Museum Request On Hold

Published 3:27 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2013

PRINCE EDWARD – County supervisors passed on a request from the Moton Museum for funding to underwrite the Children of the Lock Out Generation Docent Program.

At least for now.

“As you are well aware, due to the publicity…we had a pretty rough time with the budget this year and whereas there is merit in the request that the museum is making, it comes outside of our budget window,” outlined Board of Supervisors Chairman William Buckie “Fore” to Museum Executive Director Lacy Ward Jr. at the June 11 board of supervisors meting. “I'm not saying one way or the other that it would have been easier to take a look at 90 days ago, but I will say for me it's going to be hard to take a look at now because we are headed to a brand new year with a pretty tight, fixed budget.”

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Fore would note that he wishes it had been 90-120 days earlier when they started the budget process back in March.

The museum had requested, specifically, $102,000 for each of the next five years. The funds would be used to employ museum guides, residents who were school-aged at the time the schools were closed.

Telling their stories.

The museum aims to fund six full-time equivalency positions with two reserved for school age residents who went without formal education, two who left the county to continue their education, and two for school-age residents who attended the private schools.

Prince Edward did not operate its public schools from 1959-64; a student-led walkout headed by Barbara Johns in 1951 to protest unequal schools led to a court case in 1954, Brown v. Board of Education. A case that eventually put an end to segregated public schools.

Moton Museum Council Chair Dorothy Holcomb outlined to the board in the brief presentation, “…I think that we need to look at what happened in 1951 and was a sad situation; what happened in 1959 was surely tragic, but the aftermath and what Prince Edward County contributed to the decision…for public education in the nation is something worthy of recognition. And I think that the County and the museum is doing a wonderful job in having that done. And so we're asking for support in getting those positions filled so we can have representatives as guides to tell the story of Prince Edward because this is (a) story that happened to all the residents at that time. And it's a story that…will have world-wide recognition as to…the part that the museum and the citizens of Prince Edward County played in that area and the ultimate decision that…it had on education for the entire country.”

Lockett District Supervisor Robert “Bobby” Jones noted going through their budget process, that they are going to be dipping into their reserves “over a million dollars to take care of what we funded this year,” noting further that the public school has asked for over $1 million more, which the board denied, that the fire departments asked for $60,000 or $70,000 more, which was put on hold until December to see how the county's finances are going, and that the regional jail is going to need $700,000 more to operate on.

“So right now…we're pretty well strapped and…if this had come in maybe earlier, I don't know if we could have done anything or not, but it (would have) been a whole lot easier to have gotten a feel for what we could do if we'd gotten it at the budget time,” Jones said, suggesting that they “kind of need to step back and put this on the agenda for next year and see what we can do then.”

He would later cite that they are funding the museum $10,000 a year and, in the past, have given up to $30,000.

“So we're helping out some,” Jones said, “But…we've got a lot of things to fund besides the museum.”

While he noted the museum is important, he reiterated they've had to dip into their reserves “to do what we're doing…supporting all the efforts we have to in the county.”

Farmville District (801) Supervisor Pattie Cooper-Jones, who cast the lone vote in opposition to effectively table the request, voiced her support.

“I'd like to say that…I'm really proud of the work that you're doing and I wish that there was a way that we could fund it,” she said. “I would surely support you. I think that it is a well-deserved job. To all the young ladies that I know who were students that were shut out, my heart goes out to you because it is a critical thing and I deal with so many people who are affected by the closing of the schools and I understand the need for you to have someone in place that can explain to people that you can tell them that they can go ahead, that they can be successful in spite of. And I would really like to fund your program.”

Prospect Supervisor Howard “Pete” Campbell asked about using volunteers until they can possibly come up with the money, which Ward noted they volunteer now.

“I think we have a year to figure it out and…I'll commit to going and finding a grant funder to do it for a year and, if you don't mind, I'll tell them that you are seriously considering that in the second year, the County would come in,” Ward said. “…I think that's why I'm here tonight. It's not the right time, but it's the right intent. And I think in time we can figure it out.”

The motion to essentially table action was approved on a 6-1-1 vote; Cooper-Jones opposed and vice-chairman Howard Simpson, who serves on the Moton board, abstained.

Cornell Walker, representing the R.R. Moton School Alumni Association, had earlier pitched for funding during the board's public comment segment section of the meeting. While noting money is tight “and you have to play with the budget sometimes to do things” he added that it's not just the museum they would be helping.

He offered it is a win-win situation for the museum and a win-win situation for the county.