Category Archives: Public Education

Surprise Move by Craven County School Board

Watchdog Report

Surprise Move by Craven County School Board

In a surprise move in a work session held early one morning instead of the evening session where citizens are allowed to petition the Board and without a public announcement that the filling of a vacancy on the Board would be taken up, the Board of Education voted to fill the vacancy by appointing the incumbent member who was just soundly defeated in an election to continue to serve until the election in 2018.

It had been announced that the Board would consider the method by which a replacement for the seat vacated by Sarah Benischek would be filled.  In fact, I had asked the Board Chairman, Carr Ipoch, how the vacancy would be filled and was told that he thought it would be done by taking applications from interested people and that they would be considered as a new employee might be decided upon.  That would have been fair and good approach had it happened, but  as I said earlier, it did not. 

First, it was obvious in the last election that the voters wanted a change.  In the case of the election for Craven County Board of Education in District 7, a whopping 60% of the voters wanted Sarah Benischek  over the incumbent.  To then seat the incumbent to fill the vacancy is diametrically opposed to the will of the majority.

Sarah Benischek was one of the “Back-to-Basics” candidates who ran on a slate of change.  Sarah is a young Marine wife who home schools her children.  She stated that one of her goals was to improve the school system to make it good enough that she and all parents would want to send their children to be educated in the public schools.  Sarah is very conservative.  Although several profess to be conservative, the members of the Board of Education are much more liberal than Sarah is.

As she made clear during the campaign, Sarah is against Common Core which is, all claims to the contrary not withstanding, an unconstitutional federal program of indoctrinating children in school in a unpatriotic and  socialist way.  Here is her statement given in the CCTA vetting process, “Common Core is a travesty.  Under Common Core, cursive writing isn’t taught, and American history is now more than ever subject to one’s own interpretation and revision, and the big government social indoctrination is deeply concerning.”  CAN YOU IMAGINE A CURRENT MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION STATING THAT?

 

Kim Smith, a member of the Board, was quoted in the Sun Journal as saying, “It takes every bit of discretion away from the voters, that’s picking someone we like and who likes us, and who thinks like us.”  And THAT, my friends, is exactly what they elected to do.  They essentially said, “TO HECK WITH WHAT THE VOTERS WANTED IN THE LAST ELECTION!”

 

The process described by the then Chairman, Carr Ipoch, would have given a chance for citizens to recruit someone to apply to be appointed to the Board who thinks about public education more like Sarah Benischek.  In fact, an effort to do so was under way.  It’s pretty obvious that THE BOARD DID NOT WANT THAT TO HAPPEN!

Respectfully submitted,

Hal James, Chairman, CCTA’s Watchdog Committee

Carroll G. (Carr) Ipock, II- Candidate Craven County Board of Education

Interview questions were developed by a Vetting Committee of 10 members of the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association. All candidates for a particular office were asked the same questions. Interviews were conducted by 3 rotating members of the Vetting Committee. Summaries are the agreed-upon consensus of each 3-member group. Candidates were asked to interview in-person, but phone interviews were offered for candidates living outside Craven County if schedules would not allow travel.
Name, Candidate Position: Carroll G. (Carr) Ipock, II
Interview Date: 10-18-16
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Interviewed: In Person
Name: Carr Ipock
Phone:   252-637-3322
Email: carr_ipock@hotmail.com
Address: 414 Surrey Lane, New Bern, North Carolina, 28562
Educational Background:
Graduated from New Bern High School.
Studied biology and chemistry at the University of North Carolina.
Accepted a position with Whyerhouser and came back to school at East Carolina (chemical engineering)
Experience:
I’ve worked in process engineering and chemical engineering, and each of them is aimed at optimizing systems.
As Chairman of the Board of Education, I have worked with several different Superintendents of Schools. I’ve worked with Brad Sneedsan, Bill Rivenbank, Larry Mosser, Lane Mills, and now Dr. Doyle. I’ve had a lot of longevity and have learned a lot from a lot of Superintendents.
I’ve been involved in vetting charter school applications.
Demonstrations of Leadership:
I served on the State School Board, and was named “School Board Member of the Year” in 1996.
Memberships and Associations:
NC Counselors Association
NC School Board Association
Rotary
Wounded Warriors Association
Why are you running for this office?
There is still work to be done, and I understand that work better now. I want to help our new Superintendent transition. I want to be a voice for our students and families. I want to continue my charge with pre-K, vocational ed, and workforce development. I want to continue to grow Craven County standards and proficiency.
What is the organizational structure of your campaign, fund raising capability, etc.?
My campaign is self-directed and self-funded. Other than phone calls and advice, no one is helping.
Which of the Founding Fathers do you most admire?
 
