News Column

School system debates charging film industry

July 2, 2014

By Pressley Baird, Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.



July 02--The New Hanover County school board is still debating whether the film industry should be charged to use its buildings.

Right now, the film industry is the only group that doesn't pay to use the schools, according to the school board's policy. Some board members think the buildings should be free to all businesses. Others think businesses, including the film industry, should have to pay a "suggested donation."

The board didn't make a firm decision about changing that policy at its meeting Tuesday. Its policy committee will consider the issue again in August.

The way the policy reads now, the film industry is the only for-profit business that doesn't have to pay rental fees, which range from $5 an hour to rent a classroom to $200 an hour to rent New Hanover'sBrogden Hall or a football stadium. The film industry only pays staff fees beyond the normal work schedule of school staff when it uses a school building, field or other property. This year, those staff fees have totaled about $22,000.

That exception dates back to 2000, when the General Assembly passed a law requiring that any state agency that let the film industry use its property couldn't charge a fee. While the school district isn't a state agency, it has used the law as a guide.

Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, also told the board Tuesday that production companies often make donations to the schools. A few schools have received more than $40,000 this year alone from film companies, he said.

Ashley High received a $20,000 donation and a $3,500 donation specifically for the band, in addition to the purchase of some athletic equipment, after it was used to film "Red Zone," a TV pilot, for a week in March. Hoggard High also received a $5,000 donation after it was used for two days to film superhero movie "Max Steel."

Roland-Grise Middle, Murrayville Elementary and New Hanover High have also received donations this year.

Griffin and Beth Dawson, vice chairwoman of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, asked the board Tuesday to consider continuing to allow film companies to use the schools for free.

Board member Lisa Estep, who originally suggested making the change, said that would work for her. She'd like to see all nonprofit groups and businesses be able to use the schools free of charge, she said.

Board member Derrick Hickey agreed with her, he said, but he'd like to give businesses like the film industry a "suggested donation" they could pay after using the schools. He envisioned this as being equivalent to the cost of fees.

Board member Tammy Covil said she wanted those donations to go into the district's general fund rather than being given directly to schools.

In other news, the board named three new principals at local schools.

Lauren Kefalonitis, currently assistant principal of Codington Elementary School, will become the new principal of Bradley Creek Elementary School. Cyndy Bliss, currently assistant principal of Murray Middle School, will become the new principal of Castle Hayne Elementary School. Paul Slovik, currently assistant principal of Winter Park Elementary School, will take over as principal of that school in December when current principal Monica Goza retires.

David Bittner was also named as a new assistant principal at New Hanover High School. He is currently an assistant principal at Brunswick County Early College High School.

Pressley Baird: 343-2328

On Twitter: @PressleyBaird

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(c)2014 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.)

Visit the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.) at www.starnewsonline.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Star-News (Wilmington, NC)


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