Open Letter to Ron Henries
This Open Letter to Ron Henries, Chair of The Watauga County Board of Education, is by Susan Musilli, 33 year resident of Valle Crucis, North Carolina, and Member of The Valle Crucis Community Council
Watauga County Board of Education
175 Pioneer Trail
Boone, NC 28607
(828) 262-8077, (828) 773-8059
I am writing to you both as a concerned resident of 33 years of Valle Crucis, as well as a long term member of the Valle Crucis Community Council.
It is my understanding that the school board has been pushing to build a new Valle Crucis School on the Hodges property located just beyond the Mast Farm Inn within the Historic District of Valle Crucis. It is also my understanding that the county commissioners, who seem to be working in concert with the school board to fast forward this purchase and proposed building site, are also attempting to amend our Historic District Ordinance to include the new proposed school.
It is astonishingly inconceivable to those of us who live in Valle Crucis community that we were not included in these vitally important and virtually environmentally impactful decisions being made by the members of the school board and the Watauga County Commissioners. It is even more perplexing and upsetting that you all are also trying to amend a protective ordinance that was specifically designed to keep this beautiful little community in harmony with the natural environment and protect and preserve the land for generations to come.
The decision to attempt to bend the ordinance to the will of the school board is unconscionable and lacks vision for the future, not only of this protected land, but also for the children who will ultimately be using the new facility.
I am sure it is not lost on you that while the current school lies in a flood plain, the new proposed site is equally in a flood plain. The environmental footprint of this proposed new school building will scar the entrance to the Historic District of Valle Crucis. I believe it would behoove you all to search for more appropriate locations for the new school that either do not lie in the flood plain… OR rebuild the school on the property we already own as a county and move it over using the old Valle Landing Property.
The latter would be both more cost effective and reflect diligent use for the property that we already are using and own as a school. For the school board to spend several million dollars on this project without hearing the many voices of the community it will impact the most, is not reflective of the democratic process we should all be able to enjoy in this great state of North Carolina.
I am a resident in Watauga County who has paid taxes, and contributing member of the Valle Crucs Community & the Valle Crucis Community Council. I now work with two local churches and I have a long history of dedication to Education as an employee of Appalachian State University’s Reich College of Education. I am imploring you to rethink your strategy for choosing the Hodges’ property as the proposed new location for the school. I would respectfully ask that you reconsider as you contemplate recognizing the undeniable negative impact it will have on our Valle Crucis Community.
Mr. Henries, I helped to vote you into office and believed that you would have the best interests, not only of our students and young people in mind when you make decisions like this, but that you would also uphold the same principles in helping protect the very nature of the land as well as our democratic rights to be able to make choices as a larger group, with all voices heard, rather than a small group with only your voices being heard.
You may think that I am against the school being in Valle Crucis, but much to the contrary, I would love to see the school rebuilt where it is. I have enjoyed seeing hundreds of children learning and growing in the Valle Crucis Elementary School over the years, I am asking you to consider this option: Rebuild the school on the property we already own as a county — buy the land adjacent that used to be the Valle Landing — Use another property outside of the Historic District, but not far from the original school site, to lease for the one-two years as you are rebuilding a more appropriate school building, safe and adjusted for possible flooding and… this time do it right! Have the army corp of engineers come and reinforce the riverbanks, and assist you with planning and developing a school that can be built slightly higher and dryer than it is currently.
Do more to ensure that the school stays as its iconic centrality to the beauty and integrity of our Valle. This would allow you to rebuild the school in the Historic District without amending our ordinances, but instead using a single variance request only for the necessary success of the new building. The county would “win” because ultimately it would save you millions of taxpayer dollars — Oh did I mention the taxpayers? They too, would win because we wouldn’t be wasting their (our) money. After all, the Valle Crucis School is an integral part of our little community and should be recognized as such, while at the same time, the building or rebuilding of it should never negatively impact the very Valle that makes it so very special.
I know that you remember me from working together in the College of Education and while we didn’t always agree on everything, we did agree that education is a vital part of our evolving society.
It is a monumental decision to spend millions of dollars to build a new school, without giving serious thought to the future of the land upon which is it proposed to sit.
The education of the minds of students without the preservation of the earth on which they will live and learn, particularly in this time of undeniable climate change (this summer was the hottest on record) would be squandering the future of our children.
The flooding all across our state and particularly in Valle Crucis should only lead you to further understanding that this community cannot, and will not, take your decision lightly. We will make everyone everywhere aware of what you are attempting to do, and we in the community will continue to fight to have a larger voice in this process.
We will be present at the County Commissioners meeting on October 15th and make our voices heard. We will continue to make our voices heard across the state in order to protect the land we cherish while also demanding the right to a democratic voice for influences in our community.
I will look forward to hearing back from you and will be watching you and your board members and the county commissioners closely as we can hopefully navigate a “win-win” for everyone involved.
The Valle Crucis Community Council
For the list of officials to EMAIL & their email addresses
For the list of officials to CALL & their phone numbers
To see all the different ACTIONS you can take today to assure accountability.
Thank you again for your participation. You are making a difference.
The Steering Committee
RESIDENTS AND FRIENDS of Historic Valle Crucis, North Carolina 28691