Beaufort County is headed for a trainwreck in school planning | Eastern North Carolina Now

One would be hard-pressed to find a poorer example of school planning


The Beaufort County School System has approximately 50 million dollars available to finance a building program.   The problem is, they don’t have a building program.  Allow me to explain.

The first step in a sound and effective “building program” is a solid assessment of the current facilities you have and what your facilities needs in the current environment are and what will they be like in the immediate future.  Such an assessment is both an educational exercise and an engineering exercise.  Each is best conducted by specialists in each field.  The first part of facilities assessment is to have an architectural/engineering study done to identify needs.  In this case, the needs of the adjoining attendance areas (Bath and Chocowinity) should be identified.  This has not been done, to date.

Everything should be put on hold until the existing facilities in the Washington Attendance Area and Chocowinity as well as Bath can be examined from a data-driven perspective.  Such a study should be done by competent architects, engineers and construction experts.  Such an assessment should project the needs of the existing school facilities for the next 15-30 years.   What is the condition of the roofs?   To what extent does each facility meet the facility standards developed by the N. C. Department of Public Instruction?  What is the current condition of the HVAC systems in each school?  How efficient (timewise and costs) are the existing busing patterns and could they be made more efficient to reduce costs and “time on bus” for students?  There is more that would be learned in a good facilities study, but you get the general idea from this.

Next, a student demographic study should be done.  An absolute essential part of a sound demographic study is that the potentially impacted attendance areas (in this case, Washington, Bath and Chocowinity) should have a Student Locator map/model produced.  This is a technological exercise that maps where each student lives.  It allows for various scenarios being developed that will reveal the most efficient busing patterns. It would also identify where student growth and decline will take place. 

Most importantly, a quality demographic study projects where students will live, at a minimum of 13 years hence and in some cases longer.  This is done quite efficiently using the Cohort Survival method of how the patterns change as students progress through the system.  A good demographic study is the backbone of developing the most efficient utilization of each facility.  It is indispensable in developing alternative grade configurations that may be more efficient and effective.  One thing that can be said for certainty is that the current busing patterns in the Washington and Chocowinity Attendance Areas are not at all efficient.  This is true simply because of the construction of the U. S. 17 bypass and should also factor in the impact of the proposed interstate connector between Greenville and U.S. 17 parallel to U. S. 264.

The Washington Attendance Area, as presently configured, is experiencing declining enrollment, but not evenly across thirteen grades.  That is why a cohort survival system is so important.  A relatively unique aspect is the fact that the Washington Attendance Area is between the highest growth area (Chocowinity) and second highest potential growth area (Bath) and common sense dictates an examination of reconfiguring those attendance areas to balance student populations with existing facilities.  To do that one must examine all of the schools in all three attendance areas, with special attention to declining and growth areas.  

If any analysis of the demographics has been done, it has not been shared with the public.  That is unconscionable.

An example of what we are talking about in this simple fact.  A huge HVAC system was recently installed at Eastern Elementary School.  Now they are talking about demolishing that school!  The burden should be put on the current administration to explain how something like that could been done.

That raises another planning issue.   We are told that Eastern needs to be replaced by the new school.  Yet to our knowledge there has not been a competent engineering study done of the existing Eastern facility.  Such a study would show what is deficient and offer projected costs to remedy.  Thus, an informed decision could be made by the School Board that examines the efficacy of replacing the entire facility compared to correcting the deficiencies extant.

One “reason” to rebuild Eastern was offered that it is not a secure facility…that non-students frequently wonder across the grounds and into the facility.  If that is so, why would they put the new school in such an inadequate site?  And it leaves the question hanging on how much it would cost to “harden” the existing facilities.  One thing School Planning Experts know is that, all other things being equal, it is better to have schools isolated from traffic of all kinds than to put/leave a school in a neighborhood that presents growing security problems.  

Moreover, the traffic patterns at the current Eastern Site are problematic.  You don’t have to be a planning expert to see this.  Just go park nearby the school in the morning or afternoon and observe the traffic patterns.  The school is literally within a couple of hundred feet of where two of the busiest roads (US. 264 and Fifteenth St.) in the county converge.  No matter where you locate that school on the site, it is inadequate with reference to traffic patterns.

The proposal offered by Superintendent Cheeseman was to “move”  (demolish and rebuild) the service facilities on the Eastern Site.  (Maintenance, Technology, etc.).  Is that really necessary, without data to support such a conclusion?  One could argue that is pouring good money after bad.  (Replacing facilities that could continue to serve a satisfactory purpose).

