LAURINBURG — The Board of Education unanimously voted to close I. Ellis Johnson Elementary and South Scotland Elementary schools after only three people spoke against the closure on Monday.
Four people spoke during the public hearing for I. Ellis Johnson, one of which had nothing to do with the school closures.
City council member Curtis Leak was the first to speak and spoke about the two abandoned buildings located on IEJ’s campus. Leak wanted to bring the buildings to the board’s attention and ask that something to be done about them before the school would sell it just so there would be less of an issue later.
Gary Mauk, who is running for the Stewartsville seat for the Board of Education in the upcoming election, spoke from a psychologist point of view with information about the benefits of small neighborhood schools.
Mauk referenced a study done in 2000 by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s research that summarized that school size appears to be related to behavioral and academic outcomes for students with smaller schools being associated with more positive outcomes in those cases.
“The potential benefits of smaller schools with respect to academic and behavioral outcomes for students would appear to tip the scales in favor of smaller schools,” Mauk said. “There is a positive relationship between smaller school size and a number of variables associated with school climate.”
Donald Anderson and Justin Davis, both residents of Laurinburg, also spoke against the closing of IEJ.
Davis, who went to IEJ in 2006, spoke about how important that school is to the black community, as the school is named after the first black principal in Scotland County. He asked the board that, if they were going to close it, not to destroy it but rather have it used for something to keep the building up.
“I know the Parks and Recreation director is thinking about building a parks and recreation building, instead of closing the school down give the building to them,” Davis said. “They’ve got a gym, they’ve got a cafeteria, they’ve got a bunch of rooms to tutor the kids and store the football, baseball equipment. I don’t want to see it going down.”
Anderson spoke about how he believed the county the government was not listening to the public and why residents’ voices don’t seem to be heard during the public hearings and public comment periods.
“In all these regards we’ve been ignored and subjected to pointless public hearings that tell us to come out and express our views and opinions under the false promise that our views and opinions imperially will be taken into consideration,” Anderson said.
Anderson brought up that, in several meetings county commissioners were asked to put the funding for a new school on the ballot as a referendum and how after the matter was passed, a slide show went through with no slide on what would happen if the commissioners voted against it — leading Anderson to believe they colluded together outside the meeting process and secretly passed a resolution for it.
“A few days ago there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the new school,” Anderson said. “That same day or close to it there was a public notice of a public hearing posted on The Laurinburg Exchange for a date after the groundbreaking ceremony. I can only point out that senselessness in having a public hearing on a project that has already broke ground and is fully funded.”
Anderson said the board was more concerned with meeting deadline than seeking any input by the parents of the children who attend the schools and that the little guys in the community have no power in their local government. Anderson was unable to continue his comment as he ran over the three-minute time limit.
No one spoke during the public hearing for South Scotland and during the regular board meeting, the board voted unanimously to close both schools thus beginning the final phase of the school consolidation plan.
Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171 or at [email protected]