Board tours schools

Published 9:17 pm Monday, January 14, 2013

SCHOOL TOUR: From left, executive director of auxiliary services Patrick Abele, superintendent Don Phipps and board members Carolyn Walker, Mac Hodges and Terry Williams meet with P.S. Jones Middle School principal Tracey Nixon (third from right) Monday during a capital outlay site visit.

Beaufort County Schools Board of Education wrapped up two days of school tours Monday afternoon.
The tours were pegged “capital outlay site visits,” where each school principal could show where funding was needed. Principals and maintenance staff were on hand to field questions from board members.
P.S. Jones Middle School Principal Tracey Nixon was pleased that this year’s tours happened during school hours where the board could see a true representation of what was going on.
“I think that it’s a wonderful thing that they’re getting out in the community, going into the schools,” she added.
She put the school’s requests to a vote by the staff. At the top of the list, was to add a concession stand with public restrooms at the athletic fields. Walker said teachers were concerned with sending students to the restrooms unattended and for parents, especially those in wheelchairs, attending the games who had to trek to the other side of the campus to use a restroom.
Phipps said the visits were a valuable resource.
“They say a picture is worth a thousand words,” said Superintendent Don Phipps. “Standing out there and being able to make the trip is worth even more than that.”
The visits were part of an ongoing process to compile budgets for the next fiscal year. Board members will discuss funding requests from each school and compile a list of the most immediate needs.
The board will present a budget request for county commissioners in the coming months. Phipps said the budget was a work in progress that is due in May.
“We try to be really realistic with what we put down,” he said. “We’re trying to be very transparent about how we use the money that we get. We’re accountable to the public and want to do a good job at it.”
In the meantime, he said commissioners were welcome to take a similar tour. Commissioner Hood Richardson recently spent a day of it.
Phipps said he considers the school board and the county commissioners as one united group trying to determine what the needs are for the county schools. With that purpose in mind, the board will compile a list of immediate needs as well as those that will be needed in the coming years. Phipps said it would help the county plan for future budgets and ensure there were no surprises in future budget discussions.
“To go year to year is very short sided. We’ve got to have a plan for the next 10 years to ensure that the system’s needs are met,” Phipps said.
Board members visit the schools at least once a year. The outlay site visits Friday and Monday were a first for the board’s newest member, Carolyn Walker, but not her first campus tours. She said she had been in all but John Small’s new building.
Walker said the tour was very informative.
“It allowed me to see some of the capital needs were absolutely fundamental,” she said. “We’ve got to find a way to fund some of this.”
Board member Terry Williams said the tours were very helpful.
“I wish we could’ve had everybody in the county come over and see just what our needs our,” he said. “As (Board Chairman Mac) Hodges said, we haven’t seen any fluff. I thin we’ve got some tough decisions ahead of us.”