George Washington.
Why?
I admire his military leadership. He was out-maned and out-gunned, but he motivated soldiers. With his leadership, we still won.
Margaret Thatcher once said, “Consensus is a lack of leadership.” Do you agree? Why, or why not?
I don’t agree. Consensus is the objective of leadership. Leadership works to arrive at a consensus. Compromise can be a consensus.
Which President do you most admire? Why?
Actually, George Washington again.
He was on an unchartered course. He knew what our nation should be like. He led the way in service. It wasn’t about power for him. It was about service. It demonstrated what today’s politics should be about.
Do you believe the Founding Fathers intended the Constitution to be:
            a. An evolving document whose meaning changes with time, or
            b. A permanent set of rules to limit the power of the federal government?
I’ve thought about this a lot. I believe it was intended to be a permanent set of rules. It was based on the rights of man and government. It can be amended.
Discuss an ethical dilemma you faced. What happened? How did you resolve it?
Many times I’m called on as a Board member by people who want me to intercede in their behalf. One parent I know well and am close to asked me to let her daughter remain in the school she’d been attending even though the family had moved to another school district. I asked her what hardship changing schools would cause. She replied that going to the new school wasn’t a hardship; she would just prefer that her daughter stay with her classmates.
I had just served on a panel that had turned down a similar request from another parent, so I could not treat this parent differently in good conscience. However, because it was someone I was close to, I knew something about her circumstances that would allow her to take an action that would cause the change she wanted to occur within the existing rules, and I pointed this option out to her.
Where do individual rights come from?
Initially, God.
When the Constitution was written, God was a part of that, and it comes from the Constitution as well.
What do you know about Common Core? What is your position on it and why?
I know too much.
What is your position on it and why?
It’s misunderstood. The title “Common Core” is toxic. It’s really standards for education across the country. What I wish we called it in North Carolina would be something like, “the NC Essential Standards for Excellence in Education.”
The math is totally misunderstood. It was hastily and badly implemented.
The “Common” part is not one size fits all, but it does allow students who come to North Carolina from another state to be on the same education tract.
What is your opinion on gun ownership, registration, and gun free zones?
Citizens have a God given right to bear arms.  I am against high capacity magazines and automatic weapons without proper government oversight.  Registration is not a problem with me.  As for gun free zones, especially at schools, there are pros and cons to both ways.  I am well aware that the school as a gun free zones is a soft target.  However, I am not ready to arm the teachers.  If school resources allow, there should be a School Resource Officer who is an armed law enforcement officer, and each school should have a well laid out security program.
What does the phrase “Separation of Church and State” mean to you?
Being a history major, I think that term came from what was happening in Europe where churches wielded tremendous power. I agree that church and state should be separate, but it’s gone to the extreme where the voice of the church is being diminished.
If elected, what would be your number one priority item during your term in office?
To continue to serve the stakeholders and monitoring stakeholders’ concerns. We have to continue working for pre-K, vocational education, and workforce development. For example, do you realize that some places in Virginia, pre-K students are as young as 3 years old?
This interview was conducted by Kathryn Blankley, Hal James, and Raynor James.

Candidate Vetting Interview- Stefanie King, Craven Board of Education District 1

Interview questions were developed by a Vetting Committee of 10 members of the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association. All candidates for a particular office were asked the same questions. Interviews were conducted by 3 rotating members of the Vetting Committee. Summaries are the agreed-upon consensus of each 3-member group. Candidates were asked to interview in-person, but phone interviews were offered for candidates living outside Craven County if schedules would not allow travel.
Stefanie King, Board of Education District 1 
Interview Date: October 19, 2016
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Interviewed: Conference Call
Committee:
                                                  1. Earl Dail
                                                   2. Linda Dail
                                                   3. Annette Hawkins
Name, Address, Phone, E-mail:
Name:  Stefanie King
Phone:  252-349-4734
E-mail:  agapeway6@gmail.com
Address:  1788 Bear Hole Rd, Vanceboro, NC 28586
Educational Background:
Bachelor of Science in English Education from ECU
Masters in Curriculum Instruction
Masters in Administration and Supervision
Experience:
Currently part time teaching at Craven Community College and tutoring elementary students after school
Taught at West Craven High School for 15 years.
Assistant Principal for 6 years at West Craven High School
Demonstrations of Leadership:
Department Chair of Freshman Academy
Department Chair of Transition Program
Memberships and Associations:
Founder of Sista/Sister
Member of St. James Church of Christ
Ordained Elder
Founder of Agape Ministries

 Why are you running for this office?
 I want to be part of what I believe in. I want to assist in
communication between the school, parents and the community.
A lack of understanding creates frustration. I can bridge the gap between parents and teachers.
What is the organizational structure of your campaign, fund raising capability, etc.?
 I have relied on the local Democratic Party. The party has done the fund raising.
Which of the Founding Fathers do you most admire?
George Washington
Why?
I like innovators, ones that make sure of success by taking part and performing successfully.

Margaret Thatcher once said, “Consensus is a lack of leadership.” Do you agree?
 I disagree.
Why or why not?
Consensus is a result of leadership. A strong leader will get all involved bought into the process. A good leader shows others how to lead.  A strong leader is able to voice their opinion without being judged.

Which President do you most admire?
Abraham Lincoln
Why?
He executed the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves.

Do you believe the Founding Fathers intended the Constitution to be:
             a. An evolving document whose meaning changes with time?
             b. A permanent set of rules to limit the power of the federal government?

 It was intended to be a permanent set of rules. Our world has been straying from the rules.

Discuss an ethical dilemma you faced.

A former supervisor asked me to falsify a document to allow a student to enter a school out of his district.
What happened?

I refused to do so because I knew the law.

Where do individual rights come from?

The Federal Government and The Constitution.
What do you know about Common Core?
Quite a bit. I’m not all for it, maybe 50/50. It is a big dividing issue.
What is your position on it and why?
I like the commonality of it. If test are the same then the teaching should be the same. I don’t like the excessive amount of testing. I never taught it but did help create lessons.

What is your opinion on gun ownership, registration, and gun free zones?
I believe in the right to own guns. There are times that you should own a weapon. There has to be consequences for action. I believe in gun free zones; such as schools, day cares, and places documented to have gun activity that has caused death, like Kinston.
What does the phrase “Separation of Church and State” mean to you?
Separation of church and state to me is that the state can’t run the church, neither can the church run the state. The church has the responsibility to help uphold laws but not to infringe upon.
If elected, what would be your number one priority item during your term in office?

To increase the effectiveness of communication relating to the school system. Frustration will decrease from better and more positive communication.

