Cleveland County Board of Education Election Scandals
Getting Rid of Crime and Corruption
By Robert A. Williams
The Cleveland County Board of Education, Commonly called the School Board, has usually not drawn much The Cleveland County Board of Education, Commonly called the School Board, has usually not drawn much attention since the “Merger” over ten years ago which was wildly unpopular. The Executive Roundtable, The Shelby Star and four nitwit County Commissioners ran over the wishes of the majority of Cleveland County citizens and taxpayers to push the merger through. Taxes increased significantly and have remained high ever since because none of the savings that were promised ever came through. The educational improvements that were promised also never came through. The reduction in overhead and administration cost that were promised also never came through.
Indeed, besides all those things that were promised but never coming through, they have gotten worse. And corruption and criminal activity seems to have made headway in the past several years. So, it is time to shine some light on the Cleveland County School System and those that are in charge of running it-The School Board.
There are four School Board members running for re-election this year. Kathy Falls, Phillip Glover, George Litton and Dale Oliver. Each of these School Board Members has served over the last four years in which the crime, corruption and apparently cover-up along with other questionable activity has taken place. At a recent Town Hall Meeting, in answer to a question to all candidates about how many Board Meetings they had attended, Kathy Falls answered that “I have been to them all!” Well Kathy, Phillip, George and Dale, were you asleep or what when all this trouble was brewing and whose fault do you think that it is that all this happened? It is YOUR fault. You were in charge and you let it happen. And when it became clear that there was trouble, YOU are part of the problem and cover-up for letting it continue. And it gets worse.
But first, let’s identify some of the biggest problems:
1. Too many School System credit cards, over 200, and too little oversight on how they were used. This is a formula for disaster. Using the school credit cards for school use soon leads to using the cards for personal use, to the tune of thousands of dollars. Tens of thousands of dollars depending on which set of investigations you look at. And there are several investigations. The State Auditor reports possible criminal prosecutable offenses but District Attorney Richard Leroy Shaffer won’t prosecute. The SBI reports criminal prosecutable offenses but District Attorney Richard Leroy Shaffer won’t prosecute. The School Board hires their own auditors and who knows what they reported to the School Board. At the Town Hall meeting long time School Board Member George Litton said that the School Board was told “to stay out of the investigations” and that the District Attorney “had not prosecuted anybody.” We believe that Dr. George Litton is an honorable man who has taken bad advice, perhaps because it is distasteful to be dragged into bad circumstances by others and not having the desire to discipline those that require discipline, even when that discipline must includes criminal prosecution and possible jail time.
This is probably true for Kathy Falls, Phillip Glover and Dale Oliver too. Nobody on the School Board up for election wants to get their hands dirty with disciplining school system personnel. That is too bad for the incumbent School Board members. At this point in time the citizens and taxpayers of Cleveland County need elected officials that will perform their full range of job duties, even when it is somewhat distasteful and when they wish it would just magically go away. And, in the midst of all these investigations about wrongdoing and possible crime and corruption, the School Board has extended (in their May 20, 2013 Board Meeting) the contracts for senior personnel all the way into 2017. This means the School System big wheels are assured high paying jobs while the teachers are assured of nothing. This alone is enough to replace Kathy Falls, George Litton, Phillip Glover and Dale Oliver. But there is more.
2. Wasted money on Bill Boards, Newspapers and consulting services with the Shelby Star-Apparently for the purpose of “bribing” the Shelby Star into writing good reports about the School System. Or, maybe, not to write (or minimize) bad reports about the doings of the School System. After noticing various Bill Boards around Cleveland County that didn’t appear to say anything of intelligence that were paid for by the School System, we decided to investigate. What we found was surprising. The School System, in 2010 and well within the term of office of Kathy Falls, George Litton, Phillip Glover and Dale Oliver, entered into a contract with the Shelby Star to provide Bill Boards, newspapers to schools and other undefined consulting services. To the tune of $90,000 last year and $84,000 the year before. The Bill Boards were ineffective and served no purpose. $15,000 budgeted for newspapers for the Classrooms were often hauled to the schools, unloaded from the Star truck and later loaded onto a school truck and hauled to the dump. Still all banded together and never used. I saw this myself at the Lawndale dump recycle bin. Anyway, why would Kathy Falls, George Litton, Phillip Glover and Dale Oliver spend over $174,000 on the Shelby Star for no good purpose that is related to educating our children and then lay teachers and teacher aides off or cut their hours?
