Category Archives: SchoolBoard

Fighting federal intrusion, data gathering, and student indoctrination

We at CCTA have had several opportunities recently to continue our battle against the intrusion of the federal government into local education and the indoctrination of children in socialism and globalization.

The Craven County Republican Women’s Club had the new NC Secretary of Public Instruction, Mark Johnson, as a speaker. Several CCTA members were present. Mr. Johnson invited one on one discussion after his talk. I showed him a document with the portion of the Common Core Educational Standards that require fourth graders to “discuss the effect of discrimination in our American culture,” and he agreed that they are age inappropriate, and he asked if he could keep the copies I had with me. I gave them to him.

At a recent meeting of the Craven County Board of Commissioners, a request made by Craven School Superintendent, Megan Doyle, to lease I-Pads for the use of each student and teacher in the county (K though 12) was approved. That resulted in a 3 year renewable lease for I-Pads at an annual cost of $986,789. This is a significant increase in “capital funding,” and the cost of the I-Pads was not mentioned in the presentation, nor was the fact that some child development specialists are saying that introducing young children (K through 2) to electronic devices interferes with their motor skill development and actually retards brain development. However, a meeting has been scheduled with Dr. Doyle to address CCTA’s concerns about the school system and to address her concerns about some of CCTA’s assertions.

Education was also discussed on our last CCTA “Wake- Up Call” radio show. Rick arranged for Lynn Taylor, known as “Common Core Diva,” to be a special guest via Skype. Lynn lives in Mooresville (near Charlotte), North Carolina. She spent 23 years homeschooling her 3 children. Lynn is admired and respected by Kim Fink, and her CCTA Public Education Committee.

Rick asked Lynn if what’s going on in education here and what’s going on in the UN have any relationship. She said they are related, and the key to understanding it are the notions of “collectivism” and “sustainability,” and goals built around the idea of being “green.” The idea is that “technology saves trees,” and “we can’t be one big happy world if we’re not all connected digitally.” NC has been among the first to hook up to global efforts for education and data sharing. Lynn also says FERPA (the “Family Educational Rights and Privacy Right Act of 1974”) has been gutted by an Executive Order by President Obama. She pointed out that data can be collected (without permission) in students’ homes by their school provided devices.

This change was accomplished by a publication of the US. Department of Education which states in part: “High quality data and robust data systems will help us measure our progress towards President Obama’s goal for us to be first in the world in college completion by the year 2020 and better meet the needs of parents, teachers, and students. … the U.S. Department of Education (Department) has begun several initiatives to provide technical assistance to States, districts, and schools to protect the privacy rights of students, promote the responsible use of data to inform education policy and practices and empower parents, teachers and students to use this information to advocate for their rights and improve their educational outcomes.”

We don’t believe a word of that publication, and you shouldn’t either. You’ll see why if you listen to that installment of “Wake-Up Call” which you can do by going to The program ends with ideas about how we can help fix this mess!

