Belcher gives up chair

Published 1:09 am Friday, July 29, 2011

Robert Belcher is resigning from his post as chairman of the Beaufort County Board of Education, he told the Daily News Thursday afternoon.


Belcher, a former principal, announced his decision in a letter given to school board members at the board’s July 19 meeting and indicated his last meeting as chairman will be the board’s next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 16.

Belcher said his decision to give up his leadership post came, in part, because of the recent decision by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners to dramatically cut the public school’s construction budget and the lack of support by the school board for new legal action against the county.

“All of us are pretty saddened by it,” said board member Cindy Winstead, when contacted by the Daily News. “It’s going to be hard to replace him.”

Board members Mike Isbell, Terry Williams and E.C. Peed had no comment. Other board members were not available for comment.

During recent board meetings, Belcher had expressed growing concern over school-funding issues, particularly the recent decision by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners to cut some $786,000 from local appropriations to Beaufort County Schools.

Of particular concern to Belcher and other school leaders was the $476,860 in cuts to BCS’s construction budget and a list of school construction projects the commissioners included in their spending plan.

In late June, the school board approved a pared-down construction budget to reflect the funding cuts, but there were differences between the school board’s construction budget and the one approved by the commissioners.

Most recently, Belcher declined to serve on a committee of school-board members that was to meet with commissioners to try to iron out differences between the two budgets.

Earlier this month, the school board met behind closed doors for about two hours with Raleigh lawyer Rod Malone, a specialist in education law who has represented the board previously. Belcher said that much of the discussion involved questions over school funding and whether the school board should again bring a lawsuit against county leaders over the issue.

“I told the school board that we had to fight the capital outlay budget,” Belcher said Thursday.

But with the school board divided over whether to move forward with a lawsuit against the county, the issue was dropped and, Belcher said, he decided he could not represent the schools in negotiations with the county “without that bullet in my gun.”