Nash Rocky Mount Schools Split Controversy: Letter to Editor by Pastor James D. Gilliard


The Watch Dog: agree totally with this letter. Fabuloustastic!

I am writing to express an independent, informational, and intellectual view of the
current threat to the Nash Rocky Mount Public School system. As a politically
unaffiliated, bi-racial pastor to over 3,000 people (including 1,100 K-12 children
active in Nash Rocky Mount Public Schools), I am quite vested in this issue. As is the
case with most political decisions, it is easy for the emotion of any subject to veer us
away from sound decisions that are in the best interest of all involved.

Taxes and The Common Good
Everyday as Americans and North Carolinians, our property, sales and utility taxes
are used to fund programs, services, institutions, and infrastructure that we either
benefit from directly or indirectly. Nash County residents may not directly benefit
from the funding formula that supplements the education of children living in
Edgecombe County, but do benefit indirectly as there is a link between education
and job creation for a region.
• I have yet to make a call to 911 or to use ambulance services since I have
lived here, as I am certain many of you reading this also have not, yet millions
of tax dollars are earmarked for these vital emergency services.
• Most of my books are electronic, so I never go to the public library, yet taxes
are used for this critical public institution.
• There are many residents of Nash County who have never used the highways
or buildings their taxes help build.
• There are retirees who have never had a child in the school system, yet a
portion of their taxes and utilities are used to supplement the funding of our
school system.

I doubt the Nash County Commissioners who are aggressively asking for a “fairness
of funding” want to establish a precedent of an “al-a-carte” taxation system where
we all get to direct our taxes only to the services from which we directly benefit and
away from those which we indirectly benefit.
It seems that a reminder of our origin as a nation is appropriate. The manifesto on
American Capitalism is Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations”, where he explained
that human involvement in economics is to “advance the interests of the society.” To
follow this new ideology being espoused by the Nash County Commissioners would
mean the GI Bill that enabled 10 million Americans to receive housing and education
benefits would have never been funded. Anything that is good and necessary for a
civilized society to thrive, like public education, is good for us all.

Collateral Damage
The removal of 1,800 children from the Nash Rocky Mount Public School system has
a potential consequence for which none of us, particularly the Nash County
Commissioners, are prepared. Eighteen hundred children equates to 12.5% of the
current NRMPS system. Any businessperson will tell you that reducing any
institutional capacity by 12.5% results in a ripple effect and like throwing a pebble
in the water you never know how many ripples will be created. Here are some
potential ripples:
Reduction of Title I, II, and III Federal Funding. It has been wrongly
communicated by the Nash County Commissioners that “the funding will
follow the students.” This is only partially true. The funding is both volume
and percent weighted. Funding will follow, but it will be much smaller
funding. There will also be a delay in this smaller funding as it is awarded in
blocks of 24 – 30 months, so services will need to be offered to children
without any funding being immediately available. This funding effects direct
services of children as well as professional development of teachers. The
anticipated loss to the remaining NRMPS system could be as high as $10
million annually. This is a classic example of voting against one’s own
interests as all the remaining children will live in Nash County and this will
create a net loss to the very system they claim to represent.
Loss of Existing Jobs. Reducing the capacity of NRMPS will require reorganization
and the inevitable loss of jobs to teachers and support staff. In
laymen’s terms, every 10 students create a job. The simple math of the
impending legislation by Representative Jeff Collins (at the request of the
Nash County Commissioners) could easily result in the loss of 180 jobs. It
seems our elected officials could better use their time creating jobs and not
removing jobs. The argument that those teachers would simply move to the
Edgecombe County School System is implausible as there are still over 50
licensed teacher vacancies within that system and for many teachers living in
Spring Hope, Middlesex, and Bailey, it would be just as close to drive to a
school in Wake County as it would some schools within Edgecombe County.
Loss of Support to Teachers and Staff. Aside from being a pastor I do not
know of a more difficult profession than teaching. We as a community should
be actively advocating for our teachers in the classroom and the principals
and staff that support this vital public institution. Instead, our
Commissioners are deliberately creating an environment that is filled with
contention and division rather than support and encouragement. Everyone
cares about job security and high morale and our teachers deserve no less.
Loss of New Jobs. Education along with Transportation, Health, Leisure,
Quality of Life, Taxes, and Housing remain major recruitment tools for new
companies and emerging economies. Dismantling our school system will
greatly harm our efforts in attracting new companies and in establishing the
“twin counties” as a “bedroom” community for those working in Raleigh,
Durham, and Chapel Hill. This inability to bring new companies and firms to
our community will hinder our ability to expand our tax base and to produce
an even greater economic impact to our region.
Re-classification of Athletic Programs. Rocky Mount Senior High alone
will likely lose 400-450 students. This loss to the ADM (Average Daily
Membership) will result in less competitive athletics and a loss of college
scholarships for countless young people for whom sports remain a viable
opportunity for a secure future due to a potential change in division status.
School Closing. There has been no study conducted by the Nash County
Commissioners ensuring there would be no school closings as elected
officials are not generally trained in the logistics and technicalities in the
actual running of a school system. Conventional wisdom at least forces us to
consider that by reducing the NRMPS by 1,800 students, it may not be
financially feasible to continue operations at the same level. This is
particularly the case since the NRMPS system is experiencing a five-year
decline in enrollment with a proven history that reduced capacity results in
school closings. An educated guess based upon school size and location
would deduce that Northern Nash High School could possibly close due to
this legislation.
The Children. It is said that often we leave the best for last. Who is
advocating for our children? Yes, as North Carolinians, ALL the children are
OUR children. We are a community. We are a region. When I moved here
from Philadelphia 11 years ago, I was introduced to the “twin counties.”
What a way to treat your twin! 1,800 children moving out of NRMPS is more
children than Camden, Gates, Clay, Swain, and Washington County Schools
have enrollment. This is equivalent to an entirely new and different school
system being created with no plan, no structure, and no infrastructure. It is
setting ALL of OUR kids up to fail as the remaining NRMPS kids will be faced
with the sobering reality that it was their parents who stripped down the
ability of the NRMPS system to meet the categorical needs of the children in
programs like IB, AP, AIG and ESL. The education of our children should be a
collective concern. We must endeavor to provide every child in our region
and our state with every opportunity to advance and to actively contribute
back to society.

I invite all of us to use our heart and our brain as we make decisions. My heart is for
ALL of our children and my brain tells me the loss of 180 jobs, the net loss of
millions of dollars to our school system, the potential closing of a school, and the
loss of college athletic scholarships is hardly worth the savings we as Nash County
residents will realize. It is my hope an agreement will be reached but despite the
outcome, we should all agree that no group of people should be allowed to play
politics with our children.

James D. Gailliard
Nash County Resident
Pastor, Word Tabernacle Church

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