Dare school board adopts budget

Published 1:53 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2022

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The Dare County Board of Education adopted its fiscal year 2023 operating budget totaling $71,066,449 on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

The board’s meeting was held at Kitty Hawk Elementary School, instead of Cape Hatteras Elementary due to inclement weather.

The budget vote was 5-0. Board members Joe Tauber and Mary Ellon Ballance were absent from the meeting. By North Carolina General Statute, the school board’s budget is due to the Dare County Board of Commissioners May 15.

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Before the vote, the budget was revised. Finance director Candy Tilley added $95,000 in rental income from a land owned by the school board. The property, at 805 Francis Drake St. in Manteo, was bequeathed to the school board. Several mobile homes occupy the property. At the time of the budget draft, uncertainty existed about the disposition of the real property.

That uncertainty was created by ongoing negotiations between the school board’s Capital Improvement Plan Committee and the Coastal Affordable Housing group which is tasked with building affordable housing in Dare County. The two parties have met three times. No recommendation has been made by the school board’s committee, reported Dare County Schools Superintendent John Farrelly.

The $95,000 is split, with $50,000 going to the fuel line in transportation and $45,000 to exceptional children contracted services. Tilley noted that the revenue has been included in the budgets from prior years.

David Bragg from Nags Head has commented previously about the rental income, charging that it is a violation of the Umstead Act. He did so again at this meeting.

School board attorney Richard Schwartz, in a phone interview, stated that the Dare Board of Education does not agree with Bragg’s interpretation.

Bragg also stated that the board violated the law by not providing for public comment at the budget workshop meeting May 4. He stated that he had consulted with a lawyer and they would be seeking a remedy.

In a phone interview, Schwartz said, “that was simply wrong. The law requires the board to provide at least one period for public comment per month at a regular meeting of the board. That’s what the board does every month, at its regular meeting. The budget workshop was not a regular meeting, but a special meeting, as those terms are defined under the Open Meetings Law. There is no requirement to provide for a period of public comment beyond the regular monthly meeting. All of that is spelled out in the law and board policy. The Board did not violate the law in any way.”

At the May 10 meeting, public commenter Liv Cook told the board that since Dare County Schools did not conduct exit interviews with teachers, she made a seven-question survey. She received 17 responses to her survey that was started Saturday, May 7. Of that sample, she said that responding teachers cited compensation, inadequate support from building administration and inadequate support from central office as reasons for leaving the school system.

Cook charged that Dare County’s greatest export was teachers and directly criticized Dare County Schools Superintendent John Farrelly.

For the last time, the board made no modifications to its optional face mask policy.

The board approved a chiller replacement for Manteo Elementary School. The winning bid was from ColonialWebb Contractors Company, of Chesapeake, Va., for $416,475.

Upon recommendation from the board’s naming committee, the school board unanimously voted to name the back baseball field at Kitty Hawk Elementary School after the late Bill Walker, who started OBX Baseball. The nomination came the Walker family and the Board of Directors for OBX Baseball.

Before the adjournment vote, Farrelly asked to make a comment. “We’ve had a lot of criticism in the last 12 to 14 months,” said Farrelly, who said such criticism is expected as a superintendent. “Criticism of my team has been unjust, unfair. It has weighed heavily on them for several months. It impacts their families. It impacts their children.”

Farrelly continued, “I follow policy. We’re consistent. When someone steps up and makes defamatory comments about me that is damaging. I will sit idle no longer.”

Retiring Principals Dr. Greg Florence of Kitty Hawk Elementary School and Dr. Jodie Mitchum from First Flight Elementary School were recognized for contributions to the school system.

In a summary of the school board actions, Farrelly listed the following personnel changes:

– Maggie Conti, a teacher at Manteo Elementary School was named the new assistant principal of Kitty Hawk Elementary School following Florence’s retirement and Dr. Lisa Colvin’s promotion. Conti will begin to transition in mid-June.

– Ian Adams was approved as the new Dare County Schools director of facilities. Adams is currently the project manager/facilities maintenance superintendent for the City of Goose Creek in South Carolina. Adams will begin the first week of June.

– Billie Kay Wingfield is the new director of human resources for Dare County Schools. Wingfield is currently the executive director of human resources for Manassas City Public Schools in Virginia. Wingfield will begin with Dare County Schools the second week of June.