Vetting Interview Summary- Robert (Bob) Edmunds, NC Supreme Court Associate Justice

Candidate Vetting Interview Summary
                               
Interview questions were developed by a Vetting Committee of 10 members of the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association. All candidates for a particular office were asked the same questions. Interviews were conducted by 3 rotating members of the Vetting Committee. Summaries are the agreed-upon consensus of each 3-member group. Candidates were asked to interview in-person, but phone interviews were offered for candidates living outside Craven County if schedules would not allow travel.
Name, Candidate Position: Robert (Bob) Edmunds,
NC Supreme Court Associate Justice
Interview Date: 10-14-16
Party Affiliation: Republican
Interviewed: On Phone
Name: Bob Edmunds
Phone:   919-230-1589
Email: justiceedmunds@justiceedmunds.com
Address: P.O. Box 1802, Raleigh, North Carolina
Educational Background:
1967 – Started college at Williams College in Massachusetts.
After 2 years, transferred to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Graduated with honors with a degree in English.
Went to law school at UNC Chapel Hill, and graduated in 1975. While a student, served in Holderness seat on moot court.
Earned a master’s degree from University of Virginia School of Law.
Experience:
Did not particularly enjoy law school, but there were a lot of vets in school at the same time, and I admired what they brought in terms of maturity and experience, so after school, I passed the bar, and then joined the Navy. I went to flight school in Pensacola, Florida. I’m clumsy, so after 2 years, the Navy said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and I was honorably discharged.
I came back to Greensboro and became an Assistant District Attorney in Guilford County. I started in traffic. After 3 years, I was prosecuting career felons.
I was next hired as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, and prosecuted perpetrators of bank robberies, frauds, and things of that nature.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan appointed me United States Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina. (The district runs from Salisbury to Durham.) I tried international heroin smuggling and public corruption cases until 1993.
I then entered private practice with a firm in Greensboro, and did mostly state and federal criminal defense work.
I’m Board certified as a specialist in state and federal criminal law and also as a specialist in appellate practice.
I received the highest rating from Martindale-Huddell.
In 1998, I was elected to the NC Court of Appeals.
In 2000, I was elected to the NC Supreme Court, and in 2008, I was re-elected to that court.
Demonstrations of Leadership:
In August, I was named Chairman Elect of the American Bar Association’s Appellate Judges Conference by the 1,100 state and federal appellate judges and practitioners who are members.
Memberships and Associations:
NC Bar Association
American Bar Association
Virginia State Bar
Federalist Society
American Law Institute
Guilford Inn of Court
Rotary Club of Greensboro
Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Greensboro (where my parents were married after WWII)
Why are you running for this office?
I love the work, and I’m told I’m good at it. As a matter of fact, I have the endorsements of several groups I value.
I’m endorsed by:
            Four former Chief Justices of the Supreme Court (2 Republicans and 2 Democrats),
            Most former Presidents of the NC State Bar,
            Former Presidents of the NC Bar Association,
            Over 90 of North Carolina’s 100 sheriffs.
Having the endorsements of these people who pay attention to the workings of the court is gratifying.
What is the organizational structure of your campaign, fund raising capability, etc.?
Mine is a down ballot, low budget campaign. It pretty much consists of me and a recent college graduate (who is paid). I also work with a fund raiser, but that’s it.
Which of the Founding Fathers do you most admire? Why?
That’s a tough call. Probably Madison because of his views on political science and political democracy. Also, because of his work in shepherding the Constitution through the Convention and getting it ratified.
I’m also a big fan of Hamilton for his work in putting the nation on a sound financial footing.
And of course, George Washington was the indispensable man.
Margaret Thatcher once said, “Consensus is a lack of leadership.” Do you agree? Why, or why not?
I have some disagreement with that point of view because the Supreme Court consists of 7 people who have to work together. However, sometimes consensus is avoidance of critical issues.
A lot of my work is behind closed doors working so the court can issue a single opinion. This is true because we often initially have different ideas, or we agree on what the outcome should be but have different ideas about why – what points of law support the outcome. We strive to make the reasoning clear so that attorneys can work with it with clarity.
Which President do you most admire? Why?
Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln was a genius who saved the nation and left us a legacy we can all be proud of.
Do you believe the Founding Fathers intended the Constitution to be:
            a. An evolving document whose meaning changes with time, or
            b. A permanent set of rules to limit the power of the federal government?
It’s pretty clear the answer is “b.” They set up an amendment process to regularize the process and make it clear.
Discuss an ethical dilemma you faced. What happened? How did you resolve it?
A very recent one involved a General Assembly bill that made my race a retention election. North Carolina courts threw the law out. A 3 judge panel of trial judges said it was unconstitutional. It then went to the North Carolina Supreme Court where it became an ethical issue for me.
It can be argued that I should have been involved in the decision because it is a decision that will affect all 7 judges, not just me. However, since I am running in this election, it affected me immediately, and I did not participate. I felt I couldn’t do it ethically, and that has resulted in my being in a contested election.
Where do individual rights come from?
They come from God.
What do you know about Common Core? What is your position on it and why?
Very little. My children are not of an age for me to have been directly involved with it.
Apart from that, I’ve kinda’ steered away from Common Core questions because it may come before the court.
What is your opinion on gun ownership, registration, and gun free zones?
Once again, we’re dealing with an issue that may come before the court, so I’ll respectfully decline to speak on it other than mentioning that I’m a member of the NRA.
What does the phrase “Separation of Church and State” mean to you?
This is another issue that could come before the court.
If elected, what would be your number one priority item during your term in office?
Since I already serve on the court, I think what concerns me most is access to justice. Men and women of limited means have difficulty securing adequate representation and having their cases litigated. It’s of concern and needs work.
This interview was conducted by Kathryn Blankley, Hal James, and Raynor James.

