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 072015

As expected and reported by the EJ earlier, the Providence VFD will sue the Town of Weddington for breaching their service contact.

Not satisfied and so much more belligerent than even the 2013 County Commissioners, the Weddington Council will squander even more taxpayer money defending a their collectively boneheaded and UNSUBSTANTIATED claims of saving the taxpayers money by breaking a 10 year $750,000 service contract. Mayor Deter and others (one of whom should know better) have played politics with people’s safety. How much it will cost each homeowner in fire tax increases and homeowners insurance hikes remains to be seen, but the cost of the lies will be high to all.

…to be continued…

Providence VFD undeterred, sues Weddington

Jun. 06, 2015 @ 02:11 PM via Enquirer Journal
WEDDINGTON — Providence Volunteer Fire Department filed a lawsuit against Weddington alleging the town ended the fire service contract with the department without cause.
The Weddington Town Council voted in April to end its agreement with Providence VFD on the grounds that the town would save money if it contracted with Wesley Chapel Volunteer Fire Department.

The complaint filed in Union County Court Thursday by PVFD’s attorney Bob Henderson states that a majority of town council members said canceling the contract was a financial decision. It quotes Mayor Bill Deter as saying the town would not “walk away from the kind of savings” possible by contracting with WCVFD instead.

PVFD and Weddington entered the FSA in October 2013. It required the department to provide adequate fire and emergency medical services to the town. The term of the agreement was 10 years and one additional 5-year extension period. In exchange for required renovation on the PVFD station on Hemby Road, the town became full owner of the station by way of an interlocal agreement between the department and the town. Weddington agreed to lease the Hemby Road station to PVFD for $1 a year for 10 years. Should Weddington end the contract without cause, it would pay a $750,000 penalty.

Henderson points out that the FSA does not mention financial conditions that PVFD must attain to remain in the contract.

“While reducing cost is a worthy aspiration for the Mayor and Town Council, their pursuit of those ends do not constitute a lawful cause for Weddington’s termination of the FSA,” the suit states.

Weddington Town Attorney Anthony Fox wrote a letter to PVFD’s governing board dated April 15, requesting a written plan for how PVFD would fund itself until the end of the fiscal year. PVFD responded by giving the town a funding plan that reduced operations costs, proof it was debt free and documentation of its financial stability. At a special town council meeting April 28, Deter said the plan was not the information the town requested. At that meeting, a majority of council members voted to end the FSA with PVFD.

“Despite PVFD’s performance of all its obligations under the FSA and its willingness to operate at the funding levels from the previous fiscal year, Mayor Bill Deter vigorously supported the termination of the FSA…” the suit stated. “Notwithstanding the actual financial condition of PVFD, during the Special Meeting and in other public statements Mayor Bill Deter  referred to PVFD as ‘insolvent’ and suggested that immediate action by Weddington was required because PVFD is not financially sound.”

The town’s stated reasons of financial instability for terminating the FSA “is unsupported by facts, transparently false and at odds with the repeated statements by the Mayor that the termination was necessary to allow Weddington to realize an opportunity to save money.”

Deter presented no evidence to back his claim that the town would save money by ending its agreement with PVFD and signing an FSA with Wesley Chapel VFD, the suit stated.

“The actual motivation for Mayor Deter and Council Members in terminating the FSA was to reverse the decision of a previous Mayor and Councilmembers of Weddington and thereby award the FSA to WCVFD,” the suit stated. “The specious claim that Weddington has cause to terminate the FSA is a transparent attempt to avoid its contractual obligation to pay PVFD liquidated damages of ($750,000) as provided under the FSA for Weddington’s termination of the FSA without cause.”

Source: Providence VFD undeterred, sues Weddington | The Enquirer Journal

 Posted by at 11:07 am
Jun 072015

This weekend saw an extraordinary event occur at the North Carolina GOP convention. An election that seemed a sure thing by any measure was turned on it head.

From the Daily Haymaker:

#NCGOP (Damn! Was that an Earthquake ????)

The rumors of thehh1 grassroots’ demise are greatly exaggerated.

Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, foresaw the events that transpired at the NCGOP convention in Raleigh today.  Cabarrus County Tea Party activist Hasan Harnett decisively defeated the establishment choice — somebody named Craig Collins — in the race for state Republican Party chairman. Collins had big name consultants in his corner, and had been endorsed by a veritable who’s who of the NCGOP. Many old political hands I talked to today laid blame for Collins’ defeat on the early bandwagon endorsements from the governor, lieutenant governor, US senators and right on down the line.

Read more :#NCGOP (Damn! Was that an Earthquake ????)

New NCGOP Chairman’s webpage:Harnett for Chairman

Here is a link to an AP story, that contrary to typical AP stories has more fact than opinion: In upset, Harnett defeats NC Republican leaders’ preferred candidate to become next chairman

 Posted by at 9:16 am
Jun 052015

We are already spending $70,000 to $100,000 a year for a media adviser/press agent to present the county government’s perspective to the public and now the Commissioners voted to $5000 per month for a “Lobbyist” to represent Union County to the North Carolina General Assembly.

FOX 46 Charlotte: Union County is prepared to hire a lobbyist to work in “the best interest of the county.”

Commissioners will vote whether or not to approve Troutman Sanders Strategies to represent the county at the N.C. Legislature in Raleigh at its meeting on Thursday, June 4.

The hire would cost up to $5,000 a month during session and up to $4,500 out of session. It would start off as an 18-month contract.The firm would be required to interact with key members of the General Assembly, facilitate meetings between county officials and members of the legislature and more.

Chairman Richard Helms said there are dozens of bills that could affect the taxpayers of Union County that they would like to keep an eye on. The Chairman also blames, partially, a lack of communication from local House Representatives Dean Arp and Craig Horn on needing to hire a lobbyist.

Helms said he rarely hears from either representative and was irked when each voted against a bill that would prevent the Union County Board of Education from suing the county over funding.

The Board of Education and County spent more than $2 million of taxpayer money during a legal battle from 2013-2015.”If there was more communication there it would diminish the requirement for a lobbyist,” Helms said.

Rep. Horn reached back to us on Thursday and said he has has never once received a call from the current County Commissioners or the County Manager. “I’m a little perplexed as to what problem it is they are solving,” Horn said. “I find it interesting that they want to spend that kind of money when a phone call is less expensive.”

As for the bill Horn voted against that ultimately was struck down — he didn’t feel it was the right choice for the county.”

The problem I had with that particular bill is it does not allow appeal or allow the Board of Education an opportunity to present its case and the Board of County Commissioners decision is final,” Horn said. “That doesn’t sound like a compromise to me.” Chariman Helms said the lobbyist will concentrate on a number of issues, but legislation involving a new water supply project will be at the top of the list.
Source: FOX 46 Charlotte – [UPDATE] Union County prepared to hire lobbyist

 Posted by at 6:19 pm