Lincoln school board meeting heats up over Kings Mountain

March 12, 2004|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - Amidst heavy debate between board members, and an invitation to step outside by an angry audience member, the Lincoln County School Board struggled Thursday night to pass yet another alternative facilities plan.

The board rescinded last month's vote to turn Kings Mountain Elementary into a middle school.

Thursday's 3-2 vote for a new plan went against the recommendations of the state and a planning committee, but sided with the tense audience.

The proposed plan would expand the current middle school to alleviate overcrowding at elementaries throughout the county. Similar plans in the past had been discussed and rejected by the planning committee.

Vice Chairman Tom Blankenship and board members David Hacker and Mike Taylor voted in favor of the motion, read by Blankenship and submitted by Hacker. Chairman Jim Kelley and Randy McGuffey opposed the plan. A collective sigh of relief was heard in the audience following the vote.


The motion did not pass without heavy debate between McGuffey and Hacker, whose arguments on the benefits of each plan was interrupted by comments from the audience.

At one point, Hacker stood with eyes closed and asked a woman in the crowded room, "Will you shut your gosh-darn mouth?"

Jeff Jenkins quickly stood and told Hacker that he couldn't speak like that to a lady, "and especially not my mother." Jenkins then invited Hacker to step outside and settle it as the board attorney and other members urged the men to settle down. Hacker and Jenkins shook hands after the meeting without incident.

Hacker, McGuffey have lengthy exchange

Hacker also had a lengthy exchange with McGuffey, who staunchly supported the state's recommendation. McGuffey said he felt Hacker's plan would hurt the community more than help. "So if I understand what your saying, the completion of the expanded middle school will close Kings Mountain with a padlock?" asked McGuffey. "...The state already said they didn't want us to add on to the middle school. Architects have already said it will be very, very expensive to build on to the middle school."

Under the new plan, Kings Mountain elementary would remain open until the completion of an addition, at which time it might be closed and used for storage or meeting space. The $400,000 heating and air system recently installed would be moved to the new location.

Hacker said it was an alternative that the community and parents of the school supported.

"Kings Mountain hasn't shown a lot of interest in having a middle school down there. In all the testimonials, it was shown that there was a need for two elementaries, not three."

A group of parents and employees of the elementary, asking after the meeting to remain anonymous, agreed with Hacker's plan. They say it would keep the school open for at least another year, giving the board time to formulate another option. "There's other options out there to look at that they haven't even looked at," said one mother of a third-grader.

"I think all the small schools need to stay open," said an employee. She said the smaller classes would provide a better learning environment for the students. "The committee that looked at this worked very long and very hard, whether you liked their recommendations or not. Seems to me those 17 people had a good idea of what was best," said McGuffey. "That plan didn't close any schools ... there was no desire by (anyone) to close a school."

The expansion plan is now up for approval by the planning committee. If approved, there would be two public hearings before a final reading. If not, then the board is "back to the beginning," said Kelley.

"I think it's time for the board to stand up and say this is right. By and large, it helps overcrowding in Stanford and doesn't close a school. It helps overcrowding in Hustonville, it helps overcrowding in the middle school," said McGuffey.

"I think the 17 members of the committee is greater than the five up here. I think they did a great job," explained Hacker. "We just kept gathering information."

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