CCTA Candidate Interview-Sarah Benischeck, Craven Board of Education- District 7

Interview questions were developed by a Vetting Committee of 10 members of the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association. All candidates for a particular office were asked the same questions. Interviews were conducted by 3 rotating members of the Vetting Committee. Summaries are the agreed-upon consensus of each 3-member group. Candidates were asked to interview in-person, but phone interviews were offered for candidates living outside Craven County if schedules would not allow travel.
Candidate name, position:  Sarah Benischek, Board of Education, District 7
Interview Date: October 9, 2016
Party Affiliation: Republican
Interviewed: In-Person
Name:  Sarah Benischek
Address:  117 Secretariat Drive, Havelock, NC, 28532
Educational Background:
I was educated in public schools, elementary school, high school, and Craven Community College, where I earned a certificate in Auto CAD.
Experience:
My experiences include home schooling my both of my children for a total of eight years, and although I do not utilize the public school system as of now, I am still deeply interested in seeing it become an institution I can place my good faith and confidence to do so one day soon.  Life experience has given me many opportunities to exercise my time and talents which I think have strengthened me into the person I am today.  One characteristic of mine in particular would be my determination.  I have plenty of experience using that trait which has helped me to be a successful wife, mother, teacher, business woman, and overall survivor of many of life’s circumstances that have come my way.
Randy Siler, a 6th grade school teacher, asked, “If you look at the School Board as a business, who is your ultimate customer?”
The ultimate customer would be the parents. Although the students are recipients or “customers” of the education that’s provided to them, the parents are ones who chose to put their trust and their child’s welfare in the hands of the school in which they send their child.  Which in large part is governed by the Craven County school board.  It’s a wonder MORE parents don’t involve themselves in matters pertaining to the school board and ultimately the decisions it makes!

Parents either don’t care, are too busy, are unaware, or feel like their involvement won’t make a difference or even their options will be ignored by the school board.  ALL of which are unacceptable and I for one am DETERMINED to bring about positive change when it comes to parental involvement.

Demonstrations of Leadership:

Being a proactive parent has definitely taught me a lot about leadership.  Running a school within my own home has taught me much about educational leadership.  Being the wife of a United States Marine who is currently serving 18.5 years with absolute integrity, courage and professionalism has taught me volumes about leadership. As president, owner and operator of my Craven County small business, I have learned much about leadership.  Volunteering through my local church has taught me much about leadership.  I think John Quincy Adams summed it up well when he said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a LEADER.”

Memberships and Associations:

I am a proud member of Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association, National Wildlife Turkey Federation, NRA, USO, American Family Association, and Focus on the Family
Why are you running for this office?
I’m running because I was initially asked to run by a conservative group who all know me and my specific plight involving my children’s education vs. having my own career. I never dreamed in a million years I would ever be a “home schooler.”  However, because I do take education seriously and believe that a child’s education can directly impact the rest of their future, I was willing to forgo my own career aspirations and take matters into my own hands insuring that my children receive a top notch education.  What saddens me are many children who are being robbed of this opportunity through faulty state and federal government educational requirements and “standards.”  The home school curriculum I use is 2 years ahead of the public schools in Craven County. Or is it that Craven County 2 years behind?
What is the organizational structure of your campaign, fund raising capability, etc.?
The citizens that helped organized the Back-to-Basics platform and organization make up my campaign organization. They are about 10 conservative minded citizens who serve as campaign treasurer, strategists, and fund raisers.
Which of the Founding Fathers do you most admire?
Thomas Jefferson.
Why?
He was a gifted inventor and a statesman who understood the structure required to form a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”  He was the principal writer of our Declaration of Independence from a tyrannical government.  He also knew the value of education, and he founded the University of Virginia which is a strong institution today!
Margaret Thatcher once said, “Consensus is a lack of leadership.” Do you agree?
Yes, I do agree that it often can be.
Why or why not?

Anybody can go along with a crowd, but what takes true courage and leadership is standing firm for what is RIGHT despite being uncomfortable.
Which President do you most admire?
George Washington
Why?
George Washington was a great general, who served without pay by the way! He had the vision to achieve success, and he genuinely cared about his subordinates making sure they were well housed during that fateful winter at Valley Forge.  He not only personally checked on the well being of his men, but also shared in their severe adversities. He encouraged them and inspired them. He was willing to give his own life for what he knew was right!  That my friends, is a GREAT leader.
Do you believe the Founding Fathers intended the Constitution to be:
a . An evolving document whose meaning changes with time, or
b. A permanent set of rules to limit the power of the federal government?

It’s “b.”  The Constitution is the law of the land and it provides for amendment by the sovereign states in convention or by the people. That’s all the adjustment for change that is needed. It’s designed in such a way as to limit the abuse by an over zealous government which is alive and well today.

Discuss an ethical dilemma you faced. What happened?

An ethical dilemma is voting for a candidate because that individual is the lesser of two evils.
How did you resolve it?

I consider what the single most important issue there is, which for me is LIFE, and vote accordingly.

Where do individual rights come from?
Our rights don’t come from man, but from God.
What do you know about Common Core?
Common Core math is a travesty.  Under common core, cursive writing isn’t being taught, and American history is now more than ever a subject to one’s own interpretation and revision, and the big government social indoctrination is deeply concerning.
What is your position on it and why?
If you want to get rid of Common Core, I will fight for you and many others on the Craven County school board to do so. Common Core really needs to go.
What is your opinion on gun ownership, registration, and gun free zones?

If you are not a felon, or mentally deficient, you have the God given right to self protection including gun ownership. I personally try to avoid gun free zones as much as possible as I do not feel safe!
What does the phrase “Separation of Church and State” mean to you?
That the state shall not decide on a certain religion (or religious belief) or denomination to force on it’s citizens. The state doesn’t have the right to dictate what you should believe!

If elected, what would be your number one priority item during your term in office?