Finally, there has been no educational planning offered to support replacing Eastern and keeping the grade structure as is.  It should be understood to assess this concept that the current Washington Attendance Area is an artifact of merger of the city and county schools.  The current Washington Attendance Area was exactly what the old Washington School District was.  Why do we need to keep it?

The merger of the city and county school districts was predicated on Washington remaining a standalone attendance area in the short run in order to minimize opposition to the merger. It was even written into the Merger Legislation.   While that idea may have been valid ten years ago it certainly is no longer a solid reason to leave the attendance area the same as before merger when one of the reasons for merger was to ameliorate the effects of declining enrollment.

What we have witnessed is exactly what the Merger Planning Committee knew…that declining enrollment would have to be dealt with “down the road.”   Yet, the Cheeseman Proposal ignores this imperative.  Now is the time to look at the Washington Attendance Area, along with Chocowinity and Bath, before any more capacity is located in the Washington Attendance Area.  One does not have to have a demographic study to see that the greater facility need may indeed be in the Chocowinity area than at a renovated Eastern site.

All of this is rooted in facility planning.  What it does not include is the educational needs of these schools and their students.  The first and most important need is to look at maximum school size.  Is 1000 students too large for a K-3 school?  Why not make the elementary school(s) in all of the western part of the county K-5, or even K-8 and use the two schools off Market Street as the hub of a K-8 or K-5 configuration?  We don’t pretend to know the answers to that.   But what we do know is that the planning has been deficient in failing to consider revising the grade structure to shorten bus rides and keep students from shifting from school to school in their elementary years.  As is, we will make a prediction:   The current model will result in overcrowding and underutilization down the road.

It is at this point that we will point to what we consider to be the most glaring deficiency in Dr. Cheesman’s plan…the absence of education programmatic planning.  How do the faculty and staff perceive the needs?  How adequate are the existing facilities and how adequately would they possibly meet evolving future needs?  Teachers need to be involved in facility planning and it is the duty of the designers of facility planning to provide for educator input!  

All of this comes down to one logical conclusion:  The School Board needs to send this project back for better data-based planning!


The author is a retired educator with over forty years of experience in the public schools of Eastern North Carolina.  He served as a teacher, assistant principal and principal before becoming Superintendent of Greenville City Schools and retired from the School of Education at East Carolina University, where he was Director of the Rural Education Institute.  While in that role he was the Lead Investigator/Facilitator in over a dozen school system merger studies, including the Beaufort/Washington merger.  He taught School Planning for over twelve years and did numerous facilities studies in multiple school systems in Eastern North Carolina.

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Big Bob said:
( July 8th, 2024 @ 12:21 pm )
JS - thanks for saying that part out loud. Far right conservatives hate public schools because they offer opportunity to everyone. For them, life has never been the same.
( July 6th, 2024 @ 4:58 pm )
The Public School System is a joke the same as the people running it.

Really, Public Schools have always been part of the Communist system. They, even when you were in school, pushed a Communist just didn't know or see it. Many, even in this County, don't have a clue as to what is very possibly going on behind the scenes. Even when you tell them that there's no difference between Communism and Christian Zionism, they don't even know what the hell "Christian Zionism" is.....and these people have been in office forever!!!

Personally, I think everybody's playing for the same end game. Oh yeah, the camera system at WHS has been disabled for five years. I have my connections too.

Whoever's writing the script y'all are going by needs to start checking over themselves. This whole ordeal is going straight to the sh**house if people don't start doing their own research.

You can't trust anybody.. especially a politician.
Big Bob said:
( July 6th, 2024 @ 6:13 pm )
You should. Ask your self: What is the life span of the 50 million dollar school? 20 years? 50 years?
Better find some high ground.
( July 6th, 2024 @ 7:27 pm )
The Industrial Park would not be a good location for a new school, but elsewhere west of washington would be a great location. The slipslod and non-transparent planning process is the biggest problem with the way this has been handled. With a transparent planning process, the public would have a voice in site selection, but regretably this superintendant and his school board allies don't seem to value transpaerncy or public input.
( July 6th, 2024 @ 8:02 am )
Mr. Valley, be aware that the most useless controversy is where to site a school. I have no opinions on this.

However, the most important issue is the long term future of education in Beaufort County. Consider that the policy to date is a dismal failure. Consolidated schools are not the answer. Consolidated schools fit the communist plan for indoctrination and control of our people.
( July 5th, 2024 @ 6:58 pm )
I've got to be honest; I'm highly concerned with the fact that Uncle Hood is seeding the idea of putting a community school in or around the industrial Park area.

If I were him, I'd rethink throwing that strategy out there. The White folks and the Black folks of that area are smelling some shenaniganry afoot and they don't like it, I can assure you. There's plenty of land elsewhere and money for serious renovation....they just don't want to give it up FOR those reasons.

