December 06, 2012
Guilford County Board of Education Chairman Alan Duncan will continue his reign over the school board unchallenged.
The school board on Tuesday, Dec. 4 reelected Duncan chairman and school board member Amos Quick vice-chairman. Duncan has served a succession of terms without anyone else being nominated as chairman.
Guilford County Superior Court Judge Patrice Hinnant swore in six school board members. Two were new members: Linda Welborn, representing District 5, and Rebecca Buffington, representing District 7, who both ran unopposed in November.
Three were school board members who ran unopposed: District 9 board member Amos Quick, District 3 board member Darlene Garrett and District 1 board member Carlvena Foster.
At-large school board member Sandra Alexander beat challenger Pat Tillman, on Nov. 6, getting 52 percent of the vote, to keep her seat. In the May 8 primary, Tillman beat Alexander 41 percent to 38 percent.
Buffington succeeds District 7 representative Kris Cooke, the longest-serving member of the school board, who did not run for reelection.
The at-large seat retained by Alexander was the only school board seat contested in the general election.
In the primary, Welborn, a well-known education activist in southeast Guilford County, beat former school board member Paul Daniels so thoroughly, getting 54 percent to Daniels' 34 percent, that Daniels decided to spend more time on his job and with his family. His name wasn't on the general election ballot.
After a break to congratulate the winning school board members and their families, the school board heard a torrent of complaints from supporters of Smith High School, which is building up to be the next facilities public relations disaster for the school board, supplanting High Point Central, whose supporters have shamed the school board at two road-show meetings, complaining about its crumbling condition and cramped quarters.
High Point Central is at least getting a $5.3 million gym overhaul out of the school board's $457 million construction program, although that project has long gone over schedule and over budget. Smith was on the project list only for a new air conditioner for its gym, in which students were playing in 100-degree temperatures.
According to the many speakers who complained to the school board, aside from the shiny new air conditioner, Smith's athletic facilities are so disgraceful that students, parents and administrators at Smith are humiliated to have to let competing teams use them.
Jeff German, the head of the Smith booster club and the parent of two Smith graduates, kicked off the shame parade.
German said Smith's athletic facilities are in a dire state and the gym and locker rooms have cracks, leakage, rusted-out faucets, black spots in the heating and air-conditioning ducts "that we hope is not mold." He said the football field has dangerous concrete bleachers with no handrails on the stairs and accident-waiting-to-happen loose railings at the base.
German said the indoor and outdoor concession stands at Smith are too small, and the sound system dates from 1963.
German particularly criticized the condition of the Smith locker rooms, a complaint heard from many speakers. He said, "It becomes a major source of embarrassment to our visitors when we have someone come to play against us."
Smith Assistant Principal Kim Ibach, who has worked in many Guilford County Schools
, said that, a year into working for the school system, she took the job at Smith. "I felt something was amiss with Smith in that our standards with our buildings did not seem to be on a par with other high schools in the district."
Loren Jones, a 2006 Smith graduate, said the training facilities at Smith were bad when she was a student and have only gotten worse since then. She said she was told that the school did not get funding because it had primarily black students and had low test scores. Test scores have increased at Smith under Principal Noah Rogers, the highest paid principal in Guilford County Schools
, but Jones said the athletic facilities are still sub-par. She said, "There have been some improvements, but there needs to be more."
Donna Matthews, a curriculum facilitator at Smith who has worked at the school for nine years, said she is constantly asked why she wants to work at Smith, a school with poor and mostly minority students and poor facilities.
"My usual responses is, 'Why not?'" Matthews said. "Don't the students at Smith deserve the best teachers and administrators we can find?"
Matthews said Smith faces obstacles, some of them "deliberately thrown in our path." She called the locker rooms a disgrace.
"Smith High School is my second home," she said. "Unfortunately, there are things about my second home that I'm not proud of and consider a disgrace ... this is not the image Smith High School wants to project to the public."
Sade Adeyemi, the captain of the Smith girls' varsity swim team, said that, after the Dec. 7, 2011 closing of the City of Greensboro owned pool at Grimsley High School, many teams use the pool at Smith for practice. She said the girls' locker room still has men's urinals from a time years ago when it was a boys' locker room. She said that conference and tournament meets that used to be held at Smith are now held elsewhere, at a cost to the school system and at a loss to Smith of the gate receipts.
Adeyemi said that it is in the best interest of the school system to fix the locker rooms "so the county can reap the benefits of tournaments, rather than paying for them."
The complaints about Smith weren't limited to the school's athletic facilities.
Magen Eller, a member of the Smith PTA whose son is a Smith student, said it is a challenge merely to visit the high school, although she is proud of the school's academic improvements. She called the condition of the school "deplorable" – a word frequently heard at the meetings on High Point Central, and a sure harbinger of trouble for the school board. She asked the school board to hold itself to the same standards to which it holds its students.
Eller said, "I've been at meetings at Smith where I had to pick my purse up, because there were bugs moving around on the floor."
Smith teacher Doug Kilgore said there is an urgent need to upgrade the facilities at Smith, which he said are in such poor condition that it is difficult to imagine any student wanting to use them. He said he gets constant complaints from student and parents. He said the lockers in Smith locker rooms are in such bad shape they can't be secured, and personal belongings are regularly stolen from athletes during practice.
Louise Milton, a PTA member and former PTA president at Smith, said she has had four children graduate from the school, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2013 in disgraceful condition.
Milton said the locker rooms have mold, mildew, sharp exposed metal parts, insufficient ventilation and "pest infestation."
"Our school needs to be a safe place for our students," Milton said. "Our locker rooms are not safe."...continued on page 2