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School Board solicits citizen input

WINDSOR — The Bertie County Board of Education obviously wants to hear from the public. During their abbreviated meeting Monday night, the board voted to add public comments to their agenda once they learned that some citizens wanted to address the board. “It’s not part of the agenda, but I would like for us to consider adding public comments so we can hear from those who wish to speak,” said Board Chairman Rickey Freeman. With that, board member Emma Johnson made a motion to add public comments to the agenda and the group voted unanimously to hear from those wishing to speak. The first person on the public comments agenda was former board member Seaton P. Fairless, who complimented the board’s direction, but urged them to take a strong look at a plan that had been previously developed with citizens input. “I would like to congratulate the new board,” Fairless said. “I’m excited and looking forward to what ya’ll will do for our kids in the next four years.” Fairless then urged the board to push for Unitary Status. A unitary school system is one in which the school district has eliminated the old racially segregated dual school system. “I would like for you to get together and push for it,” he said. “The time has come to get out from under the Department of Justice. It’s time to put it to a halt.” Fairless then asked the board to look at the five-year strategic plan developed in 2006. He said the plan was the result of the community coming together to map out what they believe is necessary for the school district. “Get a copy of it and look at it,” Fairless said. “I know we don’t have the money to do all of it, but we can pick out some things that we do have the money for.” Fairless said he had been reading about the progress of the district in the newspaper and congratulated them for what they are doing to improve education. “Some of the things in the plan are being done, but if you haven’t looked at it, it is a slap in the face of those who worked on it,” he concluded. Natasha Harmon then spoke and questioned the board about such issues as students being able to have SAT prep classes. She said changes were needed in the system. The final person to speak was Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb, who talked about the relationship between the school board and Bertie County Commissioners. “I just want to thank you for the great relationship between the county and the school system over the past few years,” Lamb said. “A lot of good things have happened because of us working together.” Lamb said the commissioners met Monday and enacted a three-percent cut among county departments, but wanted the school board to know they would not be asked to cut their county budget. “The commissioners have been able to fund the school system with a 10 percent increase over the past three years,” he said. “We’ve been able to do that because the board trusts you to spend it wisely. I don’t know any other county who has increased spending at such a level.” Lamb concluded by saying the board of commissioners and school district should continue to work together. “I want to thank ya’ll and let you know the county commissioners are committed to the education of the school students just as you are,” Lamb closed.