Education

Lejeune High alums win fight to keep school’s name from changing

“I think Walter B. Jones would be happy with the decision. I believe he deserves to be honored, so I hope a fitting federal building will be named in his memory.”

— Lisa Beaver, a 1986 Lejeune High graduate who teachers at the school 

Alumni of Lejeune High School are reporting the school’s name will remain the same.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat who represents parts of San Mateo County and San Francisco, had filed an amendment to the national defense bill to rename the high school in honor of the late North Carolina congressman Walter B. Jones, who died in February.

Ric Logg, who attended the school from 1978-81, posted on his Facebook page Thursday that Lejeune High School Principal Eric Steimel was notified that the effort to rename the school was not included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“The name of our school will remain as Lejeune High School!” Logg wrote.

Lejeune High alums, Marines and others vigorously opposed renaming the school.

“I am very excited that the process — Lejeune alumni and students letter writing, contacting State Representatives, State senators around the country, appealing to Base Commands and local politicians, attending town halls, signing petitions, as well as appealing to the media — was successful and we are still Lejeune High School,” said Lisa Beaver, a 1986 graduate who teachers at the school. “I think Walter B. Jones would be happy with the decision. I believe he deserves to be honored, so I hope a fitting federal building will be named in his memory.”

A staffer in the office of Todd Curkendall, Camp Lejeune’s community superintendent, said the news that the school’s name will remain Lejeune High School is accurate.

Lejeune High School

The staffer said any further comment must come through the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), which oversees schools on military bases.

DoDEA staffers had not returned Policy Watch calls by Thursday afternoon.

Speier and Jones, the longtime Republican lawmaker from Eastern North Carolina, were colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee. Jones often visited Lejeune High, a school of roughly 500 military dependents, to meet with students.

The school was founded in 1944 as Camp Lejeune High School but was renamed Lejeune High School in 1990.

The base and the high school are named in honor of Lt. Gen. John Archer Lejeune. Lejeune is widely considered the greatest Marine to ever wear the uniform.

Education

Proud Boys supporter to hold rally in support of cheerleaders placed on probation for posing with Trump 2020 banner

“The Stanly News & Press” is reporting that one of the organizers of a rally being held tonight to support cheerleaders at North Stanly High School who were placed on probation by the N.C. High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) for posing with a Trump 2020 banner has ties to the Proud Boys, a far-right group identified as a general hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The photo with one cheerleader and a male student holding a banner has received national attention and stirred controversy in the small town of New London where the school is located.

The paper identified the rally organizer as Jay Thaxton of Cabarrus County, who is putting on tonight’s event with Jeremy Onitreb.

Thaxton didn’t deny being a Proud Boy supporter, but took issue with critic’s  characterization of the group as a “white nationalist” organization.

Here’s what the SPLC has to say about the Proud Boys:

Their disavowals of bigotry are belied by their actions: rank-and-file Proud Boys and leaders regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric. Proud Boys have appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist gatherings like the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. Indeed, former Proud Boys member Jason Kessler helped to organize the event, which brought together Klansmen, antisemites, Southern racists, and militias. Kessler was only “expelled” from the group after the violence and near-universal condemnation of the Charlottesville rally-goers.

The cheerleaders were not punished by the school because they didn’t violate the student code of conduct.

But NCHSAA Commissioner Marilyn Que Tucker placed them on probation, punishment tantamount to a warning, after a teacher posted the photo on Facebook.

Tucker told the paper that she decided to reprimand the cheerleaders because the incident caused a negative athletic environment.

“One of the rules we have is that every contest should be conducted in a wholesome, athletic environment,” Tucker said. “We take that to mean that it’s in an environment where good sportsmanship is shown, where people feel safe … that respect for all people participating is being shown.”

Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican whose district includes Stanly County, sent a letter to Tucker expressing disappointment at the decision to place the cheerleaders on probation.

“As the representative of Stanly County, I’m appalled these students are being punished for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech,” Hudson wrote. “As leaders we should be encouraging America’s youth participation in our democracy and political process – not punishing and silencing them.”

Education, News

UNC system chancellors weigh in on search for next UNC system president

Chancellors from UNC System schools weighed in on the search for the system’s next president Thursday at a meeting of the UNC Board of Governors’ Presidential Search Committee.

N.C. State University President Randy Woodson told the board he believes it’s essential the next president of the system understand the system, its schools and how the ways in which they are all unique. As important, he said, is that they be willing to do things differently in a fast-changing higher education environment.

To do that effectively, he said, the next president will have to have the support of the board.

“We need a leader who is embraced by this board and empowered by this board to lead the system,” Woodson said.

The relationship between the board and the system’s new leader was a recurring theme among the chancellors Thursday, with allusions to the tensions between the board and its last president, Margaret Spellings.

Spellings resigned her position last year after just three years as president of the system. During her tenure political and personal tensions with members of the board of governors exploded into public acrimony.

N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold Martin addressed that problem most directly, saying the system’s next leader needs both the support of the board and also the system’s chancellors.

“My observation — and I think I speak for our chancellors around the table — is the president seemingly over the last few years of tenure, has had the appearance of protecting the universities from the board around matters that were in our minds relevant, quality, competitive conversations we should be having,” Martin said.

That led chancellors to feel they had to defend their universities and the roles they play, Martin said — not a position in which most leaders want to find themselves.

There was disagreement among the chancellors and board of governors members Thursday about how important it is for the system’s next leader to be a native North Carolinian or at least a long-time resident of the state.

UNC-Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois said he doesn’t believe it’s important the system’s next leader come from North Carolina — but he would like to see the next system president serve from between 8 and 10 years.

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz agreed that where the next president comes from shouldn’t be a determining factor – but did say he believes they should have a strong grounding in higher education. His comments may be in response to some board of governors members who have said they believe chancellors and presidents should be chosen from other areas — especially business.

Board of Governors member Philip Byers said he doesn’t believe the board needs to look far for its next president.

“When I look around this table, I see people who could be the next president of the UNC system,” Byers said. “I don’t think we need to look all over the country.”

One person around that table — board of governors member Tom Fetzer — denied persistent rumors he wants the job as system president or to become the next chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“Lord no,” Fetzer told Policy Watch Thursday.

Fetzer said he has young children and wouldn’t want to put his family through the current social media environment in either a bid for that sort of leadership position or a run for office.

Under rules approved by the board, any Board of Governors member who did want to be considered in a search would need to resign their board position first.

Education

Private religious school receives state voucher money despite teaching homosexuality is a sin

In the western part of the state, the “Citizen Times” reports that a conservative religious school that receives a third of Buncombe County’s opportunity scholarship money teaches students that homosexuality is a sin.

Temple Baptist School in West Asheville is also dismissive of the theory of evolution, the paper reports. It opts to evangelize about Young Earth creationism, which contends Earth is no more than 10,000 years old.

Here’s how Brian Washburn, the administrator at Temple Baptist, explained the school’s approach to those subjects.

“What we do is based on the Bible as our foundation,” Washburn told the “Citizen Times.” “So that’s going to influence our approach to teaching all of our subject areas.”

The “Citizen Times” reported that 95 of nearly 150 Temple Baptist students receive tuition assistance of up to $4,200 through the state’s voucher program during the 2018-19 school year.

Read the paper’s full report here.

Teaching children that homosexuality is a sin wouldn’t fly in a traditional public school, and neither would Young Earth creationism. But such lesson are OK at Temple Baptist and other private religious schools despite the fact that such schools benefit from thousands of dollars in public money.

Private schools accepted 9,651 scholarships last year totaling $37.7 million.

Critics complain that the voucher program drains money from traditional public schools. Meanwhile, supporters say vouchers give economically disadvantaged students educational opportunities they otherwise couldn’t afford.

Another chief complaint about North Carolina’s school voucher program is that the program provides money to private schools that may discriminate based on race, gender, sexuality and religious affiliation.

Kathryn Marker, director of grants, training and outreach at the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA), the agency that oversees the state’s voucher program, told Policy Watch in June that the program’s participation agreement forbids discrimination on the basis of “race, color or national origin.”

That agreement, however, does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Read the participation agreement here. Provision 5 forbids discrimination based on race, color or national origin.

The language in the agreement is similar to that in federal law:  “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program, or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

 

Education

State Board of Education welcomes student voices after three year absence

Student representation returned to the State Board of Education this month after missing for three years due to political infighting between the board and State Superintendent Mark Johnson.

New high school advisers, Meredith Gaskill, a Carson High School senior from Rowan-Salisbury Public Schools and Nate Kolk-Tomberlin, a junior from Apex High School in Wake County, were introduced during the board’s Sept. 5 business meeting.

Meredith Gaskill

“I believe that I can bring a fair and balanced view of my peers to the board as well as offer the board a wide variety of student opinion,” Kolk-Tomberlin told the board.

Gaskill said she was excited to be a part of the board and the “opportunity to learn and contribute.”

North Carolina law authorized the governor to appointment two high school students to serve as advisers to the state board, but the Republican-led General Assembly handed the authority to the state superintendent in a power grab that led to a lengthy legal battle.

Nate Kolk-Tomberlin

The legal wrangling ended with the State Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of House Bill 17, which rearranged the responsibilities of the superintendent and transferred certain powers of the state board to Johnson as well as the authority to appoint student advisers to the board.

Johnson said in April that he couldn’t appoint students to the board until after the legal questions around HB 17 were answered.

“That entire law was put on hold for a year and a half because of lawsuits, so nobody could appoint a student adviser,” Johnson said in April. “When the court proceedings were finally finished in summer of 2018, that is when it took the restraining order off of that law and I had the ability to appoint a student adviser.”

Two high students — Greear Webb and Myles Cyrus – nudged Johnson in April with compelling arguments for bringing student advisers back to the board.

“If we are in the room where the decisions are made, we can clearly and intentionally help you to structure our education in the most effective and successful way possible,” said Webb, a Sanderson High School graduate who now attends UNC-Chapel Hill.

Cyrus is a 2019 graduate of Fike High School in Wilson. He now attends Wake Forest University.