Guilford County denies schools funding for culinary program

by Jordan Green

Members of the Guilford County Commission questioned the county school board’s financial priorities two weeks after a fire destroyed Eastern High School and unanimously voted to deny High Point Central High School $2.2 million for a culinary arts program.

The most vocal opponent of the expenditure was Democrat Bruce Davis, whose district includes the high school. Davis said a student at the school told him an advanced placement class had no desks and students were required to sit on stools and write on clipboards. Encouraging students to participate in the Culinary Arts Academy might steer students into low-wage food service jobs and discourage them from pursuing more ambitious goals, he added.

“I am very seriously opposed to this proposal,” Davis said at the commission’s Nov. 16 meeting.

Alan Duncan, chairman of the Guilford County School Board, defended the program, saying it was part of the public schools’ plan to establish small academies within larger schools – a structure thought to improve academic performance. High Point Central High School will need new space to continue the program because the principal’s decision to remove the option for students to eat lunch off campus means the cafeteria is no longer available for instructional purposes. He added that the school board intended to meet its obligations to all the schools in the system even as it dealt with the impending costs of rebuilding Eastern High School.

After telling Duncan that the $2.2 million figure “seems like an awful lot of money,” Democrat Kay Cashion added, “We certainly don’t want to tell you what subjects to put in what schools. You’re the pros.”

Duncan replied, “That is, in effect, what you would be doing.”

– Jordan Green