The Eight-Million-Dollar mistake | Eastern North Carolina Now

The Eight-Million-Dollar-Mistake

Beaufort County received a grant for 42 million dollars from the lottery early this year.  The Board of County Commissioners donated another ten million dollars.  The School Board hired an architect and is proceeding to build a new school building on the Eastern Elementary site to replace the John Cotton Tayloe School and the Eastern Elementary School buildings.

Both of these existing buildings were adequate for the education of our children until the Beaufort County School System discovered they could get a grant to build a new building.  Then these buildings suddenly became unacceptable.  It is highly questionable as to whether a new building is needed. Questionable in the sense that there has been no authentic facilities/demographic (student assignment) study done by a competent resource.  It has been years since such a study was done by the Rural Education Institute at ECU.  Most importantly, the School Board has no solid data on the best use of all current facilities and the option in revising the student assignment patterns.  In other words, this is a monumental failure of sound school facilities planning.

No consideration was given to the needs of the Chocowinity Elementary Schools or the Bath School.  No consideration was given to the advisability of continuing to consolidate education into large schools in light of the fact that school consolidation has been a colossal failure when measured in terms of the quality education the current high school graduate receives.  The future of education is going to neighborhood schools not mega or consolidated schools.  Because of consolidation we have children who leave home about 6:00 AM and get home after 5:00 PM. No consideration was given to the fact that Beaufort County Schools are only half full.

All decisions have been made in the back room by Fake Frankie Waters, the School Superintendent, and the Chairman of the School Board.

My first clue that we are still in the “Land of OZ” came when all of this was sprung on the public and the Board of Commissioners as a “done deal” by the Superintendent of Schools. Conversations with the School Board Members (that I can have a meaningful conversation with) revealed that they were as much in the dark as I was. Someone was behind the green curtain, pulling the strings.

Egos among politicians stay in full bloom year-round.  Fake Frankie Waters could not contain himself. Frankie admitted that he, using his position as Chairman of Beaufort County Government, had been secretly working on this for more than a year and a half.  I say “secretly” because the Commissioners were never notified of his activities.  His secret activities are a violation of the open meetings laws.  Public officials serving as members of boards and commissions have an ethical and legal duty to inform the entire board of their lobbying activities and to act only with the approval of the majority of the Board.

There surely are a number of other options available to meet future demographics and optimum utilization of all school facilities, i.e. there is no Long-Range School Facilities Study supporting this decision.

Fake Frankie Waters has usurped (taken power illegally) the authority of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.  He used this authority in collusion with the School Superintendent to deliberately deny the public the opportunity to examine the future of education in Beaufort County and to deny consideration of the Chocowinity and Bath Schools.

There are some reasons that Frankie and the School Superintendent are successful.

As long as the majority of the Board of County Commissioners allows Fake Frankie and the Superintendent to usurp the power of the people there will be no change in the back room dealing.  Fake Frankie Waters has the support of five of a majority of County Commissioners.  Two Commissioners, Randy Walker and Ed Booth, have wives serving on the School Board.  To my knowledge they have never voted against the wishes of their wives.  Walker and Booth’s wives are heavily influenced by the School Superintendent.  John Rebholz, who is apparently on board this train, is a liberal Republican who is trying to get Beaufort County into (Affordable) Public Housing.  How much will that cost tax payers?  Jerry Langley is a liberal Democrat who votes with Booth.  Langley vote traded with the RINOs  (Fake Frankie Waters and John Rebholz) to make Waters Chairman and Langley Vice Chairman.  

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners are a weak governing body because of these conflicting and unethical practices.  Only two members of our Board can independently make honest decisions for the benefit of the voting public.  They are Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson. This weakness allows scoundrels to seize power and do as they please because there is little chance they will be called down by a strong board.

Much the same thing is going on in Washington, D. C.  Both the House and the Senate are evenly divided with members who can only survive at the polls by pledging undying loyalty to the political parties.  Because of the lack of a super majority in either party, and demands of loyalty to political parties, there can be no decisive action to stop the usurping of our government by President Biden.  Even Supreme Court decisions are not always enforced.  Beaufort County is no different.

