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Moore County Schools Superintendent Robert Grimesey (Image: Moore County Schools)

It’s been quite a few days for Moore County schools chief Robert Grimesey.

Last week the Moore County school board voted, without explanation, to fire Grimesey, who had been on the job for less than a year.

The move touched off a political firestorm resulting in three board members resigning, Moore County Rep. Jamie Boles filing a temporary restraining order blocking the school board from hiring a new superintendent, and threats of special legislation that would recall the entire school board.

And the community came out in force for Grimesey, buying t-shirts that said #SupportGrimesey and bombarding social media websites calling for his reinstatement.

Last night, the remaining members of the Moore County school board voted 4-1 to bring him back.

“As it has for the past six days, Moore County stands together as one tonight,” Grimesey said following the vote, according to WRAL News. “Not for a man, not for any man, but for its own ideals and its principles. For its economic vitality and its quality of life.”

After the vote, a fourth board member resigned Monday night. Several school board members who initially voted for Grimesey’s firing say it was justified—but because of strict confidentiality laws on personnel issues, they couldn’t say what led to his termination.

Read the full scoop over at WRAL.

News

Without explanation, the Moore County school board decided last week to fire its superintendent in a 5-3 vote — and since then a political firestorm has erupted, with three members of the board resigning following intense community pressure and a state lawmaker filing a temporary restraining order blocking the board from hiring a new schools chief and threatening special legislation to recall the school board.

Robert Grimesey was fired from his post as Superintendent last week. (Image: Moore County Schools)

Robert Grimesey was fired from his post as Superintendent last week. (Image: Moore County Schools)

“This is a very important issue, and I don’t think the board members understand what they have done to the community,” Rep. Jamie Boles (R-Moore) told WRAL news.

“Who speaks for the citizens who elected the school board,” Boles told N.C. Policy Watch via telephone Monday.

“The citizens of Moore County want the school board recalled and I represent them. I speak for the people, I don’t speak for Jamie Boles.”

Robert Grimesey held the position of Superintendent of Moore County Schools for just under a year. “Strained relationships with some top school administrators and principals,” could be the reason for the school board’s decision, according to the The Pilot, a local online newspaper in Southern Pines.

Strict state personnel laws make it impossible to know the real reason, as board members are barred from discussing these matters.

Members of the community have come out in support of Grimesey. According to The Pilot, social media has lit up with support for the ousted superintendent and even t-shirts that say #SupportGrimesey are being sold in Southern Pines.

Southern Pines Town Councilman Mike Fields encouraged those board members who voted to fire Grimesey to step down from their posts, and state lawmaker Rep. Jamie Boles (R-Moore) told members who voted for the ouster to step down by noon Monday or face special recall legislation. Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph) said he’d support Moore’s proposed measure.

Rep. Boles has also blocked the school board from making a hiring decision for a new superintendent with a temporary restraining order filed last Friday.

Leanne Winner of the N.C. School Boards Association says she’s never seen a state legislator get involved in the hiring and firing of a superintendent.

“Most of the time we see the General Assembly get involved in school board politics, it is not directly related to a specific incident,” said Winner.

In a Friday press release, Boles said, “I have never seen the continuity and unity of Democrats, Republicans, NAACP, PTA, students, teachers, conservatives and liberals alike as I have seen with the unified condemnation of the process in which our superintendent, Dr. Grimesey, was fired.”

Dr. Ed Dunlap, who has worked for the N.C. School Boards Association for 36 years and is its executive director, says it’s troubling to him that a state lawmaker is getting involved in local school board politics.

“It’s extremely important for the school board and the superintendent to have a good working relationship with each other. [They] need to continually work on that relationship so that the opportunity for these kinds of instances to occur would be mitigated,” said Dunlap.

“This didn’t happen overnight,” Dunlap added.

The Moore County school board will meet this evening at the Union Pines High School in a closed session, then the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on Grimesey’s firing.

For an in-depth story on the Moore County schools drama, including more details about how the county commissioners might financially punish the school board for their actions, check out The Pilot’s latest here.

This post has been updated to add comments from Rep. Jamie Boles.

News

A day after lengthy discussion about how a significant number of charter school applicants recommended to set up shop in North Carolina were moved forward along with significant reservations about their ability to accomplish their proposed missions, the State Board of Education voted Thursday to approve 12 out of the 18 charter school hopefuls to open in the Fall of 2016.

The State Board rejected outright two charter school applicants, even though the Charter School Advisory Board had recommended they open — albeit in very close votes.

