The Cumberland County superintendent challenges an associate principal’s characterization of the county’s response to a school building resolution.
The county school board on Tuesday passed a resolution asking the county for more than $470 million to replace and renovate schools over the next five years. The vote for approval was 6-3.
Board members Charles McKellar and Judy Musgrave said they wanted to change the wording of the resolution that county commissioners had the option of funding construction costs, including by issuing bonds or electing to provide funds on a “pay as you go” basis. . School board vice president Deanna Jones also voted against the resolution.
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During discussion of the resolution, Joe Desormeaux, Associate Superintendent of Auxiliary Services, said county staff members had reviewed the resolution and agreed with it.
On Thursday, the county released a statement from County Executive Amy Cannon responding to Desormeaux. The statement was emailed to County Commissioners in response to a question from Commissioner Jimmy Keefe seeking clarification on Desormeaux’s comment.
Cannon said county staff members have contacted Desormeaux in recent months about the school system’s capital plan.
During those discussions, Desormeaux provided a sample resolution the school board could use as a method of communicating a request to commissioners, Cannon said. On Feb. 16, County Finance Director Vicki Evans emailed Desormeaux stating that “the format of the sample resolution you provided will meet the county’s needs,” according to Cannon.
Cannon said she spoke with Desormeaux about her comment.
“I reminded him that we had agreed that a resolution in this format would be the best method of communicating a formal request,” she said. “Vicki nor I believed that Joe was seeking our consent or our approval of the language in the sample resolution.”
Lindsay Whitley, spokesperson for Cumberland County Schools, released a statement on the county’s response.
“We want to clarify that county staff did not approve of the capital improvement plan resolution or the specific wording and language used in the resolution, but they agreed to use the resolution format in the process” , did he declare.
At the school board meeting, Desormeaux said the wording for the entire resolution was coordinated and developed with county staff members, who found the resolution acceptable as a means of presenting the needs of the school system to the county.
“So county staff are aware of the wording and they have accepted it,” he said.
Later, Desormeaux was asked about the timing of the resolution. He said he was introduced to the school board because he was ready.
“We just got a collaboration with the county saying they agreed with the wording of the resolution,” he said. “They were okay with this approach to asking for dollars.”
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McKellar said at the school board meeting that the wording should be more respectful and less dictatorial.
Superintendent Marvin Connelly Jr. and school board attorney Nick Sojka said the paragraph in question listed ways the county could obtain funding under state law.
Desormeaux said those options were included in the resolution to prevent the appearance from telling the commissioners what to do.
Local News Editor Steve DeVane can be reached at email@example.com or 910-486-3572.