Consolidation Apparently Unnecessary for Sugar Grove School

the-truthIn May of last year, Sugar Grove School was consolidated on a 7-4 vote by the Smyth County School Board. We were told that financial shortfall was the reason.

That decision was not thought out. That much is clear if you listen to the available audio of the school board meeting from May 27, 2014. In it you can hear Mac Buchanan’s 11 plus minutes of ranting, laying blame and hateful comments later followed by his deciding spite vote to consolidate our community’s school. Meanwhile, the Chairman, our elected representative, sat in silence, apparently and evidently in full support of these hateful comments toward the Sugar Grove Community. There was no intervention or calling out of order on the part of the Chairman during Buchanan’s excessive commentary.

Even more alarming is the way our elected school board member, Jesse Choate, is blaming our community for what is the fault of the school board. He states beginning at 15:26 in the provided video: “I’m afraid that it is too late. I do wish all of you could have showed up for the school board and board of supervisors meetings and maybe that would have ….[garbled]… maybe they could raise taxes but everybody feels like they’re paying taxes enough.”

To this statement, there’s only one response–it wasn’t too late when the unanimous votes were being cast by the school board over the past 10 or more years for everything designed to close and consolidate Sugar Grove School. It wasn’t too late when we all realized that the MGT Facilities Master Plan was not working to the favor of our community or school and it still wasn’t too late when 971 petition signatures were presented to Choate at a previous school board meeting which represents the majority of the Rye Valley District requesting an alternative course of action that did not involve closure or consolidation. This petition was never brought to discussion or mentioned to date. To those 971 individuals who signed that petition, I encourage you to exercise your voting rights accordingly in November. You are the majority of the Rye Valley District and your input will not be ignored at the polls the way it was by the school board and Mr. Choate.

Choate is quoted May 27, 2014 as follows: (audio linked above) “I understand that money now is tight and I wish somebody would donate us , you know, if they would give us a hundred and fifty more thousand dollars we probably could have saved the school but they didn’t so I’ll have to call for a vote.” (37:34 in Audio)  This of course is referencing the consolidation vote brought to the table by Choate who is Chairman of the board and had the option of seeking out other alternative action such as personnel changes and looking for left over money in the slush fund or wherever it happened to be sourced before this vote was cast. This was precisely what the petition presented containing 971 signatures was requesting–alternative action that did not involve the closure or consolidation of our school.

Now that everything is said and done and the dust has settled around what is left of our school, an article appears in the local paper documenting this interesting and well-timed accomplishment of the school board. (read article here) They’ve managed to come up with $160,000.00 suddenly and only $150,000.00 was necessary according to Choate’s own commentary at last year’s consolidation meeting as documented in the audio mentioned above to keep Sugar Grove School in tact. The money magically turned up that would have kept our school in tact and just in time for November elections too! $30,000.00 was left over from last year while $130,000.00 was rounded up from “personnel changes.” Also one of last year’s big concerns was enrollment numbers at Sugar Grove. This year as documented in the above mentioned article, it seems that class sizes are increasing particularly at Sugar Grove School.

Please don’t let anyone convince you that because this money turned up all of a sudden that it will have any bearing on whether our school stays open or not in the future nor should this weigh on your vote in November when you head to the polls to elect a school board representative for the Rye Valley District. This is a classic example of “too little too late” and it’s the fault of our school board and current representative for allowing it to proceed in the manner that it did without appropriate action to keep our school in tact. If that wasn’t enough, it was Chairman Choate who brought up the first motion to rename our school which was then justified by a rigged and erroneous online voting poll designed to suit the school board’s needs to reclassify our school as “elementary” so that it would fit into the MGT Facilities Master Plan’s model for a consolidated school system.

Don’t forget to register to vote and show up at the polls if you want to keep our school open and functional in our community. This is an important non-partisan issue for everyone. Remember, campaign signs don’t vote, people do! If you need to register to vote, please do so BEFORE elections. If you will be 18 years of age on or before election day, you are eligible to pre-register to vote. YOUR VOTE MATTERS AND CAN MAKE CHANGES!


Disclaimer: This article is not approved by or endorsed by either candidate seeking election for Rye Valley School Board Representative on Smyth County School Board and solely represents the views of the author.

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  1. Pingback: Let The Facts Be Your Voting Guide | Sugar Grove Virginia

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