I would like to create an atmosphere of trust on the school board in which teachers will feel respected and will no longer fear the administrators or the board. I would like to help parents have their voices heard and opinions also respected.

The committee which conducted this interview consisted of Hal James and Raynor James.

Candidate Vetting Questions – Dr. June Atkinson Candidate North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction

Interview questions were developed by a Vetting Committee of 10 members of the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association. All candidates for a particular office were asked the same questions. Interviews were conducted by 3 rotating members of the Vetting Committee. Summaries
are the agreed-upon consensus of each 3-member group. Candidates were asked to interview in-person, but phone interviews were offered for candidates living outside Craven County if schedules would not allow travel.
Candidate Vetting Questions
Dr. June Atkinson
Candidate North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction
Interview Date: March 8, 2016
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Interviewed: In Person at the Craven County Library
Committee
1. Brad Cummings
2. Mary Griswold
3. Bob Griswold


1) Name, Address, Phone, E-mail, Occupation, Age

Dr. June Atkinson
Email address: jatkinson9@nc.rr.com
Phone: 919-818-7209
Occupation: North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction
2) Educational Background

Graduate – Virginia Public Schools
Graduate – Radford University
Master’s Degree – Virginia Tech in Vocational and Technical
Education
Doctorate – North Carolina State in Education Leadership and Policy
Experience:

Currently in third term as North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Schools
Previously held various positions within the department including Director of Careers in Technical Education
Previously taught in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Dr. Atkinson was in charge of the business cooperative program
Prior to that Dr. Atkinson was a high school business teacher in Roanoke, Virginia
Demonstrations of Leadership

When I became Superintendent the graduation rate of North Carolina students was 68 percent. Now it is 86 percent.

I worked with the Community College system to get rid of convoluted laws preventing high school students from taking college courses and put together a coherent progression policy. I worked with research staff to write legislation to allow students with a 2.5 average who were in their junior year of high school to take college courses that are working toward a certificate or degree. Last year 35 percent of high school students had earned some college credits.

North Carolina moved to #18 in the nation in the number of students passing advanced placement exams.

Five or six years ago, I signed an agreement with Microsoft to set up a statewide site license to allow students in North Carolina to work toward Microsoft certifications. Students in career education have earned 130,000 various certifications.
3) Memberships and Associations

Delta Kappa Gamma – a sorority that promotes professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education.

Phi Delta Kappa – a professional organization for educators.

American Association of Career and Technical Education

Lifetime member National Business Education Association

Council of Chief State School Officers

American Society for Curriculum and Development (ASCD)

First United Methodist Church, Cary, North Carolina
4) Why are you running for this office?

a. I want to move the graduation rate closer to 100 percent.

b. I want to improve reading achievement and growth in the early grades.

c. The new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives North Carolina more flexibility in education than the prior No Child Left Behind program. I want to set up a new testing system, more local control, and eliminate some paperwork.

d. I believe that I work well with the General Assembly and want to continue to work with them to improve the education of North Carolina’s children.
5) What is the organizational structure of your campaign, fund raising capability, etc.?

I have a campaign manager and two coordinators—one for the eastern part of North Carolina and one for the western part of North Carolina. My network of friends has held fund raisers for me. I have a presence on social media.
6) Which of the Founding Fathers do you most admire?

Thomas Jefferson. He was born in Virginia, he was a deep thinker, he was a man of curiosity. He had a wealth of experience—nation’s first Secretary of State, Ambassador to France, and 2nd Governor of Virginia. He had a vision which allowed him to make the Louisiana Purchase. As a leader, he had to go against the crowd. He had his flaws, but was a man of accomplishment.
7) Margaret Thatcher once said, “Consensus is a lack of leadership.” Do you agree? – Why or why not?

I agree more than I disagree. Sometimes consensus will not lead people forward. We have to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. We need to develop steps to get where we want to go. If we have consensus, we may not be stretching far enough. The first North Carolina Superintendent of Schools had a vision for a blackboard in every class. If we had stopped at that vision, where would we be?
8) Which President do you most admire? – Why?

William Howard Taft. – I just read The Bully Pulpit which is the story of William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. He was a man of integrity, who cared about people, and was accessible to people. As the first Governor of the Philippines, William Howard Taft moved among the people. A leader has to be accessible.
9) Do you believe the Founding Fathers intended the Constitution to be:

a. An evolving document whose meaning changes with time?

b. A permanent set of rules to limit the power of the federal government?

A permanent set of rules to limit the power of the federal government to be changed only by the vote of the people.
Discuss an ethical dilemma you faced. What happened? – How did you resolve it?

I have faced no recent ethical dilemmas. There were some hard decisions in my past that sometimes involved choosing between good and good or between bad and bad.
10) Where do individual rights come from?

The Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, state statutes, and federal laws. Those emanate from the Bible and religious beliefs such as the Judeo-Christian ethic.
11) What do you know about Common Core? – What is your position on it and why?

It is a set of standards—statements of what students should know and be able to do grade by grade. We are in the fourth year of Common Core. State law requires that we review standards every five years. We will be making a presentation to the State Board of Education in April with our recommendations about Common Core along with the Academic Standards Review Commission recommendations. We will be recommending changes based on what teachers suggest. There are substantive changes to be presented to the Board of Education.
12) What is your opinion on gun ownership, registration, and gun free zones?

As State Superintendent of Schools, this is an issue that I do not directly deal with. I grew up in a family that hunted. I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe that public schools should be gun free zones with the exception of Student Resource Officers who are trained to handle dangerous situations. The North Carolina schools have protocols in place for handling dangerous situations.
13) What does the phrase “Separation of Church and State” mean to you?