Town Center Charter School, which had hoped to open in Gaston County, was rejected over concerns that its for-profit education management organization, ALS, Inc. has a poor record in other states and could be stretched too thin by operating several charters at once in North Carolina.

Charlotte Classical School, which had hoped to open in Mecklenburg County, was rejected over concerns about its educational plan and weaknesses in its budget proposal.

The State Board decided to delay votes on four charter school applicants, sending them back to the Charter School Advisory Board for further review and investigation.

The applications of two charter schools that would be managed by the Florida-based EMO Newpoint Education Partners—Cape Fear Preparatory (New Hanover) and Pine Springs Preparatory (Wake)—were kicked back to the CSAB so that they could further investigate allegations and charges of grade tampering and other abuses at some of their Florida charter schools. (For more background, click here.)

The State Board also sent back two other charter school applications to the CSAB for further inquiry and evaluation. Those applications were for Capital City Charter High School (Wake) and Unity Classical School (Mecklenburg).

The twelve charter schools that the State Board of Education approved to open in the fall of 2016 are:

Cardinal Charter Academy at Knightdale (Wake)
Central Wake Charter High School (Wake)
FernLeaf Community Charter School (Henderson)
Gateway Charter Academy (Guilford)
Kannapolis Charter Academy (Cabarrus)
Leadership Academy for Young Women (New Hanover)
Mallard Creek STEM Academy (Mecklenburg)
Matthews-Mint Hill Charter Academy (Mecklenburg)
Mooresville Charter Academy (Iredell)
Peak Charter Academy (Wake)
Union Day School (Union)
Union Preparatory Academy at Indian Trail (Union)

Depending on the outcome of the four delayed charter school applications, North Carolina could see as many as 178 charter schools in operation by 2016.

News

This week the Senate kicks into high gear as it hammers out the final details of its budget proposal, and one likelihood is coming into sharper focus—Senators will probably propose spending a lot less on education than their counterparts have in the House.

Senate budget writer Harry Brown (R-Jones, Onslow) told the News & Observer this weekend that the Senate will likely release a plan that spends $500 million less than what House lawmakers agreed upon in their budget last week.

So what does this mean for public schools?

Spending targets released last week suggest that the Senate could propose shelling out $167.7 million less on education next year than what the House proposed in the budget that they passed last week — a figure that assumes any teacher pay raises the Senate springs for would be handed down from a separate pot of money, according to the *Budget & Tax Center’s policy analyst Tazra Mitchell.

“The Senate targets set the bar low for education,” said Mitchell.

Most of the proposed increase in spending for education would likely be eaten up by funding projected student enrollment growth, leaving behind just a little more than $1 million for other classroom expenses.

“With the Senate plan, we couldn’t rebuild classrooms — there would be no way to meaningfully reduce class sizes, boost professional development that improves students’ learning outcomes, and we couldn’t recoup the 7,000 state-funded teacher assistants we’ve lost since FY2009,” said Mitchell. Read More

News

A registered sex offender who worked at a Fayetteville private Christian school that has received more than $100,000 in publicly-funded school vouchers is now facing criminal charges—and the head of the school that hired him has taken a leave of absence, WRAL reports.

Paul Conner, 50, of Mosswood Lane in Fayetteville, is charged with three counts of violating the sex offender registry guidelines and one count of conspiracy, according to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

The school’s [Freedom Christian Academy] principal, Joan Dayton, submitted a leave of absence to school officials Friday amid an investigation into claims that she allowed Conner to work at the school and that administrators changed student grades.

Dayton has not been charged, but is named in Conner’s arrest warrant as a co-conspirator.

Last week, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant to determine if Dayton, who employed Conner to do handyman work at Freedom Christian Academy, knew beforehand that he was a registered sex offender.

The detective working on the investigation concluded that there was probable cause that Dayton knew of Conner’s status thanks to emails she sent and interviews with teachers, staff and parents.

Dayton has not been charged, but she was named ‘co-conspirator’ in Conner’s arrest warrant, according to WRAL.

The investigation is also looking into allegations that school officials changed the grades of favored students and athletes.

Freedom Christian Academy has received $108,254 in public school voucher funds to date—the state’s fifth largest voucher recipient. Twenty-six of its 500+ students have each been able to use up to $4,200 in public funds to pay for tuition at the private religious school.

—>For more background: Private Christian school receiving $100,000+ in publicly funded school vouchers accused of knowingly hiring registered sex offender

Parents have posted multiple comments on Freedom Christian Academy’s Facebook asking for more answers.

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Stay tuned for further developments.