Watchdog Report on Craven County School Board Request for Money to Buy I-Pads

21 August 2017
There was much about this Craven County Board of Commissioners meeting that true Constitutionalists and conservatives would not like. To address them all in one email would make it too long, so this first report will cover only one of them, and that is the Board of Education’s request for money to lease I-pads for the use of all “traditional” school students and teachers (kindergarten through 12th grade) in the county.
The appeal was presented by Dr. Meghan Doyle, Superintendent of Schools.  To her credit, Dr. Doyle made sure that I had all the presentation materials that she provided the commissioners which I greatly appreciate.  She explained that secondary schools (grades 6 through12) do not receive Title 1 funds.  She assumed that every one knew what that is, but I didn’t, so I looked it up.
Title I, Part A (Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended (ESEA) provides financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers (or high percentages) of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.  Oct 5, 2015.
Dr. Doyle pointed out that at the end of the lease period (it must be “lease to own”), there would be enough “residual value” to make a down payment on the next 3 year lease period.  That she said would be from $80 to $100 dollars.  She also pointed out that the I-pads would reduce the number of printed books that would need to be purchased for students.  The amount allocated for students’ books was $90 per student, and it is paid for by the school system.  Wow!  I did not know that schools now provide the books.  When I was in school we bought them from the students in the class ahead of us.  Today’s children go first class, don’t they?
Prior to this meeting, I had made it clear to the board that CCTA objects to the county using capital outlay to pay for recurring expenses.  Commissioner Dacey had the good grace to make it known that the County’s portion of the expense would have to be moved from the current  general fund to capital outlay for the schools, but would not increase the already agreed to $750,000 annual contribution by the county for school capital outlay.  There was no explanation as to why the school system is not being required to pay it out of the funds they have already received.  Commissioner Dacey again restated his desire that all Craven County School students have access to wi-fi.  Dr. Dole said that the new I-pads would help because students could down load to their I-Pads and read the downloaded book or other down loaded material at home.
It became obvious during the discussion that Chairman Mark had not read the lease and that Commissioner Liner had.
NOW, for the strangest part.   Neither Dr. Doyle nor any commissioner stated the amount of the request!   I knew because the entire lease, Resolution requested, and the Lease Payment schedule were printed in attachment 2 of the 172 page agenda which I had printed and had with me.  (Is this hiding it in plain sight?  How many citizens go to the trouble and expense of printing the whole thing so that they can really see what is being done with taxpayers’ money?)
THE LEASE AGREEMENT COMES TO $2,960,368.13!    That’s right.  Almost $3 million dollars!   It is payable in 3 payments of $986,789, so that’s almost $1 million dollars annually for some time!  The due date for the first payment is September 14, 2017.
Nationally, we are now spending $1 billion dollars a day on interest on the debt we will pass on to our children and grandchildren.
How long can America go on in this spending spree to provide all citizens with everything they need or even want?  Historically, we looked after ourselves and our children.  Now, we seem to be rearing snowflakes who get their heads filled with nonsense while in school, graduate from college, and come home to live in our basements, and entertain themselves in various unfortunate ways while bemoaning their inability to get a job suitable to their status.  What have we allowed to happen to us?  When will we insist on fixing it?
Respectfully submitted,
Hal James
CCTA Watchdog Committee Chairman

We don’t usually agree with the New Bern Sun Journal, but we do with this. Have a look!

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

15 Successful Candidates on Gun Control

Gun Ownership?  Gun Registration?  Gun Free Zones?

CCTA’s vetting committee asked 15 successful candidates for public office the same questions.  It is interesting to note the answers given by these candidates to a question that CCTA members feel very strongly about.

Here is the question:

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

Congressman Walter Jones

Citizens of this country who follow the laws and the Constitution should not be prevented from owning a gun. The idea of gun free zones may be something for local people to discuss, but not at the state or federal level.

NC Treasurer, Dale Folwell 
My opinions on each are based on what the Constitution says, not on how someone interrupts it.
NC Auditor, Beth Wood
I grew up on a farm, so we had guns, and I believe we have a right to own guns.  I don’t agree that they should be registered.  But I don’t understand people having guns that shoot 100 rounds a minute.  I support background checks.
NC Commissioner of Insurance, Mike Cause
I’m a gun owner.  I’m pro 2nd Amendment.  I support gun ownership. I oppose gun registration.  My home was built in 1907 as a Remington hunting club.  It was called the Dodge Lodge Hunt Club.  I grew up with bird dogs, guns, and hunting. I oppose gun free zones. A gun free zone is an invitation to a criminal. Teachers with proper training should be allowed firearms.  Armed security personnel should be properly trained, too.
NC Senator Norman Sanderson, District 2   
Every American citizen (unless prohibited by criminal activity or it’s proven that you’re not mentally competent) should be able to own guns.  I think there should be some registration, but it shouldn’t be nearly as intrusive as it is.  I don’t want anyone to know how many guns I have.  You can put up a “Gun Free Zone” sign, but you’re just putting honest people at a disadvantage.
NC Representative Michael Speciale, District 3  
It’s pretty clear that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged.  An act requiring gun registration is not a Constitutional act. Gun free zones are killing zones.
NC Representative George Cleveland, District 14
The Second Amendment doesn’t say anything about gun control, registering gun owners or their firearms. The movement to control guns started in the late 1930s when a few people convinced others they would be safer without guns, but the truth is an armed citizenry is a polite citizenry.  If you take away guns from law abiding citizens, you make us less safe.