3. Excessive spending for buildings and parking lots, when the total number of school age children is decreasing and teachers and teacher aides are laid off or hours reduced. There are numerous examples here. The new Shelby Middle School construction included a reported $2.5 million in Landscape plantings included in or on top of the around $20 million cost of construction. The “old” Shelby Middle School received a remodeling job to house the School System administration building and some class room facilities. The scuttlebutt is the low bid for the remodel job was around $14 million while the official word is the remodel job cost $9 million, with School System Maintenance doing some of the work. Why would the Schools have so big of a Maintenance Department to do $5 million in renovation and still maintain the rest of the schools? What does this Maintenance Department do when the schools are not remodeling buildings? If you figure $5 million divided by 2000 hrs per year per maintenance person, divided by $20 dollars per hour: you get 125 extra persons in the Maintenance Department. Or you get a puzzle about the $5 million dollars, where it came from and where it went. Then you have three schools in the county where the School Board has bought adjoining property, allegedly for future parking lots. I live next door to one of those newly bought parcels at Fallston School and know for a fact that the School System owns land 200 ft down the street that is just about as close as the property that they just bought and could easily serve as a parking lot without having to buy more property. At a savings of about $65,000. Hey School Board Members Kathy Falls, George Litton, Phillip Glover and Dale Oliver, why do you keep spending money on non-classroom stuff and letting go teachers and teacher aides???
4. Why does the School Board allow school administration to avoid providing clear information upon citizens’ request? A recent request for an Employee list with salaries was provided and was purposefully “scrambled” so as to be useless to anybody with a copy. Information provided to a citizen that is absolutely worthless to any user of the information, within the school system or outside that was purposely scrambled by the School System Administration was just a waste of time and taxpayer money. Hey School Board, Why is this allowed to happen and what are you going to do about it? Kathy Falls, George Litton, Phillip Glover and Dale Oliver, this happened on your watch. Why haven’t you done something about this?
5. All summer long we heard from the School System Administration that the State had reduced funding and 100 teachers and teacher aides got their layoff notices. Those teachers were sent by the School Administration to talk with our State Legislators about the reduction in funds. It was all over the Shelby Star all summer long. One School Board member not up for reelection this year even suggested the teachers join the teachers union. The fact is the NC State Legislature did not reduce funding for education in 2013. The State actually raised funding education by $400 million statewide and allowed moving funds around in the budget to better allow flexibility for individual school system needs. Why did Kathy Falls, George Litton, Phillip Glover and Dale Oliver and the rest of the School Board allow such false information to be put out by the School System Administration? Why did Kathy Falls, George Litton, Phillip Glover and Dale Oliver not set the record straight about the lies being told about a reduction in state funding when there was not such a reduction?
6. Who runs the School System? The Administration or the elected School Board.? A review of School Board meeting minutes over the past several years indicate that close to all votes are unanimous and close to all items voted on get voted for as the administration had asked for. All those unanimous votes mean Kathy Falls, George Litton, Phillip Glover and Dale Oliver all voted together with the rest of the School Board almost all the time. It is not likely that these School Board members running for re-election will change one thing. Especially since Kathy Falls, George Litton, Phillip Glover, Dale Oliver and the rest of the School Board voted May 20, 2013 and in the middle of the credit card scandal and criminal investigations to extend many top Administrators contracts through two election cycles into the year 2017. Like I said in Paragraph 2, the administration top dogs are assured of their part of a million dollar set of jobs, while teachers are assured of nothing. All Administrator thanks go to Kathy Falls, George Litton, Phillip Glover and Dale Oliver for their part in that nice financial situation. Of course the teachers and lower level staff are afraid to speak out. Jobs are hard to come by in Cleveland County and the walls have ears.
7. Dummying down white students to “Close the Gap” with black students. “Multicultural Diversity” is a fancy name for certain teaching methods that work best for black students. When you use “Diversity” methods in a classroom with a mixture of black and white students, you help the black students learn but you also tend to decrease the learning capability of the white students. If your goal is to Close the Gap between the learning of blacks and whites, you accomplish that in two ways with diversity. You increase the learning of black students and you “Dumb down” the white students. So, you really are closing the gap, but is dummying down white students an acceptable way to close that gap. School Board members Kathy Falls, George Litton, Phillip Glover and Dale Oliver must think so. On their watch as Board members they have allowed diversity methods to be used in Cleveland County Schools and the results are in. According to a recent report in the Shelby Star, Black student dropout rates have fallen below dropout rates for white students for the first time ever. And diversity was reported to be the reason black students have improved. Of course the Shelby Star never provided a word of reasoning about what was happening to the white students. The School Board didn’t either. What do the voters think about that on Election Day!!!
There are many other items that separate what the incumbent School Board members Kathy Falls, George Litton, Phillip Glover and Dale Oliver have done or allowed to be done on their watch as School Board members over the past 4 years. What would the School Board Challengers; Danny Blanton, Jeff Gregory, Kenneth Ledford, Darius Griffin and Donnie Thurman, Jr. do that is different?
