FAISON — During a meeting for the Hobbton Advisory Board, Rep. Larry Bell emphasized the importance of community members having a voice when it comes to making improvements in their section of the Sampson County School District.
“You’re not little people,” Bell said to the board. “You have power …”
Bell addressed several concerns from advisory members and Hobbton area principals during the gathering at Hargrove Elementary School. Some of the concerns included aging infrastructure, which involved questions about how to get money for it. Bell stressed that everything begins with local municipalities.
“I suggest that they contact their local county commissioners because everything starts at the lowest level,” Bell said following the meeting. “The state, for the most part does not dictate what happens with education on this level when it comes to education.”
Bell said the state’s responsibility is to make sure students receive a quality education on a fair and equal basis. But construction, usually is up to local community members and leaders.
“Buildings and grounds are left up to the county commissioners,” Bell said. “The state pays for the personnel and salaries.”
Currently, Hobbton officials are pushing for a track at its high school. During a previous Sampson County Board of Education meeting, it was stated that it would cost about $300,000. If constructed, students in the track program can practice at their own stadium. Dr. Eric Bracy, superintendent of Sampson County Schools, brought up the need for a new Hobbton High School, but questioned if it would be better to wait for the construction of the track.
Community member Eugene Pearsall was vocal about the importance of leadership of community members and infrastructure needs to improve working conditions for teachers. As a reference to the aging school, Pearsall brought up how some of the adults present in the room attended the same Hargrove Elementary when they were children.
“It’s time for change in this community and district,” Pearsall said about Hobbton. “We need new schools, some kind of way. People need to get behind us and we have to get everyone involved.”
As a tax payer, Pearsall said he pays about $250,000 in taxes, which does not include county amounts.
“Really, it’s just not the county,” he said. “We can go further. We need to go to the state and appeal somewhere for some funds.”
One source discussed was lottery funds which benefits Sampson County and Clinton City Schools. According to the lottery organization, the county has received more $28 million, since it began in 2006. Last year, $3.69 million was added to the total.
“They are passed down every year and the county commissioners can decide how they are going to use it,” Bell said.
Another issue mentioned by Bell was a voucher system, which allows students to attend private schools through tax dollars. He said it’s hard to plan and advocate for building projects, if the number of students fluctuates from students receiving vouchers. Sandy Meyer, chair of the Hobbton District Advisory Board, believes it’s important for public school districts to offer the same opportunities as private schools.
Like some of the others in attendance, Cece Hudson, Hobbton High School PTO president, said it’s important for people to get involved by attending local meetings, like those held by county commissioners, since they are tax payers.
“There’s strength in numbers,” Hudson said about parents showing up to request improvements. “You’re not there in a hostel way. You’re just there to make an appeal to say that we want this for our children.”
Bell, a former superintendent for Sampson County Schools, has been a member of the state’s legislature for 15 year.
“I’ve always been an advocate for education,” Bell said. “I think we have some of the best schools in the world. I’ll think that, we’ll keep it that way as long as we have parents who are interested and have parents that will meet like these parents are meeting, to air out their grievances and hold their officials accountable.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.