I raised issues having to do with the use of and budgeting controls for the 52 million dollars at the last three Beaufort County Commissioner meetings. I did not get answers. Finally, Fake Frankie Waters responded to my concerns by announcing that he had attended a meeting with the School Superintendent, the Chairman of the School Board and the Architect in Greenville and they had decided to allow the Commissioners to attend “the progress meetings” to be held on the second Thursday of each month.  During the discussion, Fake Frankie Waters said that I would be allowed to ask only one question.

Fake Frankie Waters and his enormous ego got taken advantage of again by the School Superintendent and the Chairman of the School Board.  The meeting Commissioners may attend is a construction progress meeting.  It has nothing to do with the fiduciary responsibility of the Board of County Commissioners to oversee the building of this school. This includes budgeting and the payment of monies.  Fake Frankie thought he was “special.”   What he had actually agreed to is to turn over all duties having to do with the new school to the Superintendent and the Chairman of the School Board.  He abandoned his and the Board of Commissioners responsibility to manage the Capital Project ordinance. Fake Frankie does not have authority to do this.

The Local Government Commission, supervised by the State Treasurer, requires by General Statute that all Capital Projects be set up as “Capital Project Ordinances” and that all funds be placed in that account and that all expenditures be designated before any work is done.  This is the responsibility of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, not the School Board.  If there are overruns the County Commissioners will have to raise taxes. The School Board does not have taxing authority.

I am seeking the information necessary to set up the capital ordinance to spend the 52 million dollars.  I attended the “Progress Meeting” on Thursday May 9.  I was allowed to ask questions.  I discovered that the budget had not been updated since November of 2023, and the new building to cost 40 million dollars will house 960 students.  The Commissioners were promised an updated budget at their June meeting.

This is where we have an eight-million-dollar mistake or difference or whatever.  I ask how many students we now have in John Cotton Tayloe and Eastern Elementary.  The first reply from the Superintendent was: 800 students.  I then asked why we are building this school 20 percent larger in a county with declining population.  The Superintendent then said he thought there were 860 students.  No one was sure of anything.  I requested the enrollment numbers used by the Department of Public Instruction to be presented at the June Commissioners meeting.  Twenty percent of 40 million dollars is eight million dollars.  This is a significant amount of money for a 52-million-dollar project.

I am alarmed and concerned that there is no up to date budget for the new school and the Superintendent simply pulled a number out of the air to size the school.  This is the identical pattern that was followed when we last built schools in Beaufort County.   Those projects overran the so called budget by 25 percent or more than eight million dollars.  I am working to have a budget and a budget ordinance for this 52-million-dollar project that is under the supervision of the Board of County Commissioners.  

The November elections are important. I already see collusion, incompetence, ignorance, violations of open meetings laws, and conflicts of interest.  These conditions are deeply ingrained into the School Board and County Commissioners.  They can only be removed on election day.  It is vital to our success as a County that most of these people who favor a mega-school that perpetuates inefficient busing, be removed from office.  If that happens it is obvious that a change in the majority of both boards may be mandated by the voters.  Certainly, the major decisions on this size expenditure of public funds should be made by the new School Board and not an existing lame duck majority.  

There is reason to hope that a new majority on the School Board will put a halt to this insanity.  It may take only one or two districts to change the School Board’s voting patterns.  Be prepared to witness a rush to get this project beyond the point of no return before the new School Board takes over.  The people should not stand for such a rush to judgment by lame ducks on the current school board.  

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( May 16th, 2024 @ 11:22 am )
Why are we spending all of this taxpayer money, without a proper independent study of our real school facility needs, just to bolster Cheeseman's resume? Our patheric school board majority are nothing but seat warmers.
( May 13th, 2024 @ 8:52 pm )
The whole purpose of this plan is as a resume builder for Superintendant Cheeseman for when he applies for a job in a bigger and better paying school district. The needs of Beaufort County and its students were not a real consideration in planning this boondoggle. It is all about Cheeseman's resume.

The sad thing is that we have a school board majority that are Cheeseman's sock puppets. Hopefully we will change that majority this November, but that will be too late to stop Cheeseman's Folly.

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