Educators, community members voice concerns at Bladen County Schools board meeting

The Bladen County Board of Education met on Monday night and a handful of people had a lot to say during the public comment period.

BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The Bladen County Board of Education met on Monday night and a handful of people had a lot to say during the public comment period.

Two educators from East Bladen High School spoke up, saying the district desperately needs more resources.

East Bladen High School Counselors Donnel Goins and Liz Ruffin-Cox say the number of children falling behind their grade level was concerning before the pandemic — and now it’s devastating. Ruffin-Cox says less than 10-percent of students coming to high school are proficient with math and between 20 and 30-percent are proficient with reading.

The two say they’ve been coming to the board meetings for three years asking for more resources and smaller class sizes so students can get the attention they desperately need.

“You can only do so much to advocate, but at some point, we all have to stand together and say our children are suffering. We’re preparing these young people for the world and they’re not ready,” Ruffin-Cox said.

“We feel complicit in a crime basically. These kids…basically…we’re graduating students that cannot read in 2022,” Goins said.

Ruffin-Cox says their repeated cries for help seem to be falling on deaf ears.

Also during public comment, several people asked questions about the board’s decision last month to not renew Dr. Antonia Beatty’s contract as the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. The day after the board’s decision, Beatty died by suicide.

“You might not have pulled the trigger, but you put the bullet in the gun,” Dr. Beatty’s father Henry Beatty told the board during public comment.

After three decades with the district and what her parents called a perfect work record and a need to always do what was best for the children of Bladen County, they are searching for answers on why the board made the decision to not renew her contract. Also, they’re eager to know if Dr. Beatty had been given prior notice, or if she was caught of guard by their decision.

“I can accept an answer if a man comes and talks to me face to face and tells me the reason why, I’m willing to accept that. But if you can’t give me an honest answer, I have a problem with that,” Henry Beatty said.

Board chair Vinston Rozier says people will get the answers they are looking for, but the board is not able to share them at this time.

The board also tabled a discussion on the implementation of a clear-bags-only policy for the upcoming school year. If approved, Superintendent Dr. Jason Atkinsons says the district will be able to purchase new backpacks for every student in the school system.

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