Eastern Elementary Construction, Disgusting | Eastern North Carolina Now

Stop! making bad decisions on a new school and get it right


By:   Hood Richardson

Representations by Superintendent Cheeseman that the July Progress Monitoring meeting was cancelled because there was nothing to report are entirely false.  Cheeseman must think he is dealing with third graders.  He started the School Board meeting on June 19 by stating there was nothing to report at the June Progress update and promptly reported colossal changes. He stated the entire proposed Eastern building complex has been “shifted” to run along Pennsylvania Avenue.  He further stated that all service buildings (maintenance, nutrition, technology, etc) located on Pennsylvania Avenue would be demolished because the storm water pond had to go there.  This increases the cost of this project by, in my estimation, as much as 5 million dollars to replace those existing buildings.  

No explanation was given for why several months of work was trash caned so casually.  We knew Cheeseman’s cancelling the June meeting the day before the meeting and then going to the Rotary Club meeting that same day and announcing the new school would house 1,000 kindergarden thru third grade students was a cover up for something.  We do not have 1,000 K-3 students in the Washington Attendance.  So where are those 200+/- students going to come from?  Of course, they would have to be taken from other schools like Bath and Chocowinity.  I took note that within 30 days the size of the proposed school went from 960 to 1,000 students.  Presently, according to Cheeseman, we have 800 students in Eastern Elementary and John Cotton Tayloe.  Sound confusing?  It certainly is.

Cheeseman’s comments at the School Board meeting were video recorded.  Chairman T. W. Allen gave the wrong answer when ask why the storm water pond had to be built before anything else.  Allen said it was because the State required it.  Not so.  The correct answer is: At the election of the developer the storm water pond may be used as part of the erosion and sedimentation control process.  This is not mandatory, it is elective.

I, as a County Commissioner, am puzzled at why this gigantic shift in the scoping of this project had to be done at all.  So far, no one has given any explanation.  The Eastern Elementary site consists of 38 acres of land with approximately 28 acres vacant.  The service complex (maintenance, nutrition, technology, etc buildings) are in a very out of the way place at a southwest corner of the property.  The drainage outlet for the entire 38 acres is a culvert under Maple Street about 800 feet to the east of the proposed storm water pond.  Storm water ponds are almost always located on the lowest elevations on the property near drainage outlets. So, this pond’s location violates all the rules. The service complex (maintenance, nutrition, technology, etc) is at one of the higher elevations on this site.  Ditching will be required to get storm water to run to the drainage outlet.  This kind of ditching is not required if normal design techniques for locating ponds are used.

Bottom line.  The worst place on this site to build a storm water pond is at the service complex.  This is likely a ploy on the part of Cheeseman to get a new service complex at a cost of as much as 5 million dollars or more.

Sound confusing?  You got that right!

Making these major changes in this project means there is abundant work for the Progress Monitoring Committee unless Cheeseman is making all of the decisions.  This major change in the scope of the project with no meeting of the Progress Review Committee tells me all of the decisions are being made by Cheeseman.  He is making a lot of very bad decisions.  The Progress Review Committee is a farce.  How can Beaufort County spend tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousand of dollars on changes to this project with zero oversight and in the Back Room?  Cheeseman promised new plans for the July Committee meeting.  This means this Committee is there to rubber stamp whatever Cheeseman is thinking that day.  That makes Fake Frankie Waters and T. W. Allen Cheeseman’s puppets. There is no provision for voting during the Progress Monitoring Committee meetings. Fake Frankie Waters and T. W. Allen sit there and agree with whatever Cheeseman presents. Why are not these discussions/decisions taking place in a regular School Board meeting with the entire board involved?  Look at the video of the June 19 meeting and note how much discussion there is from the other school board members.  Why is that?  Do you suppose that might just be to get around the Open Meetings Law?

Somebody needs to be asking if keeping the Cross-town Busing of the current grade configuration in place is the best thing for the future development of the Washington Attendance Area as well as whether it is better to have less busing of our youngest children.  Reducing the size of the Eastern Attendance Area would reduce bus rides for these children.  Have they considered revising the grade structure in the Washington Attendance Area?  Cheesman has apparently not even considered reducing the busing by having more elementary schools with smaller attendance areas.  And shamefully, none of the School Board members has questioned his inadequate planning assumptions.  Why?

We need a competent assessment of the current Eastern Facility, from the perspective of what it would cost to renovate, as opposed to replacing the entire school.  Likewise, we need a professional assessment of placing a new elementary school west of Washington to replace John Cotton Tayloe. Common sense tells us that the area between Tranters Creek (Pitt County) and the current Industrial Park is where most of the future growth will come.  Nor has Cheeseman done an assessment of potential sites along the current sewer lines running to the Industrial Park.  