Government cannot declare a religion for all Americans. Each individual has the right to be free from religion or free to practice their religion. The Bible and Christianity are part of our heritage.
14) If elected, what would be your number one priority item during your term in office?

To work with the General Assembly to improve teachers’ salary. The enrollment in teacher preparation programs has dropped. The teacher turnover rate has increased to 14 percent, including movement within the system. We have more inexperienced teachers than experienced teachers. I would recommend a ‘wedding cake’ approach to teachers’ salaries. There would be four layers based on various aspects of teaching—mentoring, serving in difficult areas, and achievement of students.

Vetting Interview with ROSEMARY STEIN, M.D., Candidate For NC Superintendent of Public Instruction

Rosemary Stein, M.D., Republican candidate for North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction, was interviewed in person by Kim Fink, Hal James, and Raynor James on February 29, 2016.

1) Name, address, phone, email?

Rosemary Stein, M.D.

336-212-1200 (cell), 336-570-0010 (office)

infamclin@aol.com

2105 Maple Avenue, Burlington, North Carolina, 27215

2) Educational Background? Experience? Demonstrations of Leadership?

I graduated from college, spent 4 years in medical school, and then 3 years in specialty training (pediatric medicine).

I speak 3 languages fluently, English, Spanish, and French.

I grew up in the Dominican Republic where my mother ran a school. In order to leave home, I had to walk through the school. First graders learned to read well. My job in high school was to help the first graders who were a little bit behind improve their reading skills.

During college and medical school, I had my own business teaching English as a second language. I taught between 10 and 20 children at a time. My mother’s school provided the classroom space.

My additional educational experience includes serving as a teaching professor at UNC, Wake Forest, and East Carolina University. Previous to that, I served as a professor at Duke.

Dave [Note: Rosemary’s husband, David, is also an M.D. who previously served in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division] and I have run our own pediatric medical practice for 16 years. We meet payroll first; we come last. We have a staff of 16 employees which includes 4 other physicians. We serve 5,000 patients who range in age from 0 to adulthood, about 20 or 21 years old. In spite of the decreases in income caused by the Affordable Care Act, managed care, and Medicaid, we are one of the few remaining private practices that has not joined a hospital group or other large group. We manage our own budget and take no subsidies or grant money.

Leadership is shown by running a proactive practice for 16 years that changes outcomes for students. We do this by conducting clinics for concerned parents. We teach them parenting skills and how to lead the family. We help them help their children finish high school, practice abstinence, and take responsibility for themselves. We’ve written a book, Common Sense II – A Parenting Revolution, to help share this information with parents.

Our practice is proactive, not reactive. Using our approach could save the state $350,000 to $450,000 per year by teaching young patients and their parents to be more active and self-sufficient, but so far, the state’s not interested.

) Memberships and Associations?

I’m a member of the Christian Medical & Dental Association. I write for them and am on the Leadership Board for the Triangle Chapter (the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill areas).

I’ve dropped many medical boards because they’re too progressive.

I served for 2 years on the Hispanic Advisory and Education Committee under Governor McCrory.

I’ve served on the Alamance County Community College Board for 6 years and chaired the Curriculum Committee. The budget is about $30 million annually. I was instrumental in discovering what graduation numbers are for community colleges. Under 30% of the students graduate. When they arrive at a college, 50% to 60% of students need remediation. I pushed for answers and got them. They were very hard to come by for obvious reasons.

Craven is one of the better colleges in the system.

I also served on the Superintendent’s Graduation Task Force with June Atkinson, and got to see her finagle the numbers.

I was appointed by Phil Berger to serve on the Minority Health Council.

I’m a member of the Executive Committee and member of the Board of NC Smart Start. It’s a private and state funded project similar to Head Start. It has a $160 million annual budget. I hold a non-paid position. Smart Start was a Governor Jim Hunt endeavor. Originally, it was more for day care. I wanted the goal to be changed to helping the children become “school ready,” and it was necessary to involve and educate parents and educate the staff. The mission has changed to “school ready” which basically means that the child is paying attention, following directions, and exerting self-control.

4) Why are you running for this office?

I saw a chance to create change that will impact the lives of children and therefore the next generation of citizens. Right now, we’re not educating thinking citizens; we’re building a skilled labor force at best.

For a long time I felt we were supposed to create change in the lives of children. Former Executive Director of the NC GOP, Todd Poole, asked me to run for state-wide office. What I really wanted to do was talk to and educate parents. Then, I got a cold chill. I realized that serving as Superintendent of Public Instruction would give me the opportunity to talk to parents across North Carolina. It would give me the opportunity to do exactly what needed to be done.

I come from a family of educators in the Dominican Republic. We didn’t leave children behind. The methodology prevents that from happening. It takes the development of the child into account. Our system is broken, but it can be fixed.

5) What is the organizational structure of your campaign, fund raising capability, etc.?

I decided not to ask for money from any large organization that could profit from the schools. The contributions of individual people using their feet and voices to help are worth a lot of money. I wanted to keep it grassroots. I’ve asked for small contributions. The Lord will provide. When we had about $0, $500 came in.

6) Which of the Founding Fathers do you most admire?

George Washington. He was so tempered even though he was described as being a hothead in his youth. He took himself out of the conversation of where the country should go. He was God fearing and passionate, but held back his opinion.

For “true deeds,” I admire both John Adams (very passionate about the Lord) and George Washington.

For eloquence, I admire Thomas Jefferson. I admire Patrick Henry for passion. Abigail Adams is my favorite Founding Mother.

7) Margaret Thatcher once said, “Consensus is a lack of leadership.” Do you agree? Why or why not?

I don’t know the context in which she said it, but if you’re looking at polls and are overly concerned about whether we all agree, you’re not going to do what’s right. You’re not going to be an agent of change. The truth is the truth. If I get the job, I’ll have all sorts of arrows coming at me.

