By: Diana Matthews, The News Reporter
Whiteville High School alumni Bill Valentine and Jane Dorward Valentine appeared at the city school board meeting this evening offering a gift a $250,000 for school construction. The board accepted the donation unanimously.
Bill Valentine took the podium briefly and spoke with a trembling voice of the pride he and his wife still have for their alma mater. “It was really great then,” he said, “and I’m sure it’s even better now.”
Valentine, a retired architect, said he has been closely following the plans for new construction at WHS and believes the design created by LS3P Associates “should make a really terrific high school.”
The finished facility will be “as different as night and day from the other high schools in Columbus County,” Valentine said, and “it looks like it belongs in Whiteville, which I think is a real asset.”
The city schools accepted bids from general contractors in December and hoped to have a contract within a few weeks, but all bids came in well over budget. During the spring semester WCS and LS3P negotiated with the apparent low bidder to scale back on some of their hoped-for features before they could obtain financing. As of Monday morning, the school system’s USDA loan application was still in process, Superintendent Marc Whichard said.
Knowing that construction cost overruns are a fact of life everywhere, Valentine said, “We promised to donate a quarter of a million bucks to help with construction costs.”
The couple is at the end of a five-week visit to their hometown. “We won’t be here for the groundbreaking,” Valentine said, but he and his wife would be sharing the happiness on that day, and “you’ll hear a Yahoo! from California.”
Upon the board’s approval of the gift, board chairman Coleman Barbour told the Valentines, “Here’s that Yahoo!” The audience gave a standing ovation to the couple and filed by to shake hands and express thanks.
Whichard, who was sworn in as superintendent just a few minutes before the Valentines’ presentation, called the couple’s impact on the community “amazing.” At the last school board meeting they donated funds to purchase digital subscriptions to The News Reporter for WHS students. “I think getting kids to read the newspaper is a really important thing,” Bill Valentine said.