More Than Snow

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Davie Schools Superintendent Dr. Darrin Hartness had a busy week at the end of January.

There were snow days to contend with, three trips to Raleigh, the normal duties of a superintendent, and just before he was going to wrap up the week and month Jan. 31, he received five questions from Cecil Wood, interim county manager, related to a new high school.

He shared those questions and his answers with the school board members at their meeting last week, telling them some of the questions have been asked and answered and wondering if at least one involved information intended to mislead the public.

One of the questions concerned air quality at Vulcan Quarry, saying air there contains “crystalline silica” and asked if there were any studies on air quality “to verify the danger of breathing crystalline silica doesn’t exist.”

Hartness said, “I’m not sure who submitted this question. Commissioner (Carl) Humphrey has asked me this before, and I have responded to him before. Davie County Schools contacted the NC Department of Environmental and Natural Resources and the EPA to inquire about air quality and water quality.

“In the past five years, Vulcan Materials has been monitored and found in compliance for air and water quality, has always maintained all necessary permits, has had no reports of non-compliance, no complaints, no findings as a result of any monitoring, and has not been assessed any fines for non-compliance in any area. I previously provided copies of the most recent compliance and monitoring reports.”

Vulcan is located in the center of two schools, North Davie Middle and Pinebrook Elementary, and close to Little League fields, tennis courts, tracks, football and soccer fields, and a playground. Local 4-H groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and junior master gardener groups use the nature trail and Cedar Creek habitat areas, on the quarry property, for activities.

“What I find ironic,” Hartness said, “is that I’ve never been questioned by the board of commissioners or anyone else about concerns for the students who have attended school at North Davie since 1982 or the students at Pinebrook Elementary since 1969, or the children who are involved in outdoor recreation activities just behind North Davie or behind Pinebrook.

“North Davie is less than one-half mile, and Pinebrook is 4,000 feet from the center of the quarry. We have two educational facilities already in close proximity to the quarry, and it’s ironic there have never been questions or concerns about children in those schools.”

Air quality was part of an environmental assessment from October 2009 that addressed potential environmental hazards.

The night before, and after the questions were sent to Hartness, Rachel Helm told county commissioners that a school shouldn’t be built across from the quarry because of the presence of silica.

Another question posed to Hartness from Wood asked about wetlands and how those were addressed in that assessment. Hartness said wetlands are not environmental hazards so were not addressed in the study, but the 2010 site plans did not disturb or utilize the quarter acre of wetlands on the property. That area would be left untouched and would be protected.

Hartness referred to a recent letter to the editor in the Enterprise Record by B. Frank Everhart who said there were 26 clerical staff members in the central office who receive local funding. The question asked why there were so many.

“I assume by the way this question is presented that the author of the question believes the misinformation in the (letter). The letter is not accurate,” Hartness said. “Did the citizen who submitted this editorial take a state report he did not know how to read and interpret and draw his own inaccurate conclusion based on his personal and political views? Was the editorial intended to misinform the public? I question those things.

“But here’s the answer. Well there’s one number right here, and it’s not 26. It’s six. There are six employees in the Cherry Street office paid with local funds, not 26. There aren’t even 26 total employees working in the administrative office. I hope the public and the commissioners will see this (letter) is false, and I’m glad we had an opportunity to correct this misinformation.”

In his reply to Wood, Hartness clarified in 2012-13, there were a total of 50 secretaries/clerical employees working in Davie schools. Of those 50, 23 were paid with state funds, one with federal, and 26 with local funds, and of those 26, 18 were assigned to individual schools, two were in the student information department at Central Davie, and six were assigned to Cherry Street. Local funds paid 100 percent of the salary of 24 of those 26 positions.

Question 3 to Hartness said, “A redistricting plan is to be included with the construction of the new high school. Can a copy of the plan be provided and will the plan reveal how redistricting will reduce capital needs at all schools?”

Redistricting has already taken place at the elementary and middle schools, and Hartness said a redistricting plan will not be included with a new high school.

“The plan is for one new high school for all of Davie County,” he said. “With one high school to serve the entire county, there is only one attendance zone.”

The last question asked about discrepancies in cost related to renovating the existing high school, and Hartness said he had no breakdown in costs because once Little Diversified Architectural determined renovating the existing high school was the least feasible and least cost effective avenue, that option was not further explored and additional cost information was not supplied.

Wendy Horne told Hartness she appreciated him taking the time to answer the questions and apologized for him having to so, especially considering the week he had when he received the email from Wood.