Moving forward – together

Published 8:23 am Wednesday, June 5, 2013

GATESVILLE – United we stand; divided we fall is a phrase that has been around since the Revolutionary War.

In the case of the two elected boards within Gates County, that phrase holds true today.

In a show of unity, the Gates County Board of Commissioners has agreed to a memorandum of understanding to explore and evaluate sharing services with the county’s Board of Education.

“Such sharing will utilize efficiency improvements and not impact student instruction,” said Gates County Manager Jon Mendenhall. “During this current (FY 2013-14) budget process, the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Barry Williams, and myself have been working together very closely. We believe there are opportunities to share resources, to collaborate in a more meaningful manner for the betterment of school-age child instruction as well as for the public at large.”

Mendenhall said the memorandum of understanding presented to the commissioners the possibility of exploring what the sharing of services will encompass.

“It will not be structurally based; it will be to support activities such as IT (Information Technology), as well as maintenance,” Mendenhall said. “We do share equipment now on an informal basis. This new agreement kicks it up a notch. It will be a more formal agreement to share services across the two public bodies to realize the efficiency gains and cost savings for everyone.”

Commission chairman Henry Jordan said to his understanding, any type of sharing arrangement would be approved by the county manager in each case.

“There could be a lot of different situations that wouldn’t have to come back to this board,” Jordan noted. “As an example, the maintenance departments of both would not be working together without the county manager being aware of that and giving his approval.”

“That is correct,” Mendenhall stated. “I would envision, and I can’t speak for the school board, that for my purposes in working with the county’s board of commissioners I would really want ya’ll to be involved in this process and to approve any sort of memorandum of agreement that would come out of this memorandum of understanding. This board needs to be very familiar with what is taking place with the other elected body, the school board, so that you know what funds are being expended and how they are expended. This needs to be a transparent process. We also need to fulfill our fiduciary responsibility in the expenditure of funds countywide.”

Mendenhall informed the board that the term of this memorandum of understanding is for one year.

“That represents a study period,” he stated. “There were a lot of things discussed during the budget process. After the budget process and after the schools get through their end of grade and end of year testing and school is released, it will give Dr. Williams and his staff more time to meet with me and my staff to work on the actual memorandums of agreement forthcoming in the summer and fall months.”

Without objection the commissioners agreed to accept the memorandum of understanding.

Dr. Williams thanked the commissioners for their willingness to take education in the county to the next level.

“Together we’re taking steps forward,” he stressed. “With new educational reform, the way we teach, the expectations we hold for students and the way we measure success is centered on the strong partnership both boards exhibit. We appreciate the willingness of the commissioners to support the schools and the safety of our students.”

Williams said his relationship with Mendenhall was built on “trust, honesty and respect.”

“We will work together and share services to make sure funding will continue to be available for our future. We will continue to represent our boards and the county of Gates with integrity.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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