Moving in the right direction

Published 2:23 pm Saturday, March 20, 2010

I’ve been covering school boards and county commissioners for more years than I often care to remember.

My first news assignments were covering the Halifax County Commissioners, Halifax County Board of Education and Scotland Neck Town Council. Since then I have covered boards in Bertie, Hertford, Northampton, Washington and Martin counties.

Of all that time, however, until Thursday I had never covered a joint meeting of two boards. That changed when the Bertie County Commissioners and Bertie County Board of Education came together for a summit that focused mainly on the construction of a new high school.

While both boards have people who are working to do their best to achieve the goals for which they were elected, these two boards have often found themselves not exactly agreeing on certain subjects.

One of those subjects is the construction of a new high school.

While both have said it was a priority, the school board wanted the facility built 10 years ago and the commissioners have always said the timing and finance structure were not right.

Thursday all of that seemed to come to an end. Certainly a new high school opening in August of 2012 is far from a done deal. There is much still to be decided and much that still has to be worked through.

The first issue is solely the decision of the board of education and that is deciding which high school students will be housed in a new facility. Currently high school students attend Bertie High School, Bertie Preparatory High School, Bertie Early College High School and the Bertie STEM School.

Those four schools are housed at two locations – one on each end of School Road near Windsor.

Smart money says the board will want to move all of their high school students under one roof. This, however, may not be the best use of the money that will be awarded by the commissioners.

There is $4 million in Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) that can be used for renovation purposes only. It’s possible that the money could be spent to make one of those sites better for one of the four schools.

That should be taken into account as the board is making the decision.

The school board and commissioners do agree that whatever is decided about who is housed in the new school, there needs to be sufficient room for that number of students.

Commission chairman Norman Cherry has said repeatedly that he wants to make sure that when the new school is built there will never be mobile units brought to the campus because it isn’t large enough. I think most citizens would totally agree with him.

What happens next is anyone’s guess, but one thing for sure is that the two boards are working diligently to make the new high school a reality. That is the first step of many in making it happen. I for one am glad to see the county moving in the right direction on this issue.

Thadd White is Staff Writer and Sports Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached via email at or by telephone at 332-7211.