8) Which President do you most admire? Why?

Ronald Reagan after George Washington.

Because he was cradled in faith. He rose from a lowly, humble start. He knew he had been ordained to be an American leader. He did not let go of his goals and ideas.

9) Do you believe the Founding Fathers intended the Constitution to be:

a. An evolving document whose meaning changes with time?

b. permanent set of rules to limit the power of the federal government?

It’s “b.”

Unnumbered question) Discuss an ethical dilemma you faced. What happened?

I don’t think we have a problem with ethical dilemmas in our practice. Those sorts of things are easy decisions.

Do I pay myself, or do I take care of all my employees first? Not a tough decision.

An employee gets sick. Do I pitch a temper tantrum, or do I answer the phone or start taking vital signs? Again, not a tough decision.

10) Where do individual rights come from?

From God!

11) What do you know about Common Core? What is your position on it and why?

It’s developmentally inappropriate, unsound education that hard wires a child the wrong way. The fellow who wrote it has no educational experience, but made lots of money on it. We need to get rid of it ASAP. It’s a failure of natural law.

12) What is your opinion on gun ownership, registration, and gun free zones?

If I had my way, I’d make sure we had several concealed weapons people in every school.

The 2nd Amendment is meant to protect ourselves from the government, too.

13) What does the phrase “Separation of Church and State” mean to you?

Government can’t impose a religion on you. You’re free to worship as you please.

14) If elected, what would be your number one priority item during your term in office?

Remove Common Core. Replace it with classical education which is a logical way of educating, and the child ends up a thinker.

Also, push the legislature to cut federal ties that bind us. The federal government contributes a small amount of money (10%) which comes with huge strings that bind us. It provides 10% of the money and about 100% of the policy. I’m sure there will be those that announce that North Carolina will come to an end if we lose that funding, but the red tape and interference are counter to being able to educate children well.

If we can get rid of the federal government from education, I think we could make delivering education cheaper within 1 year.

Craven County School administration works toward misdemeanor

Just when I think the administration at Craven County Schools can’t sink any lower, they once again surprise me.

Take this weekend as a great example. During the heavy rain and wind that hit the county, a group of dedicated Board of Education candidates hoping to fill seats on the School Board, along with volunteers, braved the weather to deliver signs along with their message within Craven County.

Their mistake seems to be they thought the administration wouldn’t remove the signs from the public right-of-way near the school’s central office in New Bern. The signs lasted less than 24 hours before they were removed, admittedly by the administration at Craven County Schools, who argued the central office is private property.

That’s right taxpayers, the central office built with your money is private. And apparently, the right-of-way is as well.

Perhaps these administrators need to read the General Statutes that explicitly state the removal of political signs is a Class 3 misdemeanor.

My question to these administrators: What are you so afraid of? What gives you the right to go against the law and remove someone else’s signs? Finally, why not just call the candidates and ask them to remove the signs?

I know some people may not care about the candidates signs. After all, it’s their money – not yours. However, we all need to be concerned when free speech is abated due to a handful of administrators claiming to know what’s best for the county.

Feel free to contact me at gisela@cctaxpayers.com.

Craven County Schools is broke – Part 3

Once again, I write about Craven County Schools because two other articles on the recent announcement the district will be $3.5 million in the hole next year has not covered the amount of waste by the current board.

Following is a list of where some of your money has been spent in the past year.

Legal services
At the end of the past fiscal year, Craven County Schools spent $330,641 on legal services. That figure represents an extra $60,426 than what was budgeted, according to the financial audit presented to the board in December.
So, how did the district find itself spending so much on legal fees? Well, when you’re strapped with a civil action filed on behalf of a former student who suffered brain damage while nearly drowning on a school-sponsored field trip and have decided to fight the claims of “negligence,” it costs money.

Not only is Craven County Schools gearing up for a legal battle with the student as apparent during all their closed session meetings citing “attorney-client privilege,” but they’ve also been engrossed in a battle with a special needs mom who has asked for months for the disclosure of investigative materials related to an unauthorized therapeutic hold on her child which one doctor described as causing “excessive” bruises, according to court documents.

It was just this month that a judge reprimanded the school district for hiring an attorney to investigate the hold, which the N.C. Department of Public Instruction ruled unnecessary. The judge called into question the school’s integrity in hiring an attorney to investigate what should have been scrutinized by the district itself. He also seemed to allude to the fact it was a waste of taxpayers’ money for the school system to even contract with an attorney while staff could have investigated the hold.

Then, there’s the defense fund paid for by the school district regarding the bus driver who accidentally killed another person while navigating U.S. 70 in Goldsboro at 3:30 a.m. during the trip back from New Bern High School’s football championship game in December of 2014.

The driver was clearly in the wrong. She failed to yield while making a U-turn, according to the report from the State Trooper investigating the case. However, the school district wasted its money (or your money) on her legal defense.

Furthermore, according to the district’s own policies, they could have chosen not to pay the legal fees as breaking the law while fulfilling an employee’s duties gives the district a chance to opt out of footing the bill.

Public relations and marketing
Per the district’s audit report released in December, Craven County Schools overspent in public relations and marketing during the last fiscal year by more than $50,000. Now, while facing a budget shortfall of $3.5 million next year that may not seem like a lot of money, but it adds up quickly. In fact, when the public relations director herself makes around $80,000 a year, one has to question this overspending of funds. In a time where social media is readily available for public consumption, how can it cost that much to spread the word about important matters parents and stakeholders need to know about. The district has a Facebook account, a Twitter feed and a show on Channel 10 that actually donates a portion of time to the school. In addition, the local newspaper runs a free page each week highlighting the school system’s accomplishments. This writer would like to know where that money is spent.

