Board wants new policy

Published 9:18 am Tuesday, April 13, 2010

WINDSOR – A nearly decade-old problem reared its head again here last week.

During the rescheduled regular meeting of the Bertie County Board of Education, discussion turned to the infamous house on White Oak Road that is owned by the school district.

The house, built with unapproved funds in 2003, has been a sore spot with the Bertie School Board since it came to light that it was built. The board has attempted to sell the property, even accepting an offer in 1997, but has never been able to rid themselves of the property.

Because the property is sitting there, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Chip Zullinger allowed Windsor Elementary School Principal Renee Duckenfield to use the home four days per week. It is also used by staff from Project H when they visit to do volunteer work in the school district.

Board member Pamela Chamblee questioned the use of the house during the school board meeting Tuesday. She said there had been questions about who uses the house and why.

Dr. Zullinger said he allowed the house to be used to keep one of the best and brightest elementary school principals in the county because it had not sold and was just sitting vacant.

Chamblee objected to the use, saying she didn’t understand why one staff member and volunteers from Project H were allowed to use the house. If it were to be used, she said, it should be open to any staff member.

Board member Rickey Freeman said he thought the current use was appropriate.

“It has just been sitting there all this time and we have not been able to sell it,” Freeman said. “I haven’t heard anyone question the use of the house and we shouldn’t be nit-picking everything.”

Chamblee said it wasn’t nit-picking when the money used was tax-payer money.

“If it were up to me and my money, I would be sympathetic, but this isn’t my money or yours,” she said.

Board member Gloria Lee said the use of the house made sense to her once it was explained, but questioned how the house was used.

“You’re saying anyone could stay there in the district,” she said. “I had a lot of company come in for Easter and I’m a board member, so I guess I could have just gone and used the house.”

School Board Attorney Rod Malone said the use of the house was appropriate, if it suited the members of the board. He added that he did believe there should be some form of documentation.

“There should be a form, which we can develop, which says that a staff member will use the house and make sure it is clean or whatever you would want when they leave,” he said.

Dr. Zullinger said the residence had allowed the district to keep a good elementary school principal and to house people who had done a lot of work for the district free of charge. He said the use of the house hadn’t cost the district any real money and that it had allowed someone to keep an eye on the property.

By consensus, the board agreed to ask Malone to develop a procedure for the use of the house and bring it back for their approval.