By Cody Neff
Members of the Fayette County Board of Education said Monday they were going to be taking a big step backward.
The step backward won’t mess with progress, they say, and it gives the board a better picture of how the school system can be best served.
“December is the month when school districts submit major building projects to the School Building Authority,” Superintendent Keith Butcher said. “As previously shared with the board, Fayette County had planned to submit a needs project to the SBA and, since a local match of funding is required, we had planned to run a bond in May.
“I have decided not to submit a building project to the SBA and do not plan to run a bond in May of 2014. Instead, during the next six months, we will review and, if needed, revise the current Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan. The critical issue moving forward is how to improve education while reducing the number of high schools in Fayette County.”
Deciding not to submit a bond gives everyone some time to think about the impact of the CEFP.
“If we are to submit building projects in the next year that will have an effect on education in Fayette County for the next 30 years, then I believe it is important to take this time to review the CEFP,” Butcher said. “We’ll need to build support for a plan that will dramatically improve the education system.”
Board member Leon Ivey said he was glad the board was taking time to study all schools in the county, not just the one focused on in the amendment to the CEFP.
Also at the board meeting, a couple of parents said they worried about how the board plans to fit Gatewood students into Fayetteville Elementary School.
“More than a year ago my sister tried to enroll her three kids into Fayetteville Elementary,” Betty Miller said. “She was told she couldn’t because there was no room.”
According to the closure documents for Gatewood Elementary, the school has 108 students right now. By moving the sixth-graders out of Fayetteville Elementary and into Fayetteville High School, Fayetteville Elementary would have room for the Gatewood children.
A public meeting to discuss the closure and reconfiguration of the three schools will be at 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, in the Fayetteville High School auditorium.
James “Jock” Workman was also sworn in to fill the open seat on the board.
“I wish to thank the board for selecting me to fill a position that was occupied by a Fayette County icon,” Workman said. “I think we’ll make a good team. As to why I allow myself to be subjected to the disdain and verbal abuse shown toward board members, it’s the two young ladies who stood with me during the oath today that prove to everyone that I still have a connection and interest in what is going on in the school system. My grandchildren are two pieces of my heart.
“This honor is accepted with mixed feelings,” he added. “Even before I took the oath of office today, I had been roughly spoken to by three people. I guess that was my welcome back. This position requires decisions, and decisions draw criticism. An old Japanese adage says, ‘Death is lighter than air, but duty is heavier than a mountain.’ The mountain we face here is indeed heavy.”
Workman served on the board from 2006 to 2010.
“Since I was last on this board, things have changed drastically,” he said.
“I’ve been watching with great interest and deep sadness at the unfolding events. A lot of time has been spent contemplating our situation. Our beloved county has become so fragmented that we can no longer function as an entity. Each has his or her share of the pie and they won’t share with anyone, no matter who gets hurt.
“Everyone is so afraid to let go of what they have because they can’t visualize anything else as possibly being better. Progress can only be attained by taking chances. We have to do something. I just pray that ‘up the river, down the river, that side of the river, and this side of the river’ disappear from our vocabulary. I hope our board can work to get the state out of our county, and I pledge to work toward that goal.”
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