Open Letter to the Hyde Country Board of Education

Class of 2011 Ocracoke School grad expresses disappointment with funding decisions.

To say that I am disappointed with your decision to not contribute to the funding of the Ocracoke Community Park, would be a vast understatement. 

As a former student-athlete and alum of Ocracoke School, it is incredibly disheartening to see the mistreatment of students and misallocation of funds in Hyde County’s school system. Athletics played a huge role in my life as a student at Ocracoke School and I credit much of my success as a student to my time as a high school athlete. Also while I understand that the county is under budget constraints, there appear to be several oddities in the recent decisions made by the school board in terms of funding. 

In my time at Ocracoke School, I was involved in two sports (the only two that were available at the time).  From 9th to 12th grades I was a member of the Men’s Varsity Basketball team and during that time was a captain for 3 years and also achieved all conference recognition from the Tideland Athletic Conference.  During my senior year, I was a member of the Men’s Varsity Cross Country team; a team that made it to the state championship race in its inaugural year. 

I credit much of my success in applying for colleges to the leadership opportunities I was afforded through high school athletics. The leadership experiences I had through athletics played a huge role in my acceptance to a top 50 university and the discipline I learned on the court has played a huge role in keeping me in good academic standing while double majoring. Students interested in pursuing higher education need to set themselves apart from other applicants.  Athletics provides concrete examples of leadership, work ethic, and extracurricular involvement, all three of which are sought after by college admissions.  Considering the lack of opportunity students at Ocracoke already have (the lack of an early college program, for example, which is provided to Mattamuskeet students), one would think that the Hyde County Board of Education would endeavor to provide the best experience that they can to the students of Ocracoke School.

One of the Hyde County School System’s Belief Statements is “We believe that education is an equally shared responsibility between the school, students, parents, community and supportive board of education.”  The school, students, parents, and community of Ocracoke have raised almost $1,000,000 of the projected $2,200,000 development cost of the Ocracoke Community Park; a park which would provide athletic fields for Ocracoke School.  According the belief statement, the “supportive” Board of Education should also play a part in providing better opportunities for students of Ocracoke.  Why is it that the Board decided to vote against the 10K that was asked for by the Ocracoke Youth Center? 

In Dr. Lattimore’s letter answering this question, it was claimed that unanticipated costs on the mainland had rendered the board unable to provide the $10,000.  These unanticipated costs were $99,717 for new gym flooring (a subject which Ocracoke is more than familiar with) and $40,000 to move a softball field.  Perhaps now would be a good time to remind the Board of another of the Hyde County School System’s values “Teamwork Providing Quality Education for All Students.”  140K for one school and 0K for the other certainly does not encompass “All Students.” 

Not to be redundant, but seeing as the Board of Education has apparently forgotten many of the School System’s Belief Statements, I’d like to remind you of one more, “We believe that all avenues of funding must be pursued in order to provide a well rounded education for all students in academics, technology, athletics, healthy and socially acceptable behaviors, and the arts.” 

To say that the Board of Education has done a disservice to the Students, Parents, and Community of Ocracoke would be a vast understatement.  The decision to fail to contribute to the Ocracoke Community Park is not only contrary to the beliefs and mission of the Hyde County School System, it is also disrespectful to the students of Ocracoke School.  In voting down this funding, while at the same time approving funding for 14 times the value for Mattamuskeet Early College High School, the Board of Education has made clear that Ocracoke, and Ocracoke School are not their priority.  I hope that the Board of Education can reconsider their decision and that they can realign themselves with their mission and provide for students in both of Hyde County’s schools. 


Joseph Chestnut



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