Year’s Top Stories – #5

Published 10:57 am Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Big changes came for Northampton County Public Schools with the announcement of a high school merger.

As 2011 wound down, the Northampton County Board of Education made a decision on the matter, one that has been on the minds of educators and parents prevalently for the past year.

After toiling with the topic, education leaders finally made a decision in December to consolidate Northampton County High School-East and Northampton County High School-West into the Creeksville precinct and based that facility at East. The merger will be complete for the 2012-13 school year.

Last winter the talk of merging the two schools cumulated with public forums being held at each of the high schools.

As reported in the Feb. 12 edition of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, the two public forums were arranged following a report concerning future school operations presented to the Board by Assistant Superintendent Phil Matthews.

Among the highlights in the report was the fact the school district was facing steady decreasing enrollment and the cut back of nearly $2 million in state funding.

Matthews report also said with a single high school the school district would be saving more than $1.3 million in professional staff costs.

Northampton County Schools would also face an increase in transportation costs and students from the outer most parts of the county, both east and west, would be experiencing bus rides to school that would last anywhere from one hour and 50 minutes to more than two hours.

A few days later, parents and students gave the board mixed reactions at the NCHS-East forum.

A crowd of more than 50 parents, students and Northampton County Schools employees gathered at the lecture room of Northampton County High School-East to hear about the financial crunch the school system is facing operating two high schools at either ends of the county as well as voice their opinions on the matter.

The crowd was presented with Matthew’s report on school operations and after that presentation opinions were heard.

One parent was concerned about the rivalry between the schools while others favored the construction of one, centrally located high school.

One Northampton East junior voiced her concern about classroom sizes affecting students’ ability to learn as well as teachers performing their jobs. Another junior at East, voiced his support for a single high school, but urged school officials to be prepared and to take all things into study.

Former Board of Education member Charles Tyner asked school officials to make the best decision for the students in the school district.

He noted the tough financial times in the state and county, but that he wanted to know where the board would get the funds to run a comprehensive 21st Century high school.

Tyner said if Northampton County Schools were to bring out the best in their students they would have to offer a wider array of classes and programs.

Less than a month later, the notion of consolidating high schools was at a stand still.

In the March 10 edition of the News-Herald, Board members looked to not to move forward with consolidation during the 2011-12 school year, but to continue the process as it relates to the 2012-13 school year.

Then Board Chair Bill Little said it was the consensus of the Board not to move forward with the decision now, but to “continue to look at this over the next couple of months and hopefully will be able to come to a decision on that.”

Little’s colleagues voiced their agreement with holding off on a decision to consolidate the schools, noting there were a lot of considerations to take into account on the matter.

Less than a month ago, Board of Education members decided to merge the two schools.

In the Dec. 8 edition of the News-Herald it was reported the decision did not come easy.

The Board of Education in two separate motions, decided to merge the two high schools and base the single facility in the Creeksville precinct.

The decision came after board members discussed the topic at a Nov. 21 work session. Though the consensus among board members seemed clear to consolidate the two schools at the work session, the official decision did not come so swiftly with strong opposition from Board member Erica Smith-Ingram. Ingram was absent from that work session due to a work commitment.

Ingram’s concern lied with the length of bus rides for the students who resided in the western portion of the county to Northampton East.

Ingram said if the situation was East students going to West her position would be the same.

“Everyone was overwhelmingly against merging a school and bussing anybody’s kid for two hours,” she said. “So what we’re saying as a board is that we don’t care what these people have to say. We don’t care about how many children have to get up and catch a bus (at) 5:30, 5:45, 6:15 in the morning. It is appalling. It is unfair.”

She also noted the condition of the Northampton East facility..

After further discussion, Johnson said the board had considered the same points Ingram brought up. He asked Matthews if there would be any student that would be traveling two hours to school.

Matthews responded he believed it would be more like an hour and a half to an hour and 20 minutes.

Vice Chair Marjorie Edwards said it would be difficult for the district to continue to operate two high schools and that financial crunch was taking away from students’ education.

Ingram suggested dividing the motion into two, first to consolidate schools and second, the location of the consolidated high school.

The first motion to consolidate the two schools passed in a 6-1 vote while the motion to base the consolidated high school in the Creeksville precinct passed in another 6-1 vote.

Days following the Board of Education’s decision to merge the county’s two high schools, school officials sat down with the Board of Commissioners during a scheduled joint meeting.

In the Dec 15 edition, it was reported the boards discussed the matter at length.

Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy addressed the future impacts of the two high schools merging and school leaders believed with the merger the district would move forward not only financially, but academically with offering its high school students and students in lower grades more courses and electives.

Bracy added there were still decisions to come about the merger, including the board deciding on a name for the consolidated school and working with students about the mascot and colors.

After further discussion, County Manager Wayne Jenkins asked if the Board of Education was expecting the same level of funding from the county.

Bracy said yes in order to look out for the district’s facilities.

The commissioners asked how Northampton County High School-West would be utilized after the merger.


Bracy said the school would be used as a middle school.


Ingram asked if the commissioners anticipated five to seven years from now funding the construction of a centrally located high school.


Commission Chair James Hester said he could not answer that question because of the fluctuation of the economy. He later added he did not see the commissioners funding a new high school in five to seven years at this time. He noted the state was passing down costs of services to the county.


The two boards also discussed the importance of building a savings account for the construction of a new high school.