Wake County school leader says he won't support bond issue

Don Agee
Don Agee

Wake County school board member Don Agee says he will not support the next school bond referendum.

Agee made his announcement at last week's school board meeting after a brief but harsh critique of the board and staff on school-building matters.

The tipping point for Agee was East Wake Middle School, where staff recommended a new building over renovating a school that is just 28 years old.

"This East Wake Middle School issue has made it clear to me that my efforts to bring recognition to the need for new management and new direction from the board concerning our facilities construction and renovation needs will continue to be ignored," Agee said. "I felt it necessary to state all these reasons for my position that I will not support the proposed capital improvement bond."

Wake school leaders and county commissioners could ask voters in November to borrow up to $1.1 billion, or they could split the amount into two bonds, in 2018 and 2020. The money would fund part of the school system's seven-year, $2.3 billion school construction program, which calls for at least 11 new schools and major renovations at existing schools.

Agee, a former school system facilities employee, accused staff of painting a worst-case scenario of an East Wake renovation to justify recommending a new building. "The presented renovation costs and feasibility study are artificially inflated and intentionally misleading," he said.

"My efforts to alter this course have met with complete resistance," Agee said. "This is the same resistance to explore any suggestion of means and methods to reduce facility costs and increase speed in providing new seating capacity."

Agee's fellow board members did not respond to his comments.

Beyond resistance, Agee accused staff of actively obstructing his efforts to seek new and renovated schools for the fewest possible dollars. "Over the past 15 months, staff has provided information that is questionable and so voluminous that the critical evaluations required are not possible in the time durations allowed," he said.

Agee didn't reserve all of his displeasure for school staff. He had words too for other board members.

"There has been no willingness by the board to stop and do the detailed work to fully understand the whole truth of the many items I’ve questioned," he said.. "My desire to look into details has been criticized as being outside of the scope of the board of education. To this statement, I take great exception."

Agee chastised his fellow board members too for treating millions of dollars like pocket change. "During board discussions involving cost reductions on capital projects, I have heard far too many times that pursuing potential savings of a million or more dollars is not worth the effort," he said. "I can never accept that position."

Scott Bolejack: 919-829-4629, @ScottBolejack