This debacle over the Eastern site does not bode well for us to trust his construction expertise and judgment.  The School Board should immediately secure the services of a competent construction expert, sometimes called a Clerk of the Works, to develop alternatives and provide the Board with a professional assessment of the alternatives.  Fifty million dollars is too much money not to be planned well.

Unless the voters and taxpayers in Beaufort County rise up and insist on a democratic process, with their elected officials making decisions and examining alternatives to this school project, we will continue to be under the control of dictator Cheeseman.  Surely there are citizens who want better education than we now have in Beaufort County.  Surely, we have citizens who understand Cheeseman has seized (usurped) power.  Natives of Beaufort County should have a say in their schools. Not this outsider who is only building his resume so he can make more money when he leaves Beaufort County.  I have to wonder what experience he has in school planning and construction management.  Most of the sound elements of planning are being cast aside.  Perhaps it is time to bring in an engineering professional experienced in school construction to review these plans.

Voters should consider how ineffective the majority of this sitting School Board and Board of Commissioners are. Cheeseman could not become dictator unless most of the school board supports his actions.  Neither Frankie Waters nor T. W. Allen have any expertise or experience in planning school projects of this magnitude.  School Board members are elected by district.  We need a major change on our school board.  The last election began the needed change, but it is vital that the voters change the sitting board members who are up for election this November.  Look at your district and refuse to vote for incumbents in November of this year.  Our school system can become one of the best in the nation with honest, Christian board members.

This reasoning also applies to the board of Commissioners. Frankie Waters could not have disenfranchised the Board of County Commissioners from this process unless the majority of the Board failed to do their fiduciary and ethical duty to our citizens and children.  They have simply turned their backs and are willing to “go along to get along.”

Most people are not school planning experts.  But when Cheeseman has long disappeared from Beaufort County, the students will pay the price in longer bus rides and the taxpayers will get the bill for all of the poor planning mistakes that are being made.

The School Board should mandate that all of the viable alternatives be presented to it, and no decisions made until after the public has been shown the alternatives and afforded a chance to offer comments and input.  Only then should these decisions be made.

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Van Zant said:
( June 26th, 2024 @ 7:02 pm )
A little off topic: Why does the Personal Derangement Syndrome person and BB the lefty troll person think it is a good idea to post the exact same comment repetitiously? Just wondering.
( June 26th, 2024 @ 5:26 pm )
Cheeseman says he is building this school for 1,000 students. The enrollment of the two elementary schools he is consolidating is 800, and the system has declining enrollment. Where are the other 200 students going to come from? The two closest elementary schools are Bath and Chocowinity. If I were a parent of a prospective elementary student in Bath or Chocowinity, THAT is what would worry me about this scheme.
( June 26th, 2024 @ 12:00 pm )
The issue here is proper and transparent financial planning for school construction, something we have had little of here in Beaufort County, something that goes back beyond those individuals involved in the current controversy. The last big bond issue saw very poor planning resulting in schools that are still half empty in some cases. This mega school shows the signs of the same jury-rigged process instead of proper planning. The fact that they are suddenly trying to move the actual location of the school on the property shows how totally inept the planning process was.

This issue is much bigger than Richardson or Cheeseman, "Bath Parent". Richardson is a politician and all politicians have their hits and their misses. Cheeseman is a career bureaucrat and career bureaucrats have their ways of looking at things that are often very different than the perspective of the taxpayers who pay the freight for government.

I would not say Richardson is always right or Cheeseman always wrong, but the questions Richardson is asking on this issue are spot on, and are questions any competent person in management ought to be asking on such a project. What shocks me is so many of our elected school board members and county commissioners just sitting there like deer in the headlights on this $50 million plus project. Do they plan to blame it on someone else when it becomes a boondoggle?

