Editor's note: This is second of two stories from the public hearing to close Beverly Hills Elementary School.
Several people spoke at the public hearing on the proposed closure of Beverly Hills Elementary School before the Cabarrus County Board of Education earlier this month. Here are some of the comments:
“As we continue the conversation started eight months ago I ask that you all go back and revisit the various hearings and correspondence regarding the closure of Beverly Hills. To paraphrase some of you from over the years one of the most important things is the history and the community. It means a lot to the neighborhood and community. Removing that school would be like ripping the heart out of the community.
Now imagine you had said those things about Beverly Hills.
In 2014 it seems you were much more willing to think outside the box, with dozens of modular units across the county, from Cox Mill to Winecoff and exploding growth straining capacity, we built a second school in Odell community for grades 3-5, leaving K-2 students in the older building nearly 2 miles away. While this configuration is not unheard of, it is unusual as was noted by former chairman Blake Kiger in a 2014 Tribune article.
Tonight I’d like to propose more out-of the-box thinking. Some ideas might include making Royal Oaks a K-8 school. This would allow you to discern if there is enough County-wide interest to put fine arts in a high school over the next three to four years creating a completed pipeline for the children currently excelling in the program. Rebuild Beverly Hills on site with multiple stories, using a smaller footprint yet yielding a higher capacity. Renovate the three neighborhood schools and use two for grades K-2 and the other for 3-5. This would allow each perspective neighborhood to maintain its historic community charm, preserve seats for the phasing in of the state-mandated class size restrictions and promote further collaboration within the communities.
Given the county manager’s proposed two cent tax increase, it seems fiscally responsible to consider the possible negative impact on funding when removing amenities such as walkable schools.
In the same Tribune article reference earlier former board member Lynne Shue said when you are looking at several hundred homes and parents, to have four or five complaints or concerns is not too bad. Conversely, when you are looking at several hundred homes and parents, to have thousands of complaints and concerns is, at minimum, a reason to pause.
We have heard from some of you that you are against the closing of Beverly Hills. I’m urging you to stand up. Stand up for our community. Stand up for our school. Stand up for the tax payers who faithfully paid for decades to fund new schools across the county. Honor the communities who ask to be respected and invested in as they’ve invested in others over the years.
I am again asking you to save our school.”
Brenda Rackoff (speaking on behalf of Beverly Hills PTO)
“Decrepit and a car running 100,000 mile tires, you all aren't the only ones who have a problem with our school. Our PTO raised $23,370 this year. We spent $18,400 supporting our teachers, students and staff and the year isn’t over yet.
Beverly Hills STEM participated in the city nature challenge and submitted 567 scientific observations. Our students helped Cabarrus County place 16th in the world. Beverly Hills participated in the North Carolina Science Olympiad. Our students placed first, second or third in six individual events. Our STEM teachers have been implementing the project they designed and materials they purchased after being awarded a $45,000 Jimmie Johnson grant. We had students advance to the regional and state science fair. Beverly Hills STEM Elementary was the proud winner of the Air Hugo Dunk Show, a program of the Charlotte Hornets, which is awarded to one school in the Charlotte region. Beverly Hills was the proud winner for logging the most hours reading.
Our school and playground does have ADA access. It is not easy but we make it happen. Are we being punished for doing more with less? It has been very interesting to me, as I read about school closures. I only find examples in communities that no one cares about. Closures in communities with dwindling populations and poor achievement, that is not Beverly Hills.
We are filled to capacity. Our community is growing. We have a perfectly diverse student body. People are moving into the neighborhood, not out. The City of Concord is investing in a community center in our neighborhood. The greenway is extending into our backyard. Everything I read about communities with school closure is the opposite of Beverly Hills.
Our board of education has to hold this administration to a high burden of proof. Have they proven to you beyond all reasonable doubt that there is an educational benefit to moving our children out of their neighborhood? Your answer to that question in the past has been no.
You built Bethel Elementary in the community. Mount Pleasant schools were rebuilt in the community, keeping their children at home. Harrisburg, Royal Oaks, Odell.. again keeping their children in the community. We request the same thing. Our tax dollars have supported growth all over the county. We happily supported it. We continued to pay for other schools but our asked to give up our own.
One school every 70 years, that is all we ask.”
“My wife and I live at Oak Leaf condos and I’m 75 years old. I share that with you because I want you to know that in 1955 my mother, father, sister and I lived on Wilmar. And my friends that we played with were getting ready to go to a new school. That new school was Beverly Hills and we were going to be in the 6th grade. We were going to be top dogs down at that new school.
Our teacher was Mr. Fries. Our principal was Mr. Fries. And we operated the school store and we also worked as the receptionist for our principal.
My parents supported that school, and I want to move forward a little bit later in life and let you know my wife and I and two children lived on Arbor Street? My son Jay and my daughter Sissy attended Beverly Hills Elementary School. There were five years difference in their age so my wife and I had the privilege of supporting that school for 11 years.
I share that with you to let you know the depth of appreciation and concern that I have for this school, just as all of these people that sit behind me have been up here and brought all kind of factual information to you. I have no PowerPoint display to give you or mathematical reasons why that school shouldn’t be taken away.
But I can tell you from my heart and the heart of the people that are standing back here and from the conscience of all of these people that you shouldn’t do that. Beverly Hills is part of the fabric of the greater Wilmar Park area, and just like an old chair in your home that’s beautiful and has been worn, that’s kind of the way Beverly Hills is right now.
But you know an old chair or an old bench has great character. It has great bones and it’s very easy to take that piece of furniture that has a use for you, and your children and your children’s children and take it and have it reupholstered and give it new life. New life for new people.”
The video of the full public hearing from Monday, June 4 can be found on Cabarrus County Government’s YouTube channel.