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Nash-Rocky Mount Schools to remain united

— Legislation passed Wednesday keeps Nash-Rocky Mount Schools united — Requires Edgecombe County to take over gap payments for Edgecombe students attending Nash-Rocky Mount Schools — Puts 10-year moratorium on board of education lawsuits related to funding against Nash County and would ultimately drop Rocky Mount from title of school system

A bill passed the General Assembly Wednesday that essentially legislates the proposed agreement between Nash and Edgecombe Counties that fell apart earlier this month.

The two counties were in negotiations to come up with a compromise that would prevent the dissolution of the Nash-Rocky Mount school system, sending 2,000 kids back into Edgecombe County schools. Part of the Rocky Mount portion of the Nash-Rocky Mount school system is in Edgecombe County. Read our coverage of the negotiations here and here.

Talks fell apart when the Edgecombe County Board of Commissioners objected to some of the provisions proffered by the Nash County Board of Commissioners in the agreement. The Nash Commissioners said they were going to go ahead with plans to get legislation filed to de-merge along county lines the joint Nash County and City of Rocky Mount school system.

Instead, the legislation passed Wednesday preserves the school system and sticks to many of the provisions from the most recent iteration of an agreement that was considered by Nash and Edgecombe Counties.

— Starting in 2020, Edgecombe County will take over the gap funding for Edgecombe County students in the Nash-Rocky Mount School System.

— In 2016, Edgecombe County will pay a prorated share of all capital spending in Nash-Rocky Mount schools based on the Edgecombe County student population attending school there.

— Ultimately, the Nash-Rocky Mount Public School system will change its name, dropping Rocky Mount from its title.

— The legislation imposes a 10-year moratorium on any lawsuits regarding funding initiated by a local board of education against Nash County.

Nash County Commissioner Robbie Davis said in a press release he was happy with the legislation.

“We are delighted that the General Assembly unanimously understood the complexity of a two-county funded school system and saw fit to protect the taxpayers from costly school-funding lawsuits,” Davis said. “Also, we feel that because the school system will have 4 years to prepare for the name change, the cost of that transition will be insignificant.”

John Farrelly, superintendent of Edgecombe County Schools, had mostly positive things to say about the bill.

“There is now some peace knowing that our school system as we know it will stay intact,” he said in an e-mail message, adding later: “It’s been a long road but I do believe that we prevailed given the alternative.”

But he also detailed some concerns, including a provision in the bill that would break up the Nash-Rocky Mount school system along county lines if either Edgecombe or the City of Rocky Mount fail to provide the “required annual funding” detailed in the bill. The concerning part for Farrelly is the fact that this provision is triggered only a month after certification of the non-payment, if payment isn’t made in the meantime. He said that a month is too quick a timetable. If that provision were triggered, the new school systems would go into effect July 1 of the next calendar year.

He also took issue with the name change provided for in the bill, noting that the Edgecombe Commissioners were not in favor of it and that others may object as well.

“I would feel sure that many Rocky Mount citizens feel slighted by the name change,” he said.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.