Clearly, "Bath Parent" you have a personal dislike of one person and project that onto any issue he takes a stand on. Most of us focus on the issue.
( June 26th, 2024 @ 10:28 am )
Bath Parent. Keep writing.
( June 26th, 2024 @ 6:01 am )
Well concerned taxpayer seems you would walk behind Hood straight to the fire if he less you there. Just go look at the tape on the schools website Hood is about 6% accurate in his statement. If you are so concerned as you call yourself do your own research not what Hood tells you. Be a man and think for yourself like Trump would do. Just remember Hood is no where near Trump to put them in the same sentence crazy. Just ask Hood how many times he was a registered Democrat, how many times in 26 years as he touts he has been Chairman? When in 26 years you canít get elected Chairman you have not accomplished anything. He calls out bullying all the time and that is how he governs. His puppets like you do and listen to what he says you may want to do some investigating on your own.
( June 25th, 2024 @ 9:34 pm )
Well concerned taxpayer seems you would walk behind Hood straight to the fire if he less you there. Just go look at the tape on the schools website Hood is about 6% accurate in his statement. If you are so concerned as you call yourself do your own research not what Hood tells you. Be a man and think for yourself like Trump would do. Just remember Hood is no where near Trump to put them in the same sentence crazy. Just ask Hood how many times he was a registered Democrat, how many times in 26 years as he touts he has been Chairman? When in 26 years you canít get elected Chairman you have not accomplished anything. He calls out bullying all the time and that is how he governs. His puppets like you do and listen to what he says you may want to do some investigating on your own.
( June 26th, 2024 @ 7:56 am )
To Bath Parent. You are obviously a cool aid drinker. The buildings to be torn down have to re replaced at some place in school system. My estimate is the cost will be 5 million.
A good Democrat like you does no thinking. You are waiting for a designated dictitorial Democrat to give you the answer because you cannot figure it out for yourself. This is the Democrat way.
( June 25th, 2024 @ 9:13 am )
The lack of transparency, expert advice, and public input in the school facility planning is appalling. The secretive way that Cheeseman and his flunkies operate is nowhere near government in the sunshine. It is like we have Tammany Hall recreated right here in Beaufort County. It is very similar to the lack of transparency, and the secretiveness, and coverup of the recent vandalism at Washington High School.

I doubt the person who posts as "Bath parent" is actually from Bath since they have never commented about anything involving the Bath schools, and there have been some real issues there like the move to cancel the band classes in Bath. Why would someone from Bath care nothing about major issues with their own school but obsess about a planned school in another district? It appears that this is just a person with a severe case of Hood Derangement Syndrome, which is very similar to Trump Derangement Syndrome, which Little Bobbie suffers from.
Van Zant said:
( June 25th, 2024 @ 9:10 am )
Another reason, and I imagine the overriding reason, the state superintendent awarded the grant was the political timing. Remember this primary season watching state Superintendent Truitt traveling the state handing out the big photo op checks and preening with local politicians before the local press. I think she really thought that strategy would work for a primary win. I'm hearing that she is more than a bit bitter that it didn't.

I'm getting a lot of mixed reviews from the public about the wisdom of consolidating an urban school. My discussions reveal much more agreement about not favoring consolidation of schools in general. At least one school board member and at least one commissioner have expressed concerns about planning more for obtaining lottery grant money than developing a coherent building plan.

Welcome to the days of scrambling for the gambling cut money, backslapping and aping for the cameras, and letting the chips fall where they may. If I planned my business this way, I'd go bankrupt.
( June 25th, 2024 @ 8:57 am )
My opinion is that neighborhood schools will require less staffing than consolidated schools. Transportation cost and staff will be less. Placing the student closer to parents, and teachers means less counseling and social staff overhead.
( June 24th, 2024 @ 6:13 pm )
I have watched the video Cheesman stated the school shifted and would be brought back to the board in July. No where in there does he say 5 million. Come on Hood still in the planning stages get your head out of the sand. There needs to be change and it starts with you. You are a waste to the pay the taxpayers pay you to sit on the board. You scream Christian at what church have you darken the doors lately? I personally have asked and there is no record of an attendance from you. I love how you have to use your website to print nonsense because a real media outlet would confirm the facts before your lies. You need prayer because your lies are getting old so maybe the good Lord will have mercy on your soul
( June 25th, 2024 @ 8:50 am )
School consolidation is a part of the liberal school establishment's agenda, which is opposed by conservatives who favor neighborhood schools. Conservatives believe that especially in lower grades, neighborhood schools provide an atmosphere much more conducive to family involement and that it is easy for students to feel lost in mega schools.

As for changing schools so often, this is actually worse with a K-3 elementary school instead of having elementary school extend up to the 6th grade as used to be the norm. Building a series, perhaps three, neighborhood K-6 schools would be much more positive for education that a mega K-3 school. Existing schools could be repurposed for that with renovations and perhaps some new construction as needed.

If DPI is misusing the lottery money to push the liberal agenda of school consolidation, the legislature needs to step in and put a stop to that. Local control of local schools means that local elected school boards should decide what is best for their district's needs, not liberal educrats in Raleigh.
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