NC Superior Court Judge 3B, Josh Willey

That’s something I don’t think the code of judicial conduct permits me to comment on.  I do see that the Constitution says gun ownership shall not be infringed.

NC Court of Appeals Judge, Bob Hunter
The 2nd Amendment covers it.
NC Court of Appeals Judge, Hunter Murphy
Gun ownership is important.  We are gun owners.  People need to protect themselves and stand up for what’s right if it comes to that.  I’m not in favor of registration because then the federal government and foreign governments would know where the guns are.

NC Court of Appeals Judge, Phil Berger

The 2nd Amendment is very clear about gun ownership.  I am a gun owner.  I have a concealed carry permit.  I cannot discuss the issue of gun registration because that issue could potentially come before me in court, and if I discuss it now, I could not hear the case if it came before me later.  Gun free zones invite violence and should be eliminated.  Law abiding citizens who have not committed a felony should be allowed to carry.

Craven County Board of Education, District 1, Stefanie King
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.

Craven County Board of Education, District 3, Carr Ipoch

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.

Craven County Board of Education, District 5, David Hale
Part of the Constitution is that we have the right to own guns, and we have the right to defend ourselves.  Registration was not intended, but I understand how it might be required today to make sure guns are not in the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.  I don’t have a strong position on gun free zones, but there are areas where there should not be guns.

Craven County Board of Education, District 7, Sarah Benischek

 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!

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
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)
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
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.
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
                                                  1. Earl Dail
                                                   2. Linda Dail
                                                   3. Annette Hawkins
Name, Address, Phone, E-mail:
Name:  Stefanie King
Phone:  252-349-4734
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
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
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
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.

Hypocrisy alive and well

The hypocrisy should be obvious to most people but unfortunately, it’s not.

The Craven County Board of Education is in a battle with candidates looking for a seat on the School Board. So, what’s their problem? A candidate in the Back to Basics Craven County campaign – Rick Hopkins – had the audacity to place signs on the right-of-way near the central office.

Two weeks ago, the signs suddenly disappeared, taken down admittedly by officials with the district. This week, Hopkins placed the signs back in their spots to find once again their sudden need to be removed at the bequest of the current Board of Education, per the school district’s director of public relations who has decided to write a diatribe in favor of removal of the signs and expects the City of New Bern to take up the case during their next Board of Alderman meeting.

So, what’s ironic about this? First of all, the Board of Education has an Employee Political Activities policy, number 7720, which states “the employees right of citizenship, involving registering, discussing political issues, participating in political issues, participating on a community or board that seeks to serve the welfare of the community will not be infringed upon due to the employment by the school….”

The policy further states political activities must not “involve school monies or materials, take place during school time or make use of an official school position to encourage or to coerce students or other employees of the system to support in any way a political party, candidate of issue.”

Sounds fine, right? Until you do a little research on the Craven County School System. Though it has since been deleted, in September on the district’s Facebook page, House Bill 539 was discussed.

Specifically, the post stated the bill would “take money … from a school district to a charter school” when a child changes schools. The post written in Kanye West fashion featuring all uppercase letters said “IN REALITY, THIS BILL WILL INVOLVE TAKING MONEY MEANT TO SPECIFICALLY SERVE SCHOOL DISTRICT STUDENTS AND SHIFT IT (to the charter schools)….”

I’m sure that political activity was done by the public information officer on her own time. However, I can’t explain the use of the school district’s own Facebook page. Furthermore, on Jan. 13, 2005, in honor of School Board Appreciation Month, that same Facebook page said, “We would like to publicly thank our Board of Education for their commitment to public education, our school system family, and for always making decisions that our (sic) best for our students. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

Nope, nothing political about that one either.

The bottom line is Craven County Schools can’t have it both ways; you either must refrain from all political speech or dive right in. But the hypocrisy must stop.

Furthermore, can we please let the City of New Bern Aldermen deal with more important issues than a wayward sign?

Stay tuned for more on this story. It seems the hypocrisy may extend further than a 500-word piece.

Contact Grassroots Gisela at

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

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.

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