“I shouldn’t weigh in on either side,” James says about school consolidation

Published 5:51 pm Thursday, August 15, 2019

Stanly County Superintendent Dr. Jeff James recently said his job as superintendent is to run “whatever I’m handed” from the school board. He can make suggestions to the board, but ultimately it makes the decisions.

“I shouldn’t weigh in on either side,” he said in an interview with The Stanly News & Press.

His comments are in contrast to a letter to the editor published online this week from Oakboro Councilman Bud Smith, a former West Stanly High School principal.

Dr. Jeff James

Smith urged James to speak out regarding the issue of consolidation.

“We presently have a superintendent that was previously a key player in Montgomery County as they researched, studied and implemented school consolidation in our neighboring county,” he wrote. “Instead of waiting for someone (Who?) to come forward and present a plan, allow our superintendent who is making a six-figure-plus salary to do his job.”

Smith elaborated Thursday, saying instead of having its own agenda, the school board should let James lead.

“You don’t need but one captain of the ship and in my eyes it should always be the superintendent,” he said.

Smith said he hasn’t yet heard anything from James about his views regarding consolidation and “that’s really pertinent to the whole conversation.”

Though James helped write the grant that consolidated the two high schools in Montgomery County while he was employed with Montgomery County Schools, he did so after the school board approved the decision to go forward with consolidation.

“There is no perfect world,” he said, when it comes to either consolidating or maintaining community schools.

His main job as superintendent, he said, is to focus on bringing as many high-quality programs as possible to the students in the county.

As long as SCS is focused on the students and offering them as many high-quality programs and courses as possible, “the whole argument about consolidation just becomes irrelevant,” James said. “It doesn’t matter.”

But it still matters to many in the community, including Albemarle Councilman Chris Bramlett, who, in response to School Board member Anthony Graves’ call for people to present consolidation plans, drafted a letter to the editor in favor of what he terms school “restructuring,” saying he would like to see two high schools.

“There is no way our four small high schools can provide academic programs comparable to what can be had in larger high schools,” he wrote.

He would like to have two existing schools — West Stanly, in its present location, and another school he referred to as East Stanly, in the building presently housing Albemarle High.

Saying Thursday he “couldn’t wait any longer,” and “somebody had to lay out a plan,” Bramlett wrote a letter to the editor because he was “very concerned about the education that our children may not be getting and the affect that has on our economic development…”

Both officials wrote the letters after Graves, during last week’s school board meeting, said he hoped people in the next few months would present consolidation plans to the board.

During the Aug. 6 meeting, School Board Chairman Melvin Poole said he had a problem with officials from other local boards making attacks on the school board. This comes after local officials in a recent newspaper article commented on school consolidation.

He said he would have a problem with school board members making attacks on other people’s turf and “likewise have a problem with them making an [attack] on our turf.”

Contact Chris Miller at 704-982-2122.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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