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houseLocal law enforcement officers in Watauga County are investigating threatening letters that were sent to some Watauga high school teachers who have supported keeping Isabel Allende’s book, ‘The House of the Spirits,’ in the 10th grade honors English curriculum.

Last fall, parents complained to the school board that Allende’s book contains graphic scenes that are inappropriate for tenth graders, including rape and executions. The novel spans four generations of the fictional Trueba family’s encounters with post-colonial social and political upheavals in Chile.

“It is one thing to disagree with a policy or a procedure or a book used in the schools.  It is a completely different and unacceptable thing to threaten someone because they hold a different opinion,” interim superintendent David Fonseca said in a statement.

“This threat is a despicable attempt to intimidate a very professional and accomplished group of educators who deserve our respect.  It is also a criminal act, and we are cooperating fully with local law enforcement in their efforts to find out who is responsible for the letters.  We will support the prosecution of that person or persons to the fullest extent of the law,” Fonseca said.

Tonight at 7 p.m., the Watauga County Board of Education will consider a third and final appeal by the parents challenging the book. The ACLU plans to join a community rally this afternoon in Boone, just hours before the school board will vote on whether or not to keep ‘The House of the Spirits’ in the curriculum.

 

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Dan Soucek held an education forum in Watauga County last night — and it wasn’t pretty.

The Watauga Democrat reports that Soucek, who shared a panel with former Teacher of the Year Darcy Grimes and Watauga County Board of Education Member Ron Henries, among others, was frequently interrupted with shouts and laughter in response to his explanations for the General Assembly’s decision to curb education spending and freeze teachers’ salaries last summer.

Soucek requested that no one film the event. You can see evidence of the clamp-down over at High Country Press’ website, where photos chronicle Watauga County GOP chair Anne-Marie Yates blocking someone from taking video with her hands.

A sheriff’s deputy removed one person from the room prior to the forum’s conclusion.

Watauga County Teacher of the Year Katie Matthews needled Soucek on the new teacher contract system, which would reward the top 25 percent of teachers with 4-year contracts worth $500 bonuses annually.

Soucek said they desired a plan that would reward the best teachers, not just all teachers across the board. He characterized it as a first step in the right direction, one that gives local boards discretion.

“In the end, no one is worse off, and some people are better off,” Soucek said to a unified shout of “wrong” from the crowd.

UPDATE: Read this eyewitness’ account of the meeting here. According to that story, Soucek responded to North Carolina being 46th in the nation in teacher pay with “some of that rhetoric is just overblown.”

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WCNC Charlotte’s Jeremy Markovich hit the actual streets yesterday to see what the contentious decision by Watauga County Board of Elections to condense Boone’s three voting precincts into one will mean for Boone voters.

Appalachian State University students will face 17 minute walk from campus, on roads with no shoulder or sidewalks in places.

The 9,340 voters assigned to the precinct — now the third largest in the state — will be fighting over 28 parking spaces on Election Day, no doubt.

Click here to watch Markovich’s report, or watch below.