Reports and Records accumulated by Robert A. Williams and Hal Trammell
Commentary and Conclusions by Robert A. Williams
Love of Money is said to be the “root of all evil.” That appears to be the truth for Cleveland County. Especially at the Cleveland County Schools, American Legion World Series, Economic Development (or the lack thereof), the Hospital giveaway, Cleveland County Commissioners, Cleveland County Board of Education elections, The First National Bank failure, Gardner-Webb and miscellaneous other misadventures. All balled together and covered-up by the Shelby Star-who themselves appear to have made a pretty penny in ill gotten gain.
The five Parts listed below will probably make you mad at the leadership in Cleveland County. For those of you that vote, you can make a difference in Cleveland County by voting scoundrels out of office. It is up to YOU.
Part I The $100,000 Secret
Cleveland County Schools
Let’s start with the Cleveland County Schools, the Board of Education and the 2013 elections. We will call this the $100,000 Secret, although the actual lies, secrets and scandals appear to range from relatively small credit card frauds to relatively large credit card frauds, missing then found power equipment. An $86,000 GPS system to track school buses. Another $80,000 for increased internet services. The documents that were allegedly shredded during an SBI and State Auditor’s Office investigation, the bill boards that don’t make any sense. And perhaps the misrepresented cash flow goes into the $$$ Millions if you count the 100 class room teachers and assistants that were reported to have been laid-off-due to State budget cuts. But then the teachers were rehired with a raise when a School Board “challenger,” Danny Blanton, comes along and discovers there were no such State budget cuts and goes public with the news (Printed August 15th, 2013-Kings Mountain Herald. Danny Blanton also offered this information to the Shelby Star, but it was not printed.). And the suspicious payments of $90,000 +?) to the Shelby Star for suspicious reasons. Yes, the Shelby Star who happened NOT to print a word of the teacher rehire although they were given the information along with the KM Herald and who have also been “scrubbing” the record on their internet website. Then the Star sends out another apparently contradictory story about cuts at the State level when the State has actually increased funds to schools.
In 2013 the Cleveland County Schools have built the new Shelby Middle School at a cost of almost $30 million and remodeled the new CCS Central Offices for another $9 million, but despite the NC General Assembly increasing the NC Education budget by $400 million, CCS says they don’t have enough cash to keep the teachers and teacher’s aids in the classroom teaching children-which is the reason for having schools in the first place. No wonder everybody is confused.
Also, It seems the Shelby Star rarely has anything bad to say about Cleveland County Schools. Even when death threats are made against a School Board challenger, Danny Blanton, who is exposing financial shenanigans within the Cleveland County school system. When the challenger’s information is offered to a Star reporter (at a Cleveland County Board of Commissioner’s meeting), the reporter turns down the evidence saying, “I will have to talk to my Editor about that.”
What is actually going on at CCS? Why is the CCS saying the state has cut their budget when the state has actually raised funding for CCS and allowed CCS leeway about moving costs around in their budget to allow more money to go to the classroom? Why is the Shelby Star only reporting CCS’s tall tell about budget cuts when they know better. When CCS Board Challenger Danny Blanton put the documented truth into the hands of Star reporters. Put that thought aside for a moment and let’s get on with what we have found out about the doings at CCS and how CCS Board Challenger, Danny Blanton, has been right about the fiscal shenanigans at CCS all along. Then we will get back to the Shelby Star’s part in covering up the shenanigans at CCS.
Some history: The Cleveland County School system, a few years ago, had a bunch of credit cards. So many credit cards that they couldn’t even count them with good accuracy. The school system had a lot of equipment too. A bucket truck and a tractor that they couldn’t account for and didn’t even know the equipment existed until one day the equipment just shows up on school property. Right after Danny Blanton reported the equipment missing-for years even. Perhaps part of the accounting problem goes back to when the three county school systems, Shelby Schools, Kings Mountain Schools and the Cleveland County schools were merged way back in 2000 (finally approved by the Courts in 2004 after the lawsuits were settled.) by the Cleveland County Board of Commissioners. Most folks can remember the lawsuits against the merger; the substantial tax increases that accompanied the merger and the loss of State funding in 2000 (not 2013) due to having only one system instead of three. Many folks also suspect that the merger was brought about by Shelby Schools becoming more “black” than was wanted and a source of “white” students was needed. The facts are, the “Executive Round Table,” a semi secret organization with roots in the Country Club set, wrote a letter to the Shelby Star and the Commissioners claiming the County school systems needed to consolidate and the consolidation was done. That is history now and only provides an introduction on how business was done in Cleveland County back then and up until today.
From 2000 until the original merged system superintendant leaves in 2007. During this time, financially, the school system mostly concerned itself with financing the merger and spending tons of money. The first order of business for the newly merged system, CCS, was that every job was evaluated, pay-wise, to determine which system had the highest pay rate. Then that job for the merged system paid everybody in that job position at the highest rate for that position. This meant that two/thirds of all the school personnel received a pay raise. No positions were cut due to duplication of effort and Cleveland County property taxes skyrocketed to pay the bills. This occurred when there were still jobs in Cleveland County and the County Commissioners never made an effort to tighten up anybodies budget. Money flowed and nobody in county government asked any questions.
Especially the School Board and the Cleveland County Commissioners. There was no accountability for waste, apparently because nobody was looking for waste, OR, WERE AFRAID TO TELL. Remember, this is Cleveland County and the Good Ole Boys and Gals are still running things. Nobody wanted to hear about anything bad that was going on. Neither did the voters who failed to run against the good-ole-boys, nor to vote for enough of the brave ones that challenged them and could have put a stop to some of the financial shenanigans that have transpired in the county.
In 2007 the original merged system superintendant moves away and Dr. Bruce Boyles is hired by the Cleveland County Board of Education. Almost the same Board as it was originally appointed by the Commissioners in 2000 after the Merger.
Dr. Boyles was offered a generous salary and benefit package as the School Board had become used to spending big money. The Fiscal Research Division of the North Carolina General Assembly reported August 12, 2013 that the Cleveland County Superintendant, Dr. Bruce Boyles, salary in 2013 is $244,805.12. The third highest paid superintendant of all the school systems in North Carolina. Only Mecklenburg and Guilford Counties paid their superintendant a higher amount according to the Fiscal Research Division data.
(But folks remember that we double check our sources; whether they are from the CCS, the Shelby Daily Liar, the Charlotte Observer or the Fiscal Research Division of the NC General Assembly. We think the Fiscal Research Division used data from a month (Feb. 2013) that Dr. Boyles received a bonus and used that month’s slightly higher than normal pay amount and multiplied by 12 for an erroneous annual salary. Our calculations, using CCS information and counting such non reported items such as vacation buy-back and a Country Club membership, indicate that Dr. Boyle’s total compensation in 2013 will total out to be about $190,000. Still, this is pretty good pay for Cleveland County and Dr. Boyles is most likely the highest paid government employee in the county. We add this information to show that we intend to be able to fairly and accurately back up every fact and figure in this article. You will likely never find the Shelby Star doing this kind of research in their articles and tall tales.)
Back to the story line
Shortly after Dr. Boyles was hired as CCS Superintendant in 2007, the CCS Board and Dr. Boyles develop a 5-Year Strategic Plan for CCS. This plan included the construction of a new Shelby Middle School, restoration of the old Shelby Middle School on Marion Street for use as a new and expanded Central Office facility among other things. Such construction and restoration projects would be certainly prudent for an “expanding” school system. However, the financial problems that developed over ten years ago in Cleveland County, statewide and nationwide in 2008, the Census of 2010, other research and just plain old 20/20 vision looking around in the county shows and confirms that Cleveland County is NOT expanding or growing. There is a net loss of working age young people that are seeking jobs and having to move elsewhere to get those jobs. And they are taking their children with them. Cleveland County folks are just plain getting older and old folks don’t have many children.
The Cleveland County Board of Education and Dr. Boyles had to have been aware of this “downsizing” in school age children in Cleveland County but apparently chose not to revise their strategic planning to reflect the changing demographics of Cleveland County. It has just been full speed ahead with increasing spending at CCS, lead by Dr. Boyles and the School Board. No school board member appears to have come forward with substantial leadership in regards to the financial aspects of educating the children of Cleveland County. Spending close to $30 million on a new school (with $2.5 million for landscaping) and restoring the site on Marion Street (another $9 million) to almost palatial appearances provides a visual impression of grandeur for the CCS, but may not be money well spent–all in one year anyway. Especially when CCS says they have to lay-off teachers because of a lack of funding from the state.
