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The Kirby File: Chamber endorses proposed site for new E.E. Smith High School

'Time is of the essence with this project as the delay will only increase the cost of the construction and give pause for those who share our concern with educating our students in the current condition of the existing location,' Nat Robertson, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Fayetteville Chamber, tells the Cumberland Board of County Commissioners.


A golf course by the gates of Fort Liberty is the right place for a new E.E. Smith High School.

So says the Greater Fayetteville Chamber in a Jan. 25 letter to Glenn Adams, chairman of the Cumberland Board of County Commissioners, as commissioners Toni Stewart, Jeannette Council, Marshall Faircloth, Jimmy Keefe, Michael Boose, Veronica Jones and Adams consider a recommendation of the county school board to rebuild the aging school on Stryker Golf Course.

“I am writing to express our wholehearted endorsement of Fort Liberty's proposal to locate the new E.E. Smith High School on the former Stryker Golf Course, situated off Bragg Boulevard, outside of the post gates,” Nat Robertson, president and chief executive officer for the chamber, wrote to Adams, with copies shared with commissioners and the school board. “This proposal reflects a visionary approach that aligns with the community's needs and promises substantial benefits for education, the local economy and our partnership with the military.”

The chamber endorsement will likely not sit well with many E.E. Smith High School alumni, who believe the historically Black school should be rebuilt in the vicinity of the Seabrook, Broadell, Eccles Park and Evans Hill neighborhoods. Even so, the school system says it has looked far and wide, including eight potential sites, CityView reported in January. And the better of the potential locations is the golf course on the fringe of the military base.

The school, built along Seabrook Drive in 1953, has outlived its time. It suffers from safety code issues, school officials say, and just can’t keep up with its STEM programs of science, mathematics, engineering, arts and technology for teachers to teach and students to learn.

But …

It will not be, opponents contend, the essence of E.E. Smith High if the school isn’t built in proximity of the Murchison Road corridor.

And, opponents say, they will not stand for it.

Chamber’s reasons why

The chamber begs to differ and believes the golf course offers advantages worthy of consideration.

“Firstly, the strategic positioning of the site offers convenient accessibility for students, faculty and parents, ensuring a safe, smooth and efficient daily commute,” wrote Robertson, a former two-term city mayor and E.E. Smith High graduate, class of 1982. “The proximity to major roads such as Bragg Boulevard and I-295, as well as Shaw Road, not only enhances accessibility to the new school but is a short drive from the existing high school. And best of all, there would be no cost for the 70-plus acre location due to the Fort Liberty partnership.

“Moreover, the Stryker Golf Course location provides a vast expanse of land, allowing for the development of state-of-the-art facilities, spacious classrooms and recreational areas. This abundance of space not only accommodates the immediate needs of the school but also allows for future expansions and enhancements, ensuring a sustainable and adaptable educational environment. Not to mention the memorialization and preservation of Dr. Ezekiel Ezra Smith’s vision and work in education reflected in this state-of-the-art facility. 

“The economic implications of this proposal are also noteworthy,” Robertson wrote on behalf of the chamber’s board of directors, its Military Affairs Council and its Government Relations Committee. “The establishment of a new high school at the Stryker Golf Course site would catalyze local economic growth, generating employment opportunities and fostering business development in the Business Park, along Bragg Boulevard and the surrounding areas. And the construction phase alone is poised to inject over $100 million into the local economy, providing a much-needed economic stimulus, that is badly needed in that area.”

The longer you wait

The golf course is just a recommendation, Schools Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly Jr. has said.

“It is in the commissioners’ hands now,” Donna Vann, who is one of five of nine school board members who voted for the Jan. 11 recommendation, told me four weeks ago.

Other school board members voting for Fort Liberty as the proposed site were Greg West, Nathan Warfel, Jacquelyn Brown and Alicia Chisolm. Susan Williams, a school board member who did not participate in the vote, said she supports Fort Liberty as the proposed site, too. School board members in opposition are Chairwoman Deanna Jones, Carrie Sutton and Judy Musgrave. 

County commissioners, the commissioners’ clerk says, are “evaluating and reviewing” the school board recommendation as of Jan. 31. All well and good, Robertson cautions commissioners, but you may not want to talk about it too long.

“Time is of the essence with this project,” Robertson wrote, “as the delay will only increase the cost of the construction and give pause for those who share our concern with educating our students in the current condition of the existing location.”


You cannot help but empathize with alumni who hold the school so dear. That’s sacred ground, they’ll tell you, over there at 1800 Seabrook Road, with precious memories of who they once were and who they became.

Golden Bulls pride runs deep, and they’ll passionately tell you so.

Still, the clock is ticking and the dollars of the calculator, too.

“I urge your Cumberland County Board of Commissioners and the Cumberland County School Board to give serious consideration to the proposal for the new E.E. Smith High School at the former Stryker Golf Course,” Nat Robertson wrote on behalf of the chamber. “This partnership with Fort Liberty not only reflects the spirit of innovation and progress but also symbolizes a commitment to providing the best possible educational opportunities for the future generations of Cumberland County residents.”

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

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