Danny Blanton-School Board Challenger: Danny Blanton is the person mainly (maybe totally) responsible for bringing out the financial shenanigans at Cleveland County Schools. My first encounter with Danny Blanton was at a County Commissioner’s Meeting where Danny Blanton brought the Commissioners up to speed with the criminal investigations of the School System. Danny also stated later to a Shelby Star Reporter that his life had been threatened over this issue. Danny offered his information to the Star Reporter who said “I will have to talk to my Editor about this” and did not accept the information. Skippy Foster was the Star Editor at that time and Skippy has since moved to Florida. However, Skippy has come out against Danny Blanton because Danny once said “I growed up in Cleveland County.” Well Skippy, I growed up in Cleveland County too. Skippy has threatened to come back to Cleveland County to vote against Danny Blanton. The State Board of Elections says Skippy is eligible to vote in Cleveland County because Skippy and Dina are still registered here although they have moved to Florida months ago. No wonder we need voter IDs to keep people from voting where they don’t live. Anyway, I would say that based on Skippy running down Danny Blanton, many voters will vote FOR Danny Blanton just on account of that.
But the fact is Danny Blanton has learned about bad things happening at the Cleveland County Schools and has taken it upon himself to try to get elected to the School Board and straighten out those problems. It is called the American Dream. Or Old time politics. When you think you can do a better job that those in office, run against them in the next election. And campaigning is part of that. Danny Blanton took his campaign to the Cleveland County Fair, to the Liver mush Expo, to the Belwood Antique Tractor Pull, to Grover, to Casar, to Fallston, to Shelby, to Kings Mountain, Lattimore, Boiling Springs and about everywhere in between. Danny talked to the Tea Party, to the NAACP and more.. Danny is not ashamed to ask you for your vote if you want a change in the School System. Danny is liable to tell you he is not your man if you say you like the School System just like it is. If you ask Danny Blanton who will run the School System, Danny will surely tell you me and the rest of the School Board.
In the end, Danny Blanton will tell you that he is for saving the money that is wasted and put the money into the classroom to educate our children. Unless you are an overpaid School System Administration person, who can argue with that?
We support Danny Blanton for the Cleveland County School Board. We recommend voting for Danny Blanton on Election Day. Take someone with you to the Polls. Take a crowd!!! And Remember that you can vote for four in this elected office of School Board Member.
Jeff Gregory-School Board Challenger. Jeff Gregory will also tell you that if he is elected to the School Board, the School administration will work for the School Board and not the other way around. Jeff Gregory was also very outspoken at the recent Town Hall Forum that the various scandals swirling around the School System would be quickly resolved if Jeff was on the School Board. Jeff Gregory seemed to concur with Danny Blanton that the financial shenanigans in the School System need to be stopped and stopped by the School Board-immediately. But Jeff Gregory brought other factors that would be changed if he was elected. Tossing the Core-Curriculum Program was very high on Jeff Gregory’s list of things to do on the School Board. Jeff has deeply researched this socialist program and would tell the Core Curriculum folks to stay out of Cleveland County School business. Jeff Gregory debated Dr. George Litton at some length, had his facts well understood and didn’t back down. We agreed with Jeff Gregory on the Core Curriculum issue, as well as did Danny Blanton and Kenneth Ledford. Jeff is a retired Postmaster and has talked to many Cleveland County people over the years, knows how they think and would make a fine School Board member and representative of the citizens of Cleveland County.
We support Jeff Gregory for the Cleveland County School Board. We recommend voting for Jeff Gregory on Election Day. Take someone with you to the Polls. Take a crowd!!! And Remember that you can vote for four in this elected office of School Board Member.
Kenneth Ledford-School Board Challenger: Kenneth Ledford is a veteran of the old (before merger) Cleveland County School Board and a previous (before scandal) term on the merged School Board. Kenneth Ledford brought out some fine insights at the Town Hall forum regarding the why’s and how’s of the School Board politics that have funded Shelby and Kings Mountain school projects and left the county schools out. Ledford stated that he has been an advocate for auditoriums and other facilities at Burns and Crest for over 20 years. Ledford stated these auditoriums have been put on the Strategic Plan for the School System but their priority stays low and never rises to the top. Ledford proposes to make this strategic plan fair for everybody-including Burns and Crest.
The statements made by Kenneth Ledford indicated that he was for the School Board making things happen to resolve the scandals Danny Blanton wants to resolve. Ledford agreed with Jeff Gregory and Danny Blanton that the Core Curriculum Program needed to go. And Jeff Gregory and Danny Blanton agreed with Kenneth Ledford that the strategic plan that the School Board has should be revised to make things fair for all the County Schools. It seems we have a mew team in the making.
We support Kenneth Ledford for the Cleveland County School Board. We recommend voting for Kenneth Ledford on Election Day. Take someone with you to the Polls. Take a crowd!!! And Remember that you can vote for four in this elected office of School Board Member.