So what does the Cleveland County Commissioners do in regard to funding the CCS? Commissioners fund the schools based on so many $$$ per student. It is purely a numbers game. So many dollars per student times the number of students. Cleveland County Commissioners cut funding to CCS in 2013 because there were fewer students to pay for. According to the Cleveland County Manager’s Budget Message (FY 2013-2914) per student funding is $1,763.38 and the allocation to the schools for 2013-2014 will be cut $558,643 due to the reduction in students. Folks, doesn’t that tell you something about the Cleveland County School system? Does it seem kind of wacko that CCS would wrongly criticize the NC General Assembly for cutting funds when they didn’t? And not criticize the Cleveland County Commissioners for cutting funds when they in fact did cut overall funding to CCS by over a half million dollars? Can we believe a word CCS and the Board of Education says?
And then there was the school system credit card scandal that CCS Board challenger Danny Blanton exposed several years ago. Even with CCS shredding documents, the State Auditor’s Office found criminal acts. But the Cleveland County District Attorney didn’t prosecute. Nothing new there.
A bucket truck and a tractor owned by CCS, but missing for years, turned up on school property when CCS Board challenger Danny Blanton brought up the issue. Again the District Attorney, the SBI and the Sheriff’s Office do nothing.
$86,000 to put GPS on School Buses appears to be money the CCS intends to spend no matter what. Does the CCS and the School Board suspect that someone is going to steal a school bus?
An $80,000 increase in spending for the CCS internet costs. A one gigabyte increase in internet speed for the thousands of students in school and 10 gigabytes for the hundreds of administrators in the new Central Offices. Another backwards decision by CCS that shows their priority is more on administration than education for our children. When the School Board candidates had the opportunity to speak at the August 15th TEA Party meeting an educator spoke up during the Question and Answer session and stated that school funding was spent 60% for administration and 40% for the classroom. Only challengers Danny Blanton and Jeff Gregory spoke up to say they would change that. The incumbent School Board members said nothing.
By now many are probably thinking, Well, Williams, we know all this. Where is the $100,000 secret?
Folks, the Cleveland County School System is paying for propaganda!!!
A few years into Dr. Boyles running the CCS, he must have seen and heard from folks like Danny Blanton that there were problems at CCS that were being swept under the rug. Anybody but a dummy would realize that some good press would help if the truth ever came out about CCS shenanigans. No matter that such a thought might not ever be proved, the fact is CCS, under the authority of Dr. Bruce Boyles signed a “Marketing Ageement” contract in 2010 with the Shelby Star under the authority of Skippy Foster for the Shelby Star to provide services to the Cleveland County School system. Those services were not well defined in the contract as how they would benefit education children. How the Shelby Star provided those services clearly show that CCS would get good press coverage. The Star would even lie about the NC General Assembly cutting funds to schools when funding was increased by $400, million and Representatives Kelly Hastings and Tim Moore and Senator Warren Daniels were screaming out that such stories in the Star were wrong.
The facts in 2013 are this. CCS paid the Shelby Star, to the tune of $90,000 ($82,000 last year) to design and arrange for billboards
all around Cleveland County. To provide internet services, “consulting services,” to take some pictures at the schools, etc. Also, CCS paid the Shelby Star $15,000 per year for the Star’s Newspapers In Education (NIE) program. Under this program the Star would deliver many bundles of the Star newspapers to various CCS schools. The schools would then load up the bundles of brand new, but unread and still in bundled, Shelby Star newspapers straight to the recycle bins at various Cleveland County dump sites. In my own experience in hauling garbage to the dump near Lawndale, I witnessed the newspaper recycle bin full of new and unread Shelby Star newspapers, still in their bundles. CCS might as well take $15,000 in cash and run the money through a shredder for all the good the Shelby Star’s newspapers has done for educating our students. Same for the billboards and probably the same for the internet, where pornography is also to be found.
But one thing is absolutely sure for those who are awake and paying attention. The Shelby Star is providing all kinds of good press coverage to CCS and their incumbent Board Members. The Shelby Star surely remembers who is buttering their bread and no cover-up is too big for the Shelby Star. Keep that statement in mind for the rest of this series of stories.
Also, keep in mind that the CCS Board elections are November 5, 2013 and there are four incumbents and five challengers running for four seats. Your vote in 2013 can make a difference. Please go to our 2013 Voter’s Guide for our recommendations in the 2013 Elections.