School safety needs to be a top priority

Published 5:19 pm Friday, January 31, 2020

No matter how the faces change sitting in the elected seats of the Northampton County Board of Commissioners and the county’s Board of Education, there remains a noted divide – a glaring disconnect – between those two entities.

The latest in a long line of disputes/disagreements came on Jan. 22 at a regularly scheduled meeting of the commissioners.

There, Dr. Michael Elam, President of Halifax Community College, requested additional funds from the commissioners to help offset HCC’s costs to provide space and security to Northampton County Early College. Those Northampton students are housed on the HCC campus.

Elam proposed an allocation of $72,708 from Northampton County, saying that money will be used for salaries for an armed resource officer and a custodian for the Early College as well as covering 20 percent of HCC’s utility costs.

Instead of addressing the needs of those Northampton students, Charles Tyner, chair of the commissioners, opted to berate the county’s school board, saying, “We got thrown into this by the [Northampton] Board of Education. It was not our fault. They [school board] handed you [HCC] our students without any funds from their allotment to take care of our students. The fact of it is, those kids should have remained in Northampton County.”

We would tend to agree with Tyner’s opinion that students enrolled in Northampton Public Schools need to be educated within county-owned and operated facilities. But those details should have been ironed out between the two boards long before the commissioners, in their FY 2018-19 budget, approved a $260,000 allocation to HCC for renovations at the Weldon-based campus to house Northampton Early College. That’s a fairly large investment to turn your back on now.

Additionally, the security of students housed at any educational facility should be at the top of a funding list, especially in a day and age of an alarming increase of violence and shootings on school campuses.

Roughly $73,000 is an extremely reasonable price to pay to help keep our young people out of harm’s way. But yet the Northampton Commissioners took no action, opting to, “let the county manager handle it for further discussion.”

Maybe that’s because the coffers controlled by the commissioners are running dry….after all, we need to remember they invested in the current budget year, outside of funding for the operation of normal county services, taxpayer dollars in the amounts of $40,000 to assist non-profit entities, up to $500,000 as loans to help small businesses, and $300,000 to purchase six acres of land near Lake Gaston for future development.

That begs the question: what needs to take top priority in Northampton County? Is it providing a safe educational environment for the children, or opening a community center at Lake Gaston, a place where such a facility already exists?

We would suggest the two boards need to forge a better working relationship to avoid any future issues, particularly when it involves the safety of our next generation of leaders.

– The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald