Principal tells of conditions at Monroe High

Oct. 01, 2013 @ 05:41 PM

Monroe High School Principal Brad Breedlove testified Monday about the conditions in the school. 

Breedlove reviewed work orders submitted by staff to fix leaks and explained photos of damage caused by water. 

The work orders chronicled leaks in the north hall, leaks in the auditorium, things falling from the ceiling in the auditorium and leaks in the boy’s locker room and elsewhere. 

Breedlove said some of the leaks, particularly in the auditorium, were an immediate need due to the possibility of student injury. 

They detailed a student who was injured in the hallway in February. The student slipped on pooled water that had accumulated in the East Hallway after students had tracked it in from an outside walkway. There is a canopy that covers the walkway connecting buildings. The aluminum roofing has leaks, and water often accumulates on the concrete. 

According to an accident report, the student landed on her right hip and her side was jarred. A work order was put in the next day to fix leaks in the canopy. 

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The board of education requested funding this year to fix parts of the North Hallway roof. School Board Attorney Richard Schwartz showed photos of moldy tiles, water damage to tiles, peeling plaster and other images from the school. 

Schwartz asked Breedlove what happens at Monroe High School when it rains. Breedlove said it depends on if it’s a light or a heavy rain, but explained procedure during a heavy rain. 

He compared it to an old silent film, when a firetruck leaves the station and firefighters scramble and quickly get on the truck. He said if it is raining really hard outside, they just wait. 

“We don’t know where exactly the leak would come from” Breedlove said.

Eventually, a teacher calls about a leak and the custodian — Breedlove said only one custodian works during the day — will drop what he is doing and go to that classroom. They will rearrange the furniture and students to avoid the leaks; the custodian will mop up the water and put a bucket there to catch any additional leaking water. He said sometimes they will have leaks in multiple classrooms.

Breedlove said there is no instruction while this is happening.

“At Monroe High School, we need every minute of instruction we can get,” he said. 

Schwartz also asked about the sound system and lights in the auditorium, which are listed on the Comprehensive Facilities Plan and slated for attention in 2013 or 2014.

“Our school is a high-priority school,” Breedlove told the jurors. He said that 88 percent of their students qualify for free or reduced lunch. 

He told the jurors that they are a fairly diverse school — 47 percent of students are Hispanic, 41 percent of students are black, 11 percent of the students are white and 1 percent are “other.” But the common denominator for students is poverty, he added. 

“Just because our students come from poverty, doesn’t mean they don’t have pride,” Breedlove testified. 

He said they work very hard to reduce negative perceptions of the school and when members of the community come to the school and see buckets and leaks, it reinforces the perceptions. 

“Our students are first-class,” Breedlove said. He added that they have the same hopes and dreams as any other student in the system. 

He said that for many of the students, their time at school could be the best 7 1/2 hours of their 24-hour day. They get a hot meal and are around people who love and support them, he added. 

“If our county has the ability to fund and help some of those needs” it is our job, Breedlove said. 

County Attorney Ligon Bundy cross-examined Breedlove, asking for specifics about the injured student. He asked Breedlove if the water from the canopy is the reason she fell. Breedlove explained that the water was tracked in from outside due to leaks in the canopy. 

Bundy asked if Breedlove had seen the accident, Breedlove said no and that he learned about it from the nurse’s report. Bundy asked if he went and looked at the conditions, Breedlove said he was already familiar with the conditions. 

Bundy asked who Breedlove reports the accidents and leaks to. Breedlove explained that they write a work order, the maintenance crew fixes it and sends it to central office. When asked why Webb did not include the canopy in this year’s appropriation, Breedlove said he could not answer that. 

Bundy also noted there were not appropriations for the auditorium in this year’s budget, after Breedlove testified that the auditorium is also a safety hazard. He asked if it was identified at all in the six-year capital improvement plan and Breedlove said it was. 

School Board Member John Collins was called to the stand Monday afternoon. Collins has in the past served as vice chairman and interim chairman. He also has served on the facilities, planning and curriculum committees. 

Collins testified that every five years, local school boards must submit facilities needs to the state. They presented a letter, signed by former school board member Dean Arp, presenting the needs. The letter was also signed by the county commissioners, saying that they had received the study and their signature was not necessarily an endorsement. 

Schwartz asked Collins about any concerns last year when the makeup of the school board changed so dramatically. Collins said he had some concerns about how young the board was and some of the rhetoric that new members brought with them. 

He worried it would be a “bumpy road,” he testified. However, his fears were allayed soon after, he noted. 

Schwartz asked about any behind-the-scenes budget talks he was privy to with Arp. Collins said said that he and Arp worked well together and were pleased to negotiate. 

He testified the negotiations were similar for a few years, with Arp being told to present a bare bones budget because there was no money. Collins said the logic was that they should share in the pain the county was feeling. Collins proposed that if they share in the pain, they should also share in the gain, receiving more when revenues start to come back higher. He said that idea was rejected. 

Schwartz presented a bar graph outlining the county appropriation over the years, which showed the number going downward. 

Collins said the only struggle in Union County Public Schools is funding, apart from that it is a “booming business” with a “great product.” He noted that their needs are backing up and it is getting harder and harder to stay on top of the list. 

In his cross-examination, Bundy pointed out that this is the fourth time the school board has entered into mediation. Collins said he was not on the board for all four instances. 

He noted the 2010-2011 school year, when the school system requested about $11 million in their regular proposal and about $17 million in their capital improvement proposal. 

Bundy noted that they were appropriated about $1 million that year and asked if they invoked mediation then. Collins said no. 

Court will resume Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.