School board responds

District says ‘persistent misinformation’ has become a distraction
Jul. 15, 2014 @ 07:54 PM

OXFORD — On Monday, the Granville County Board of Education took action to clarify a number of issues related to an investigation of school district administrators’ salaries and its aftermath.

The board voted 5-2 to allow district spokesman Stan Winborne to release a statement responding to “persistent misinformation appearing in local media.”

Board members Patrick Cox and Leonard Peace voted against releasing the statement.

“I disagree with the content,” Cox said.

For his part, Peace said it is unnecessary.

“Just read the minutes,” he said.

According to the board’s statement, the decision made Feb. 19, to engage the Brooks Pierce law firm to conduct an audit of administrative contracting practices was made at a properly advertised and convened specially called meeting, and board counsel was present throughout the meeting.

Although he was not present at the meeting, Cox later questioned the legality of that meeting and the action taken. The board’s statement said his allegations “are not substantiated by the record.”

In addressing questions about the hiring of Dorwin Howard as the new district superintendent, the board’s statement refutes allegations that the hiring was illegal because two current board members will be leaving the board in December after losing their bid for re-election, an obvious reference to an article by Rob Rivers published in the Oxford Public Ledger. State statute places that restriction only on renewal or extension of contracts, not on new contracts.

The board’s statement points out Howard’s compensation package of $154,000 places him slightly below the average compensation for superintendents of districts with 5,000 to 10,000 students.

The fees charged and services provided by Brooks Pierce and by interim board attorney Nickolas J. Sojka Jr. were justified, according to the board’s statement. Brooks Pierce “enjoys a statewide reputation for excellence in education law representation,” and Sojka’s “track record of representation of local boards of education ... speaks for itself,” the statement said.

The board’s statement did not address the question of appropriateness of the fees — $17,575.56 to Brooks Pierce and $6,149.59 to Sojka through June 6.

The Daily Dispatch was assured by Winborne and Board of Education chairwoman Brenda Dickerson-Daniel the board did not include The Dispatch in local media publishing misinformation..

In other action, the board approved a motion to transfer the title of Granville Central High School to the county. The title transfer is part of a plan to allow the Granville County Board of Commissioners to finance construction of an addition to the school by borrowing approximately $12 million and securing the loan with a lien on the school. When the loan is paid off, title of the school will revert to the Board of Education.

The motion also included approval of a lease to give the school system use of the school while construction is under way.

Three major additions are planned: an auxiliary gym and instrumental music suite; a weight room and locker room; and classrooms and labs for career and technical education and vocational education.

The project also includes improvement of the site and renovation of several areas in the existing building.

Once begun, the construction phase of the project is expected to take almost a year. Renovation would take an additional 48 days.

County commissioners postponed taking action on the plan at their July 7 meeting and placed it on the agenda for their Aug. 4 meeting.

The school board also approved a lease of 1,195 MacBook laptops at a cost of about $1.3 million. The laptops will be used by students at South Granville, Granville Early College, the J.F. Webb and Granville Central high schools, as well as Granville Magnet School and G.C. Hawley Middle School.

The laptops will also refresh the teacher and support staff devices. Staffs of West Oxford, Joe Toler-Oak Hill and Wilton elementary schools will receive new laptops.

On July 7, the Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution supporting the lease arrangement and agreeing to appropriate sufficient funds in ensuing fiscal years, as required by the agreement.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.