In a tight 3-2 vote, Stokes County Commissioners chose to fund 50 percent of six elementary art positions on Monday afternoon ensuring the county would once again, after 16 years, offer art at the elementary level.
“My ultimate goal is to help work towards having a better Stokes County and to leave a better county for our kids and grandkids,” said Chairman Jimmy Walker. “We need to hopefully continue to improve things for that to happen. If we have better schools that helps us to have a better county.”
Walker proposed a 50/50 joint effort between commissioners and the school board.
“I think that level of cooperation between the boards would send a good message to our citizens. Here’s a need, I really believe it’s a need, and I’d like to see a way of funding it. I think if somehow you could find funds on your end, I would support finding some funds from our end,” he said.
Commissioner Ernest Lankford shared he was part of the school board when the difficult decision was made to cut art from the elementary schools 16 years ago.
“I’m not saying these positions aren’t needed,” he said. “I’m just saying that the school board needs to take this allotted money that the commissioners have set aside for the school system and make decisions on what they want and prioritize. It’s not for the commissioners to make that decision. The commissioners provide the finances and the school board makes the decision how they spend it.”
Commissioner James Booth joined Lankford in voting “no” to fund the six art positions, citing the funding was not 100 percent guaranteed in the future.
Booth asked Dr. Rice, “Say they don’t fund it and you have six employees at the end of the year. You’re going to get rid of six teachers?”
Rice responded, “We’ll follow our reduction enforce policy and deal with it at that point.”
“Then it’s going to be another issue,” Booth replied.
Commissioner Ronnie Mendenhall, who served as the county’s former superintendent, addressed Rice for nearly 25 minutes.
“We know that you can come up with some extra money,” he said. “It’s very important to me to know that you all are putting some skin in the game. So, therefore, I just want to echo Commissioner Walker and I would like to see the board of education, as you communicated, be willing to go at least 50/50, for us to move forward with this.”
Mendenhall added, he believed the funding in the form of a reimbursement model, was not a 100 percent guarantee and he wouldn’t be comfortable committing more than half to the board of education.
On Tuesday, the school board voted unanimously to fund half of the art positions from their fund balance and provide six elementary art positions beginning this fall.
“We greatly appreciate it,” Rice said. “We’ll get those positions posted and I will tell you from yesterday’s meeting time, there was some buzz and we’ve already had people express interest overnight. So, hopefully this will not be a long drawn out process.”
Rice added, “This is very exciting for the students of Stoke County.”
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.