Jun 132015
 
lawsuit

New developments have occurred in the Providence VFD lawsuit, filed earlier this month against the Town of Weddington over the town’s wrongful termination of its 10 year Fire Service Contract. According to the EJ story, the PVFD has petitioned the court to include testimony from many of the principal actors involved with the decision on the town council as well as former the mayors and council members. Additionally, members of the Wesley Chapel VFD board of directors has been requested to be deposed.

The money quote from the story below:

“The Petitioner anticipates bringing a cause of action for injunctive relief and for tortious interference by Wesley Chapel Volunteer Fire Department, its officers, employees and agents (WCVFD) with Petitioner’s contract more specifically described as the Fire Service Agreement between the PVFD and the Town of Weddington”

Considering the language used above, the fireworks may just be starting.

Please note the excellent coverage of the story by the Enquirer Journal, please encourage continued coverage.

PVFD lawsuit expanded to include Wesley Chapel VFD, mayor

The Enquirer Journal:  Jun. 13, 2015 @ 01:00 PM
WEDDINGTON — There were two developments in Weddington’s controversial move to terminate its fire service agreement with Providence Volunteer Fire Department and contract with Wesley Chapel Volunteer Fire Department.The breach of contract suit filed last week was expanded to include statements by several people both in and outside Weddington government. And the N.C. Department of Insurance responded to WCVFD’s action plan for taking over service of Weddington.The April town council vote began a process that will likely cause Providence VFD to close on or before July 29, the date the new FSA with Wesley Chapel VFD takes effect. Not only does the council’s action strip Providence of its service area and revenue stream, it also sells the town-owned fire station on Hemby Road Providence inhabits to Wesley Chapel VFD.
The Providence VFD Board of Directors filed a breach of contract suit with the Union County Clerk of Court against Weddington. The complaint cited the 2013 FSA between the town and Providence. Mayor Bill Deter stated publicly that the town’s action was justified because Providence VFD was insolvent. He cited a budgetary shortfall for the current fiscal year and a fund balance lower than the council understood was necessary to operate.

But the FSA does not include the financial criteria cited by the mayor and a majority of town council members. Providence’s attorney, Bob Henderson, argued that the town violated the FSA and should pay the $750,000 for cancellation without cause.

Thursday, the lawsuit was updated to include a petition to depose 19 people. The plaintiff requests permission to take sworn statements from all current members of the Weddington council – Deter, Barbara Harrison, Don Titherington, Pamela Hadley and Michael J. Smith. It requests a statement from Leslie Gaylord, Weddington’s finance officer. Former mayors Walker Davidson and Nancy Anderson are listed, as are former Weddington Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Barry, retired Union County Fire Marshall Neal Speer and former town administrator Amy McCollum.

But the request goes further. It calls for depositions of WCVFD Chief Steven McLendon, WCVFD Board President Charles Rohland, WCVFD Boardmember Andrew Stallings, former board member Harold “Butch” Plyler, Union County Emergency Services Director Curtis Teague, Union County Board of Commissioners Chairman Richard Helms, Providence VFD firefighter Kenneth Lankford and Tim McGrath who authored the 2014 study that stated Weddington would need to raise taxes to fund its FSA with Providence.

“The Petitioner anticipates bringing a cause of action for injunctive relief and for tortious interference by Wesley Chapel Volunteer Fire Department, its officers, employees and agents (WCVFD) with Petitioner’s contract more specifically described as the Fire Service Agreement between the PVFD and the Town of Weddington dated October 13, 2013 for a ten (10) year term and with an option for PVFD to extend for an additional five (5) years,” the document states. “Despite the full compliance of PVFD with its obligations under the FSA, the FSA was terminated by Weddington Town Council by its vote at a special meeting held on or about April 28, 2015.”

At that same special meeting, the council voted to award an FSA to WCVFD and now seeks to evict PVFD from the Hemby Road Station for use as a WCVFD substation.

“PVFD desires to establish testimony as to the communications, representations and inducements that may have been made to the Weddington Town Council resulting in the termination of the FSA and the consummation of a new FSA between the Town of Weddington and WCVFD,” it states.

The request summarizes the plaintiff’s reasons for calling each individual. It alleges that officials from Weddington, Union County and WCVFD were involved in a “scheme” to switch from Providence to WCVFD, to the direct benefit of WCVFD.

State reviews action plan, asks for changes

Thursday, NCDOI Inspections Supervisor Davie Summey replied to Teague about WCVFD’s written plan outlining how it would take over service of Weddington’s municipal fire district.

Summey outlines five issues with the plan that must be corrected before the NCDOI can approve the plan. The action plan refers to a combined insurance district. But Weddington is a separate municipal district and to merge it into the volunteer fire district of Wesley Chapel VFD would require the town to give authority over the area back to Union County.

The plan also omitted the land in PVFD’s service area that would be excluded from WCVFD’s coverage. Summey wrote that the plan must also consider how the county will provide fire service there as well.

Weddington’s contract with Stallings VFD is also absent from the plan. Summey asked if WCVFD will cover parts of Weddington that is now covered by Stallings VFD or if the county has a different method of fire service there.

Summey also cited the need for consistent map accuracy throughout the plan and an analysis of needed fire flows for any of the district changes.

“If all the information in the revised plan is accurately in place and verified by onsite inspections that will be done, it could be possible for the areas in question to get the rating carried by Wesley Chapel of 6/9 E until a new rating can be conducted on the entire area,” Summey wrote. “With this said the current rating of 4/9E for Providence Insurance District, 4 for Weddington Insurance District would be downgraded to a 6/9E for the current Providence Insurance District and a 6 for the Weddington Insurance District.

