by Sam Hieb
I found Guilford County Schools Superintendent Terry Grier’s comments in yesterday’s N&R front-pager on school construction very interesting:
Grier said he is concerned about the board’s tendency to build large middle and high schools to save money, instead of focusing on reducing discipline problems and creating a more intimate learning environment with smaller schools.
“We complain about what are we going to do to get a handle on gang activity,” Grier said. “The public’s losing faith.
“Yet we’ll go straight back out to bid and build a 1,600-student high school or we’ll have a 1,200-student middle school on the table.
“I keep thinking: ‘Don’t we need to stop and pause and think through this? Don’t we need to come to a consensus with county commissioners?'”
Whoa. That’s a pretty bold statement considering the fact that it’s Grier’s staff that keeps presenting the board with plans for $60 million-plus high schools, never mind the fact that the board finally asked some hard questions when an $88 million high came before them. And has Grier provided any true leadership on disciplne issues? It seems to me that, for the most, he remains silent as the board analyzes and over-analyzes suspension numbers, desperately searching for any sign of racial bias.
The issue of ‘green schools’ was also mentioned:
Although the small-school trend has not yet caught on, what has taken off in both the state and Guilford County are “green” schools. These schools include energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, lighting and water use. Northern middle and high schools and Reedy Fork Elementary are new schools incorporating daylighting, solar panels and graywater recycling.
Members of the school board and the public have not decided whether the energy savings justify adding 2 percent to 3 percent to a school’s initial costs.
“I love the trend,” said board member Garth Hébert. “But we don’t have the resources for that. We’re denying regular space to many kids to give green schools to a few. I can’t do it.”
Robert Powell, a Greensboro architect and member of the district’s construction advisory committee, sees energy-efficient features as worth it.
“For better or worse, it’s going to take five years for people to appreciate the value of Northern Middle School,” Powell said.
How so? Will the general public truly be a beneficiary of reduction in energy costs? Or will GCS’ spending habits consume those savings?