At this point we need to provide some explanation of why we are making our candidate recommendation as we are describing in this article.
First, we cannot recommend any incumbent for election to the School Board because the scandals and other bad things happening in the School System have happened on the incumbent’s watch. The old story, “The Buck Stops Here,” is true and the buck has stopped on the incumbent candidates Kathy Falls, George Litton, Phillip Glover and Dale Oliver. These four cannot be recommended for another term because of the mess that happened on their last term. There are five more School Board Members that are not up for election this year and for them we recommend their resignation or we will try to defeat them in the 2015 election.
Second, The Town Hall Forum held September 26, 2013 was the first forum in a long time where citizens could ask questions directly from the floor. The responses from the candidates separated the candidates into three groups.
• Group 1 was the incumbents who were vainly trying to justify their actions and could not admit they made mistakes and then promise they would make changes. Remember the 5 other incumbent School Board Members who are not up for election this year but will be up for election in 2015. We cannot recommend anyone in this group and believe they all should be defeated.
• Group 2 included challengers Danny Blanton, Jeff Gregory and Kenneth Ledford. They were often on the floor, all at the same time, with clear suggestions on the changes they would make. They were passionate about their ideas about making the School System accountable and foremost was saving money that was now being wasted (or stolen) and put that money into the classrooms. We have to recommend all three from this group.
• Group 3 included challengers Darius Griffin and Donnie Thurman, Jr. Both of these candidates were not so passionate about accountability or saving money, but had their own ideas. Both of these candidates were the best speakers of all of the candidates. However, our decision is based on the need to make changes to the School System to get rid of crime and corruption in the School System soon as possible. So, we need four challenger candidates that will stick together to do just that. Our final recommendation has to be for which challenger candidate, Darius Griffin or Donnie Thurman, Jr, that will work best with Group 2 instead of Group 1. That is a critical point of decision making in the 2013 School Board race and a good example of just how politics work in our democrat-representative form of government.
Donnie Thurman, Jr. School Board Challenger: Donnie Thurman is a motivational speaker who, according to his website, has spoken to 850,000 people in 38 states. Donnie says that there is more to be done about educating children that can be done in school. Donnie states parents; family and the community have a responsibility and vested interest in education children. Of course this is 100% correct. Donnie Thurman, Jr. agrees with Danny Blanton, Jeff Gregory and Kenneth Ledford on many items: like the School Board being directly in charge of the School System, like requiring more accountability of the School System administration personnel, the need for enhanced vocational training and making teachers, teacher aides and the children most of all the center of attention for the Cleveland County School System as well as renovating or moving the North Shelby School and building auditoriums at Burns and Crest. Overall, Donnie Thurman, Jr. would make an excellent School Board Member. In this particular political situation, it appears that Donnie Thurman, Jr. is more aligned with the needed changes in the School System advocated by Danny Blanton, Jeff Gregory and Kenneth Ledford.
We support Donnie Thurman, Jr. for the Cleveland County School Board. We recommend voting for Donnie Thurman, Jr on Election Day. Take someone with you to the Polls. Take a crowd!!! And Remember that you can vote for four in this elected office of School Board Member.
Darius Griffin – School Board Challenger: Darius Griffin and Donnie Thurman were the two best speakers of all the candidates. Darius, in regard to closing the gap, wants to determine the reasons for the gap in the first place. This makes total sense in that how can you fix a problem if you don’t understand or don’t want to talk about the problem in the first place. Darius Griffin gets points for that. Darius also advocates increased vocational training. Darius has gone before the School Board in regard to transferring his children to a different school to better suit his families work locations and travelling time. Darius said that experience was challenging and he would work to make the Transfer policies more flexible. Darius Griffin lost some points when he seemed to side with some of the incumbent School Board member statements regarding the Strategic Building Plan and the funding thereof. “Funding” being the key word here. The present School Board found funding to renovate the old Shelby Middle School on Marion Street to almost palatial proportions for a Central Administration building while Bethware and North Shelby suffered. And Burns and Crest do without an auditorium for 20+ years.
But overall Darius Griffin would make a fine School Board member once the problems of crime, corruption and accountability are resolved in the Cleveland County School System. We would recommend that Darius Griffin consider running for the School Board or any other office in 2014 and 2015. This is just the reality of politics in 2013. The School Board and School System as a whole needs to be cleaned up of all traces of crime and corruption starting this year and a completely different set of School Board Members are required.
Once again, the School Board portion of the 2013 ballot shown here reflects our recommendations for the Cleveland County Board of Education for 2013. We urge all county voters to turn out and vote as you see fit on Election Day, November 5, 2013.
Take someone with you to the polls. Take a crowd. And VOTE !!!
No More of this at Cleveland County Schools