New Schools Project” after the state’s commitment to the project did not occur until Aug. 30, 2007, instead of the spring as planned.

Matthews also noted that $3,360 of the money had been expended as of Jan. 28 and the balance of the fund could be offered back to the commissioners upon request.

At their Feb. 4 meeting the commissioners voted unanimously to request the funds be returned.