Higher Ed, News, Policing

UNC releases “after-action report” on toppling of “Silent Sam”

UNC officially released an after-action report on the toppling of the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument Friday, a week after the UNC Board of Governors voted on its release.

The report (which can be read in full here) found “serious deficiencies” in the way the evening of August 20, 2018 was handled, there was “no evidence of a conspiracy between UNC-CH and protesters or any other individuals to remove Silent Sam.”

The report does include a controversial and unattributed assertion that protesters threw frozen bottles of water and eggs at the police officers who feared for their safety and that of others.

That is a detail disputed by protesters and reporters on the ground during the statue’s toppling.

The report has five key findings:

1) Insufficient reporting structures led to miscommunication between campus administration and the UNC-CH police. The report recommends direct communication between the chancellor and police chief and training on police procedures for senior leaders at the school.

2) Information gathering duties were left mostly to one officers and should instead be shared by multiple, dedicated officers.

3) Information gathering was insufficient before the August 20 rally, with police missing “red flags” that should have indicated to them that an attempt would be made to topple the statue.

4) Officers were insufficiently trained in crowd control procedures, given what they were facing. More comprehensive training is recommended in the report.

The report also suggests the creation of a system-wide police academy that could employ students to be trained as police cadets/officers during their junior and senior years.

5) The University police force was inadequately staffed for the rally that led to the statue’s toppling. The report makes reference to a controversial plan – first floated last year – to create a “Special Operations Team” and a system wide mobile police force to deal with protests at UNC schools.

The recommendation echoes the controversial idea, floated last year, of a “mobile force platoon” costing $2 million a year and $500,000 a year in equipment.

Chancellor Carol Folt abruptly stepped down from her position last month after tensions with the board of governors over her response to the statue’s toppling and plans for its future.

In a response to the report, Folt wrote that the campus agrees with and will implement the recommendations but has concerns with the initial draft of the report, including “factual issues.”

It is not clear to which sections of the report Folt was referring or if changes to those sections were made before the public release of the report.

 

Commentary, Courts & the Law, Education, Environment, Higher Ed, News, public health

The week’s Top Stories on Policy Watch

1. In some North Carolina counties, traditional schools are being squeezed by charters

School buses prepare for another school year

There has been much written about the impact charter school growth has had on some of North Carolina’s larger, urban school districts.

But the impact might be greater on some of the state’s smaller, rural school districts where the loss of students, and the funding that follows them, are felt more profoundly.

Take Granville County Public Schools (GCS), a district of about 7,600 on the Virginia border.

This month the school board approved a plan to close an elementary school and to consolidate two middle schools, the result of lagging enrollment. [Read more…]

2. When will Republicans’ patience with President Trump run out?

 

Republicans, we need to talk.

Not about the shutdown. I get the ceasefire, I get that the air traffic slowdowns may have finally spooked the president and D.C. Republicans, even if only for a temporary respite.

This is about the bigger picture, not about short-term, beltway battles and shutdowns that may or may not be on the minds of Americans when they go to the polls in 2020 – although I don’t imagine the passage of time will sweeten the memory for Americans who worked weeks without paychecks.

This is about the future of the GOP platform, that grand-old-promise to shrink government, reduce inefficiencies, cut taxes, and preserve the American dream. [Read more…]

3. “The spill was an instant disaster”: Reflections on the five-year anniversary of the Dan River coal ash breach

Until that winter’s day, the 4-foot section of corrugated metal pipe, 48 inches in diameter, had done its job. It swallowed storm water, said to be uncontaminated, that drained from Duke Energy property, chugged the water through its gullet that ran beneath an unlined coal ash basin, and then spewed it into the Dan River near Eden.

But on Feb. 2, 2014, the pipe could take no more.

For more than 50 years, Duke Energy had dumped millions of tons of coal ash into an open, unlined pit at its power plant on the Dan River. On that calm, cloudy Sunday afternoon, as pre-gamers chilled beers and fried chicken wings for their Super Bowl parties, the pipe collapsed. Hazardous material from the basin rushed through the breach, which released at least 39,000 tons of ash and up to 27 million gallons of contaminated water into the Dan River.

At 2 o’clock, a security guard making the rounds had noticed the water level in the 27-acre ash pond had dropped.

