County sidesteps school name change

By Jeff Linville -

DOBSON — The Surry County Board of Commissioners brought back a school issue that came up a month ago.

When the commissioners met in Mount Airy in November, local resident Jim Roberts came before the board seeking support for a name change for a local grade school. He wanted to see Flat Rock Elementary renamed Cora Beasley Elementary in memory of a school teacher who died saving children during a fire in 1957.

As the blaze roared all around them, Beasley helped get students out the window and lowered them as far as she could reach from the second-floor window. When the other kids were gone, Beasley went to panicked third-grader Larry Adams and tried to get him up from his desk and to safety.

Students who made it out said Adams was latched onto his desk in fear, and the teacher was trying to get him free. Adams died in the fire, and Beasley died days later as a result of the burns she suffered.

Roberts told the commissioners last month that as far as he knows Beasley is the only Surry County teacher known to have sacrificed her life for the sake of her school children.

“She deserves more than a picture in a hallway,” he said.

Board chairman Eddie Harris told Roberts that the commissioners don’t like to make snap decisions without giving things proper consideration. After a month to think it over, Harris brought the issue up again when the board met last week.

Commissioner Larry Phillips said he has no problem with what Roberts and others are wanting to do. He said that is just that it isn’t the commissioners’ decision to make. Renaming a campus is a school district’s choice, he said. That’s why the school board members are an elected board, too, to do what their public wants of them.

Commissioner Van Tucker said he somewhat agreed with Phillips. “You can’t give enough awards” for what Cora Beasley did that day, but this isn’t what this subject is about to him. It needs the duly elected school board to vote on this.

Commissioner Buck Golding said that he believes this is a worthy issue and appreciates what Mr. Roberts is trying to do. Yet, he agreed with the others that it isn’t a county board’s choice to make.

The original request from Roberts wasn’t that the county force a name change, but that the commissioners pass a resolution showing support for the movement.

The issue with that could come down to funding decisions.

Commissioner Larry Johnson said he appreciates anybody stepping forward for a good cause. A town like Dobson or Pilot Mountain showing its support is fine, but a county doing so could seem like putting undue pressure on the schools. Since the county controls the purse strings, the school district could feel strong-armed to go along with what the commissioners approved.

After the discussion, the board chose not to make a motion on a resolution about the name change.

By Jeff Linville

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

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