Dr. Blinson has always been a voice of reason. The man has the patience of Job lol. He's liked by the Conservatives of all backgrounds
Van Zant said:
( July 1st, 2024 @ 7:25 pm )
My takeaway from this is I prefer a more systematic approach to decision making like Dr. Blinson has laid out here. I acknowledge that way of planning is a rarity these days.

As has happened several times since I've been interacting on this site, the discussion of whatever issue being dealt with has been overridden by what seems to be a very bitter personal battle where reason and logic is nowhere to be found. On a previous discussion I found it necessary to do some personal research in order to have some idea what was being argued - in that case it was the legality or illegality of banning ex-officio members from the Repub executive committee.

I've had to do personal research again about the animosity going on in this strand. This keeps going back to the present-day BC Repub executive committee and the hatred they have for the Beaufort County Conservative Club. It seems that the current officers of the Repub Executive Committee are relative newcomers to the area - a little over or a little under a decade or so in most cases. The roots of the Conservative Club go back several decades to a time where they started as the Beaufort County Republican Men's Club. There was a time when both groups worked in the Republican Party albeit with some tensions. In recent years the newcomers decided that the conservatives had to be outright banned from the party, so we now in effect have two hostile Republican groups: The official Republicans who operate under a sort of loose association with official Republican stated principles and the Conservatives with a more serious adherence to stated Republican principles.

It seems the executive committee folks view the conservatives as demons or worse while the conservatives are wondering just who these new folks are that want to dictate who they can associate with and what they can think and say.

The Republican Executive Committee meets monthly on the second Thursday at 6:30 pm at the Republican HQs. The Conservative Club meets on the third Thursday at 6 pm in the King Chicken meeting room. I'm thinking about checking both out, but a little voice in my head keeps insisting that may a very bad idea! Oh well, there's still the bunker.
( July 1st, 2024 @ 9:28 am )
County voter, I do not use Google as my search engine because it is anti-privacy and pro-censorship and is biased in its search results. It may be fine if you are a big liberal who does not mind them selling your data, but not for anyone else.

Searching honest search engines, the only "Winterville Elemenrary School" I find is in Winterville, Georgia. Do you mean Creekside Elementary School in Winterville, NC? It is a K-5 school, not K-3 like Cheeeseman's school, covering a larger range of grades than Cheeseman's and it has a bit over 600 students, a lot less than Cheeseman's school for 1,000.
Bubba said:
( July 1st, 2024 @ 8:28 am )
It looks like there is a little group that hates Hood Richardson so much that they are in Cheeseman's hip pocket. Don't confuse them with facts because their little minds are already made up.
Van Zant said:
( July 1st, 2024 @ 8:07 am )
I've learned right much the last year or so about the crazy local politics around here. I get that Big Bob represents the far-left Dems. At the same time, I'm getting this vibe that the Bp, Pretending girl, Cv, and Firebrander characters are what passes for main-stream Repubs in these parts. Bam damn shazam. I think I prefer Dem Big Bob. Kind of makes me want to hunker down in the bunker and wait for the zombies. Heck with politics. This is
( July 1st, 2024 @ 7:08 am )
Credentials and knowledge matter. Dr. Blinson's background shows he has it. On the other side running this circus is a gang of three, two of them complete know-nothings on school construction, and one with a personal agenda of resume building and only limited knowledge of what he is doing.

On the county commission, while some people have knee jerk opinions of people because they don't like them politically, one again has to look at credentials. As an engineer, Richardson has been involved with many substantial building projects and knows all the professional and technical aspects. Frankie Waters knows little to nothing about construction and has questionable business ability. After all, the old Tri-County Telephone went under during his stint as its chairman and had to be sold to an outside company to keep it from going bust. Waters is the perfect know nothing for Cheeseman to control.

We need to look at credentials, not who we like or don't like politically.
( June 30th, 2024 @ 9:49 pm )
Bath Parent: Is lying thus stupidity your stock in trade?

When I know someone is a liar and stupid, it always colors my perception of their every ignorant word uttered.

If you slander me, or knowingly someone else on this platform again, I will cut you off as I do all lying fools, who generally makes little sense because of that whole lack of knowledge thing, which does appear to be your first nature.

This Just In: The Slanderer Bath Parent and County voter appear to be the same fake entity, with slightly different emails that are also ... Surprise! ... Surprise! ... Fake ... So, I will intuitively check this character, from here on out, far more closely, and will stop all future slanderous ignorance, with or without fake emails, which is absolutely against our long standing policy on both counts - the Slander, Lying thing, and the Too Fake thing.
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