Read more: PVFD lawsuit expanded to include Wesley Chapel VFD, mayor | The Enquirer Journal

 Posted by at 11:45 pm
Jun 132015
 

In the midst of a new UCPS controversy alleging abuse of special needs children, which was brought to light by their  parents, a second controversy emerged at last weeks School Board meeting concerning the lack of text-books in Union County schools.

Monroe parent Heather Henage spoke to the school board in detail about the shortage of text-book materials at her children’s school.

Parent Heather Henage

Parent: Heather Henage

Ms. Henage’s reported that during her research into the lack of text books at her children’s elementary school, she received a number of curious responses from UCPS.

 “At the high school level some classes are provided text-book sets for use;  however funding has not been allocated by the state for  individual student copies.”

 “Elementary schools have not been  provided funds from the state  to support a district-wide adoption in the four core areas, thus there are no district wide text counts required.”

“Digital text specifically,  have not been purchased for the school system for high school middle school and elementary schools, many of the digital text are the same cost as traditional text books.”

Ms. Henage points out, “Based on these quotes, the bottom line is that our students don’t have texts, digital or print. It’s hard for me to comprehend how UCPS got into this situation.” She went on to mention that UCPS’s per pupil expenditure was $7202.00 in 2014, but (UCPS) only spent $6.04 of that on state approved text. “More shockingly, $0 on State-approved textbooks during the current school year. This level of spending on texts has been typical for UCPS since 2010. We hear repeatedly that the State of North Carolina is to blame because it cut textbook funding.” she continued.

Ms. Henage then asked a series of questions:

“We hear repeatedly that the state of North Carolina is to blame because it is cutting back text-book funding, why has UCPS spent on 20% of the budgeted amounts on state approved texts since 2010, while transferring 51% of the text-book budget to other accounts?”

Why is UCPS sitting on the other 29% of the budgeted amount?

Why does UCPS have $1.5 million of unspent text-book funds?

Between 2010 and 2013, why did UCPS spend $30.1 million on instructional computer equipment? Thirty-five times what it spent on texts during that same period.

It seems that UCPS found money to spend on laptops over those years, but why not on “texts”?

How can high school and middle school study at home when they are using shared classroom sets of text (books)?

Why is UCPS increasing the educational disparity in the county by relying on individual school fundraising to fill in the gaps in funding for texts and classroom materials?

Why does Sun Valley 1.8 textbooks per student, approximately one-third the number of textbooks at Porter Ridge?

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 4.56.15 PM

Accounting for the Funds

Years ago, the common complaint from school board and administration was that the State locked them into spending specified dollars on specific items. Not only did that cause an accounting system and budget analysis nightmare, it was a disservice to the students. Over the last four years the school system has been granted much more latitude, seemingly, in retrospect,  to the detriment of books in the classroom.

I contacted Rep. Craig Horn about the fund shifting by UCPS, as mentioned by Ms. Henage. Mr. Horn responded with the following.

“You may know that the House budget (now in the Senate) includes a requirement that each LEA (Local Education Authority) now specifically report about any money moved out of textbooks and Digital Supplies as well as a better accounting to the public of from and to where money is moved. This requirement does not inhibit the movement, it only requires that the LEA’s be accountable instead of just blaming the State”.

In recent years, North Carolina is making a big push into digital education. The theory often espoused is that through the use of technology, children can learn at there own pace. Admirable right?

Since the introduction of the Dell netbooks into the classroom back in 2010, which was followed by the current multi-year, multi-million dollar purchases of Chromebooks, I’ve been have wondered where the content is coming from. Apparently, that remains an issue. From my own experience of having a student with a Chromebook at home, I can testify that Chromebook was only used from internet content and doing homework in Google Docs. There was no digital content provided by UCPS, textbooks still contributed to a 40lb backpack.

Buying the horses without the oats

Content is everything, as we’ve seen. When will the Chromebooks actually replace a textbook?

Much has been made of the  bringing the digital world and the global economy into the classroom. Its is a worthy goal in my view, but it should not be done at the cost of a good education for the children in the schools system today. As the new budget unfolds in coming weeks, we need to place close attention to the UCPS plans and implementation of digital education, to protect those students still living in an analog classroom.

 

 Posted by at 5:04 pm
Jun 132015
 

Union County Public Schools’ reputation took another knock after local media ran a number of stories covering concerned parents, who believe their special needs children are suffering at the hands of UCPS employees. Armed with photographs of unexplained bruises and a mother’s instinctive knowledge of their children, three parents were compelled to address the Union County Board of Education at the June 2nd monthly meeting.

Rather than expound on the issues involved, I have posted a video of the parents; Nora Bass, Kristin Pettler and Amy Oster comments to board.

Other Story and Video links:

WCCB: Parents Say Teachers Are Manhandling, Abusing Special Needs Students

Fox46: Cameras in the Classroom: Parents to disabled children make request in Union County

Union County Weekly: Parents Plead for Cameras in the Classroom

 Cupcake and “Juicy Stories”

To add insult to injury, the School Board’s resident jackass, couldn’t help but pour salt on the parents wounds when he opined during Board member comments that media presence was only due to covering a  “Juicy Story”.

In a typical Don Quixote moment, Kevin Stewart chose to tilt at the lack of media coverage of special recognition awards. Seriously?

The excellent Union County Weekly story by Courtney Schultz, linked above, details the aftermath of the controversy, Stewart’s Facebook rants and claims of being taken out of “context”. I have posted on Youtube, the video clip of Stewart’s meeting comments, you be the judge.

 

 

 Posted by at 10:05 am