At 6:30 p.m., thousands of North Carolinians watched the Seattle Seahawks, led by former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson, win the coin toss to start Super Bowl 48 against the Denver Broncos. Two minutes later, as the Seahawks kicked off, Duke Energy officials were investigating the pipe breach and preparing an EM43 report, used to document emergencies in North Carolina. [Read more…] Read more

Education

For the love of Krispy Kreme, eat the doughnuts

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson

State Superintendent Mark Johnson appears to be backing away from his pledge to eat a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts on Saturday as a participant in the 15th Annual Krispy Kreme Challenge.

Last year, Johnson pledged to participate in the gluttonous race if 95 percent of educators responded to a survey on working conditions.

The response rate was 91 percent, just shy of the 95 percent Johnson sought, but the superintendent said he would participate anyway as a “fun thank you.”

However, Johnson has entered the Challenge as a “casual runner.”

A news release from his office points out that casual runners are not required to eat the “entire dozen doughnuts.” Full participants are required to eat 12 doughnuts at the halfway point of the 5-mile race.

Give Johnson credit for agreeing to make the trek from the Memorial Bell Tower on the N.C. State campus to Krispy Kreme at the intersection of Peace and Person streets, and back.

But it seems he ought to go ahead and eat all 12 doughnuts.

A 91 percent response rate is nothing to sneeze at, or a reason to turn down a dozen delicious Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Higher Ed, News

UNC-Chapel Hill interim chancellor to be announced next week

Today is embattled UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt’s last day on the job.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, whose last day on the job is Thursday. Her interim replacement will be named next week, UNC confirms.

An interim chancellor will be announced by Interim UNC System President William Roper next week, UNC confirmed Thursday.

Roper held a closed-door meeting with faculty leaders on campus Wednesday and has a short-list he’s considering, according to faculty who attended.

Roper is himself holding an interim position after former UNC President Margaret Spellings exited that position following tensions with the UNC Board of Governors.

He laid out his qualifications for an interim chancellor for UNC’s flagship school at last week’s meeting of the board of governors.

Roper said he expects the interim chancellor may need to be in the job for up to 18 months while a search is conducted for the school’s next leader.

“Carolina cannot and will not drift during an interim leader’s tenure,” Roper said. “It will surge forward under a strong leader.”

Roper said he’s looking for “a well-known entity here in North Carolina” who will be “ready to start on day one” without needing months to get acclimated. He’s also looking for “someone of stature” who “has the gravitas to lead” he said.

Lastly, he said, they must have his trust and the trust of other leaders.

 

Education, News

Republican senators offer alternative to statewide school bond referendum

State Senate leaders on Wednesday released a plan to pay for school construction and renovations without voter approval in a statewide bond referendum.

Under the proposal, the state would use money from the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund created in 2017 to pay interest payments on existing debt and fund capital improvements to state-owned buildings.

Senate leaders said their plan could raise $2 billion for K-12 schools over a nine-year period, and do it faster and cheaper than a referendum.

The UNC system and community colleges would receive $2 billion under Senate Bill 5 as well as state agencies.

“With a bond plan, you’re talking about over a $1 billion in interest payments where with this plan you don’t have any of that,” said Sen. Harry Brown, an Onslow County Republican. “It allows you to spend more money on where you would like for it to be spent.”

The bill is sponsored by Brown and Republican colleagues, Sens. Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston) and Joyce Krawiec (Forsyth).

It’s an alternative to a $1.9 billion bond referendum proposed by fellow Republican House speaker Tim Moore. The referendum has received support from Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat.

A spokesman for Cooper said the governor prefers a bond to pay for school construction, but is open to new ideas.

“Gov. Cooper is pushing for a bond to fund school construction and renovation without forcing harmful cuts in other areas and he will work with legislators and review their proposals to see if they accomplish that goal,” said Ford Porter, the governor’s press secretary.

The Fund, as it’s referred to in the bill, is basically a state savings account for major projects, and has approximately $237 million available this year.

But Brown said that amount will grow to about $1 billion each year as the state pays down debt.

The Fund currently receives 4 percent of General Fund tax revenue each year. That amount would be bumped up to 4.5 percent under the senator’s proposal.

According to the bill, local school districts that “demonstrate the greatest” needs would be given priority when Fund money is handed down.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson said in a statement that there’s an “urgency” and “need” for school construction.

“I am pleased to see agreement in the legislature on this point, and I look forward to working with our partners in the General Assembly as we continue to discuss the details of that funding,” Johnson said.

Brown added that the plan would allow school districts to comply with the state mandate requiring smaller K-3 class sizes

School leader have complained that the mandate was handed down without funding to make the capital improvements needed for smaller class sizes.