Rumors surface on Creecy closing

Published 10:10 am Thursday, April 9, 2009

RICH SQUARE—What was described as a rumor about Rich Square WS Creecy Elementary School closing nearly stole the show at the Northampton County Board of Commissioners’ Public Forum.

On Tuesday evening, the commissioners listened as Jean Lucas of Rich Square posed the question about the possibility of the school closing.

“I’ve been away a lot recently, but upon returning I heard a rumor about the closing of this school (Creecy Elementary),” she said. “Is there anyway possible to keep this school here? I believe all the children and the citizens would like to keep it here because this is about all Rich Square has in terms of productivity for youth.”

“I will say that is a Board of Education issue and our sole purpose here is just to fund education,” Commission Chair Robert Carter responded. “They are elected officials, just as we are, and I think that we should allow them their space.”

County Manager Wayne Jenkins said he was flagged down by a citizen as he was driving to the forum and asked about the issue.

Lucas said she understood it wasn’t the commissioners’ decision to make, but that they do fund the schools.

Commissioner Virginia Spruill asked Jenkins to clarify the relationship between the entities.

Jenkins explained the Board of Commissioners is the sole governing body for Northampton County government.

“Taxes, water, Sheriff’s Department, Health, DSS (Department of Social Services) in relation to taxes—this Board of Commissioners makes those appropriations and decisions,” he said. “The state of North Carolina separates the political component from the educational component and placed the decision making with the board of education system, again with the elected officials.”

Jenkins continued by saying the board of education is the governing board for the public school system and 28 cents of each tax dollar collected by the county is appropriated to education.

He further explained that because the board of education does not have taxing authority, the schools’ revenue come from the federal, state and county governments.

“They’re two separate political bodies, two totally separate beings,” he said.

“I think what she (Lucas) is saying the money coming from the board of commissioners overrides anything the board of education might do, because what you’re looking at is that we are the top dog so to speak?,” asked Spruill.

“I don’t want to complicate this matter at all,” said Lucas. “I understand that you are two separate entities.”

Lucas continued by saying she also understood that the commissioners are citizens and with knowledge of something that is interesting to her they would become a proponent for it. She also suggested a dialogue between the two entities may help the school system.

“If anyone thinks this board of county commissioners can stop a school from being closed…that’s going to be a hard task for this board,” Jenkins responded.

He said the commissioners do have a goal to improve education in the county and if the citizens are eager to present to the county commissioners and their town council the importance of the school and the educational efforts being provided to children the commissioners would listen.

“But to say that this board of county commissioners could stop such action from happening, (it’s) very unlikely,” said Jenkins. “Not only here, but in Conway, Willis Hare because, as you said, seemingly when our local towns have lost our local schools; we’ve lost our identity. Schools went first, businesses went second, (and) before you know it you’ve got a Main Street that’s almost dried up.”

When contacted by the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald about Rich Square WS Creecy closing its doors, Northampton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy said no decision has been made regarding any of the county’s 10 public schools.

Bracy said a Facility Task Force and the Board of Education are currently studying the schools’ facilities, but no decision has been made.

The Facility Task Force is made up of community members and officials.

Bracy said the facilities are being studied in response to declining enrollment and funding.

In other public forum news, the county officials addressed economic development.

Anthony Clark of Rich Square asked the commissioners about economic development and what is being done to attract jobs/ industry at the eastern end of the county.

Jenkins said the goal of the county’s economic development commission is to grow the county’s tax base as well as improve the quality of life for citizens.

“As far as manufacturing goes the time could not be worse,” said Jenkins in reference to the economic down turn.

Jenkins noted vital infrastructure (natural gas, public water, broadband access) needs to be in place in order to attract economic development.

Jenkins also spoke about a recent measure that would help expand Severn Peanut Company and provide 42 new jobs and grow the county’s tax base by $20 million.

Michelle Jordan of Rich Square asked the commissioners to consider changing one of their meeting times (each first and third Monday of the month at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.) to an evening time slot in order to better accommodate the county’s workforce.

“It may increase your participation rate,” she said.

Carter said the board would take it into consideration.

Rosa Hanes of the George community ask how she could get onto the public water system without having to pay for sewer too.

Jenkins asked Hanes to meet with him on the issue.