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It's time to reconsider.
That's what the Bedford County School Board decided Thursday about its budget after hearing from the Board of Supervisors that most of its members didn't support closing Bedford Primary School and consolidating those students with Bedford Elementary.
At a meeting last week, the supervisors threatened to withhold $1.1 million in additional funding for 2011-2012 if the school board didn't keep the school open.
“Sometimes it pays to revisit (your plans),” District 2 School Board member Dave Vaden said about reconsidering the school system’s budget. “Negotiation is not just a skill, it’s an art.”
The School Board was scheduled to meet Tuesday (after the Bulletin’s press deadline) about the budget plan.
“They do control the purse strings,” Vaden said of the supervisors’ message to the school board. “I believe we have a small window of opportunity to redo our budget.”
Vaden said the supervisors had made it clear they wouldn’t support the budget as it had been presented, adding he didn’t want to have an adversarial relationship with that board. “I feel the time is right for reconciliation,” he said.
The comments came after several area residents asked the school board to reverse its decision to close Bedford Primary.
“I agreed to the tax increase to keep that school open,” Ricky Wilkerson told the school board, referring to the supervisors’ consideration of raising the county tax rate. “You have lost your credibility to lead.”
Liz Jackson said the county needs to keep its community schools. “These community schools make up Bedford County as a whole,” she said.
Dawn Cox said she was scared of what might happen to the education of the county’s children if the board didn’t come up with a new budget plan. “This should not be the time for closing school doors,” Cox said.
Barry Tosh agreed. “Stop with this nonsense of (proposed) school closings every year,” he said.
Kevin Willis said the school board needs to take care of the students in the schools. “As a community we hold you responsible and accountable for those decisions,” he said.
School Superintendent Dr. Douglas Schuch said he and the board had not anticipated the “inflammatory nature” of their meeting last week with the supervisors in which they offered “comments and criticism” but did not participate in a dialogue about the budget plan.
He told School Board members that how they allot the school funds is their decision and not that of the supervisors.
District 4 board member Gary Hostutler said the school system has been traditionally underfunded by the county. “It’s important that the supervisors fully fund us,” he said. “It’s going to benefit the students wherever it’s spent.”
School Board Chairwoman Debbie Hoback and District 1 member Joy Wright were not at last Thursday’s meeting. They were expected to be back for Tuesday’s special called meeting.
Also on Thursday the School Board discussed policy changes that would limit the transfer of students in the county to schools other than the one they are districted to attend. The policy, which will be voted on later this month, would not affect students who currently transfer out of their district.