Union County Commissioners meet with Board of Education - myfoxcarolinas.com

Union County Commissioners meet with Board of Education

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Union County Commissioners and the Union County Board of Education met Wednesday evening for the first time since last April.

The purpose of the specially-called joint meeting was regarding the process for budget development.

"We saw the first step in reestablishing a healthy relationship between the Board of Education and County Commissioners," B.O.E. Chairman Richard Yearcheck said.

Last year, a jury verdict awarded $91 million to the schools from the county from a lawsuit. That verdict is still under appeal.

The two sides have been at odds throughout 2014 with a county-wide redistricting battle at the forefront. Commissioners offered up $3 million to be used for mobile classrooms to ease overcrowding issues and keep students in their current schools. The Board of Education rejected that offer and went through with the redistricting plan.

Wednesday's agenda called for budget process, calendar and and future joint meetings. 

It was more like a pre-game huddle. Not much was set in stone as far as a long-term plan, but both sides agreed to meet during the first two weeks of April.

County Commissioner Chairman Frank Aikmus had mixed feelings prior to the meeting.

"I was not looking forward to this meeting because of the past relationship we had," Aikmus said. "I came into this with an open mind thinking we've got to do this because it's the only way we're going to move forward. And I'm really proud to say that both boards exceeded my expectations."

A group of 15 plaintiffs are currently suing the Board of Education over the process on how redistricting was carried out. Some of those plaintiffs were in attendance and irked at the way the B.O.E. asked commissioners for trust and transparency as they proceed to deal with finances -- two things that plaintiffs felt they weren't given during the redistricting process. In fact, the word "transparency" is used throughout their lawsuit.

Jan Barly is not one of those plaintiffs, but she was in attendance, and did share similar feelings.

"I thought it was very interesting that the Board of Education is now expecting trust and transparency," Barly said.

Commissioners did say that trust was hard to accept when the Board of Education had their attorney, Richard Schwartz, present on stage with the group -- but that was about as close as the two sides came to any sort of tension.

"I think there's a lot of damage control on both sides that has to be done now and they're trying to put their best-face forward," Barly added.

The word transparency keeps getting thrown around in Union County, but tonight did show that both the Board of Education and County Commissioners are trying to back up their talk. The meeting was open to the public, streamed online and both agreed that future meetings would continue to be held during the evening to allow those who work day jobs, the opportunity to be a part of the process.

An added note -- former Board of Education member John Crowder, who passed away earlier this month from a stroke, respectfully had a nametag placed at his would-have-been seat.

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