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ONLY ON 3: Brunswick Co. school board member Catherine Cooke defends traditional schedules during a rant

BOLIVIA, NC (WWAY) — Brunswick County Schools Superintendent Edward Pruden never imagined the can of worms he would open when he suggested tweaking the staggered schedule plan. He pitched starting the elementary schools start class first based on sleep studies he had read about. At a teacher / parent conference last week he said research showed that younger kids get up earlier than older kids and starting school earlier would help them stay engaged longer in the day. That would allow the older students to sleep a little later and not be so tired during afternoon class.

The school board took that pitch and decided to turn it on its head, voting 3-2 to go back to traditional start times for all schools. The reversal will cost the school system $1.4 million dollars plus cut some 60 jobs according to the district’s finance office.

At that meeting, school board member Catherine Cooke, who home schools her children and was one of the first to want to ban the book The Color Purple from the classrooms, went on a rant defending her decision to make the motion to go back to traditional start times.

“The first year this came up we had the sleep studies. Now I’ll tell you what, I’ve lost more sleep over this than anything,” said Cooke. “And I’m going to say that right off the bat, I’m sick of hearing about sleep studies. Y’all take care of your children, I take care of my children. I get them to bed when they need to get to bed, they get up when they need to get up. I don’t care, if they stay up till 12 o’clock, that’s their own fault. If they stay up till 3 o’clock, that’s their own fault. Sleep shmeet, I’m tired of hearing about the sleep studies I’ll tell you that right now. If I hear about another sleep study, you don’t want to say that around me.”

“I know it’s a huge amount of money, but when the door was opened again for public comment, the emails that came and the calls that came said okay we’ve done staggered start … but, if there was an option, we would love to go back to traditional time,” Cooke added.

“Whoever came up with the comment that said, ‘We’re gonna lose jobs because of this,’ I got an issue with that! … That has never been in the discussion. That is just part of the business of schools. You’re going to lose jobs every year. If you’re in a company, you might lose your job tomorrow. We wanted to do what the community wanted, the community wanted to go back to traditional time…”

“We’ve got free breakfast for everybody in the world. Am I gonna be able to go to school and say, ‘Can I have free breakfast too?’ How many things … I mean are we just gonna give everybody everything? Why don’t we just let them sleep here at school too? We can feed ’em, educate ’em, give ’em dinner, let them sleep here! Just live at the school!,” she said.

“And it was never meant to affect jobs. That’s just part of the package. I mean we would have never voted and then say we’re going to lose all these jobs. Jobs change every year. I mean, we have funding changes, but we want to keep the schools safe. And I tell ya, after we get this over and done with, we got real issues in the classroom. We’ve got some real issues with curriculum, with keeping childrens’ minds safe, there’s a lot of stuff out there that is not even gonna touch the surface, but we need to get on with time, starting time – done! We need to get on with the education and the business of educating these children and keeping them safe physically, mentally and emotionally. And that’s a huge task that will probably never be met, but that’s our real task,” Cooke said.


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