Budget deficit causes cuts

The Craven County school system faced tough times in 2016, but also celebrated a Havelock administrator as its best.

School budget deficit

School leaders announced in January that the system was facing a projected $3.5 million deficit.

Then superintendent Lane Mills said that a combination of budget cuts and additional revenue from the county was needed. Those cuts included across-the-board reductions in coaching supplements, cuts to school nursing positions, elimination of other positions, and even a “pay to play” proposal that would have required school athletes to participate in sports.

The proposed cuts drew concerns from teachers and school staffers, who attended a number of public meetings and expressed their thoughts online.

In the end, the school system cut about $2 million and received an additional $1 million in funding from Craven County to make up for the deficit.

As the budget situation began to get resolved, Mills announced he would leave as Craven County schools superintendent to take the same position in Wilson County. Meghan Doyle, a former superintendent in Currituck County and former assistant county manager in Onslow County, was hired to be new superintendent, making her the first woman to hold the position.

Poole lawsuit settled

In July, Craven County Schools settled a lawsuit involving the 2012 near drowning of Havelock High student Glenn Poole Jr. for $2.325 million.

Poole was on a field trip to Fort Macon State Park when he nearly drowned while swimming with other classmates. He was rescued, resuscitated and spent months in the hospital recovering and going through rehabilitation.

Two teachers, Robert Thomas and Maribeth Praml, serving as chaperones on the field trip, and the Craven County Board of Education denied negligence in the settlement of the case, but the plaintiffs agreed to settle.

Thomas and Praml resigned shortly after the incident, and Craven County Schools made adjustments in its rules for field trips as a result of the incident.

District 7 board seat

In the Nov. 8 election, Sarah Benischek unseated 14-year Board of Education member Joseph Walton in District 7, which covers eastern Craven County. She got 22,194 votes compared to Walton’s 14,905 in the county-wide election.

Yet two weeks after the election, Benischek announced that she and her husband would be moving out of the district, thus making her ineligible to hold the seat on the board.

The Board of Education met in December and voted to keep Walton in his seat, despite his loss in the election, until the next Board of Education election in 2018. In making the decision, board members pointed to Walton’s experience as well as that he beat Benischeck 947 to 789 among District 7 voters.

Hurst recognized

On Oct. 18, W.J. Gurganus Elementary School Principal Debbie Hurst was selected as the county’s 2016 Principal of the Year.

Hurst has worked with Craven County Schools for 25 years, 16 as a teacher and nine years as an administrator, as well as five as a principal.

She received the award at a surprise ceremony in front of her students and staff. Hurst credited the staff and the students as well as mentors like former Gurganus Principal Pat Williams for the award.