GPS system on buses
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all about student safety if that is why you’re spending money. Nothing is more valuable than the little ones who venture on and off the buses each day. However, just like in your personal household, you must set a budget and work within its constraints.

Craven County Schools simply didn’t do this when it decided to contract with Synovia GPS at a cost of $6,156 per month to install GPS systems on each bus in the district. Originally, the School Board asked the Craven County Board of Commissioners to foot the $68,000 bill to contract with the company; however, commissioners focused on other capital needs that were more pressing.

After the Board of Commissioners denied the request, the Board of Education suddenly inherited transportation funds allowing the district to contract with the company.

Now, why did they install the systems on the buses? Was it simply for student safety? I wish I could say yes, but having attended a board meeting where it was discussed, this is not the case. The purpose of the GPS system was to save on fuel and track employees’ time.

Again, please tell me why we need a GPS tracker to find an employee of the school district? If my employer couldn’t find me while supposedly on the clock and I couldn’t produce an acceptable answer, my job would be gone. But not the employee mentioned by the Transportation Director to the board. That employee kept his or her job.

Suspension of employees without pay

Now, this one is a little tricky because according to a report in the Sun Journal, the district doesn’t actually track its expenses in this category. Highlights of the article include Craven County Schools spending thousands of dollars to teachers “suspended with pay.” The number could obviously be higher than thousands but one example highlighted an educator who was paid $1,023 in four days to sit at home.

Chairman Carr Ipock defended the policy stating each employee was innocent until proven guilty. So, not only do the employees enjoy a right only given to those on trial in criminal cases but the taxpayers must foot the bill until the employee is either reinstated or fired.

This writer inquired with other local government entities about their policies on “suspension with pay” and was actually laughed at. North Carolina is an at-will to work state – period. I doubt many other institutions run on the same stance Chairman Ipock does.

School redistricting
Again, I don’t have the figures for the consultants who were hired to delve into attendance trends, birth rates, etc. regarding school attendance but I am certain this money was wasted if the board actually considers a feasible alternative to saving funds to be closing a school.

Why move around 5,000 students one year when during the next you will have to move an entire school? Why waste the public’s time and the consultant’s? And, more importantly why do this to parents and teachers who have been bounced from school-to-school for a few years in a row now to deal with overcrowding.

Oh, and by the way, redistricting never dealt with overcrowding as all three high schools are currently over 100 percent capacity.

What I would like to know and what the public should demand is the amount wasted on the consultants to redistrict.

Check back for more as I follow the money.

Contact me at gisela@cctaxpayers.com.

Craven County Schools is broke – Part Two

Craven County Schools is now saying it is in the black this school year; however, the district anticipates a $3.5 million hole next year. This is their way of being proactive, I guess. Scare the masses and hopefully, the Board of Commissioners will cave based on public pressure and give the school system more money. Because it is, after all, the federal government, the state government and finally, the local government’s fault the district does not have enough money to operate efficiently and effectively.

In an earlier post, entitled, “Surprise! Craven County Schools is broke,” I outlined some of the options the district is considering in saving funds. The possibilities included closing a school and reducing hours of those who make the least amount of money including janitors, classroom assistants, clerical staff and bus assistants for the Exceptional Children’s Program.

Some other options in their pursuit for more carefree financial days include making student athletes pay to play. That’s right, your high-schooler may need to fork out an additional $100 to Craven County Schools just to have the opportunity to cheer for their school. Then, there’s a proposed fee for things like transportation. And let’s not forget the Board of Education’s current dilemma of whether or not to enforce school uniforms next year district-wide.

So, whether you like it or not, if it comes from the Board of Commissioners or out of your own pocket, all taxpayers in Craven County will be footing the bill of the possible mismanagement of funds from the local school system.

This isn’t the first time Craven County Schools decided to make the parents cough up money for the district’s needs nor will it be the last. Consider the new technology fee, which each student – from kindergarten on – must pay just to utilize technology in the classroom. Just last month, the district reported in its tiny financial report located in the School Board’s agenda that the district had raked in more than $45,000 in the past month from those student fees. At $20 per student with at least 13,000 students in the district, this money adds up. Notice I wrote at least 13,000 students. That’s because I am uncertain as to how many students have transferred out of the district.

In that same report, the district notes it lost funds due to enrollment in the state’s Virtual Charter School while also paying money to other local public charter schools, as well. Giving money to charter schools is a huge problem for this board. To listen to the members talk during meetings, you would think those schools are stealing money from Craven County Schools. But that can’t be so. If you don’t have a student to educate because they are attending another school, why then would you need the funds? Why not give it to the school that is actually doing the work? Ask a School Board member about this discrepancy and they will stutter as they try to give you a speech on how charter schools are not measured by the same standards as public schools. But that’s another argument for another day.

In the report, Craven County Schools also lists grants received. For 2015-16, the district procured $1.6 million in grants. Now, the grant funds are not broken down by what they can be used for because that would give the public too much information and we all know this district isn’t fond of transparency. Nevertheless, funds are coming in.

Finally, the school’s transportation budget increased by $530,005, according to the agenda packet. If this is the case, why is the school system even discussing the increased burden on parents of having to pay for transportation? Furthermore, where did the funds to place GPS systems on buses come from? Please note they did this per the Transportation Director’s own statements in order to find out where waste was occurring. Not necessarily just for the safety to each student but so that the district could figure out why some bus drivers were arriving to school late. The director actually reported on an employee who was found to be sitting in a parking lot talking on her phone for 30 minutes each day but was still clocked in. Now, why does it take a GPS system to track employee waste?

Again, this post is getting long, so I will end by assuring my readers I will follow the money. In the next installment you will see where the district is wasting its money.

Feel free to contact me at gisela@cctaxpayers.com.

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