Tuesday, January 29, 2019



by Cash Michaels
staff writer

            If NHC School Board Chairwoman Lisa Estep, Vice Chair David Wortman, and members Judy Justice and Stephanie Adams were expecting a packed Media Center at Williston Middle School Tuesday night, filled with concerned parents, students, teachers, Williston Senior High alums and citizens challenging the board’s proposal to turn Williston Middle into a performing arts high school in the near future, they weren’t disappointed.
            But Estep and her fellow board members weren’t necessarily happy about it either. Speaker after speaker, it was clear at Tuesday’s one-hour community forum, with over 20 people speaking out,  that changing Williston into an institutional vanity project, instead of a rigorous school for both academic instruction and useful skills training, was not going to fly, especially with African-Americans who want to see the same commitment to excellence that the legendary all-black Williston Senior High School exhibited before it was arbitrarily shutdown by the NHC School Board in 1968 in overreaction to a federal desegregation order.
            The question was consistently being asked, “What about the students who live in this community? How will an arts high school help them get meaningful jobs and marketable skills that are in demand.”
            Even though NHC Schools Supt. Tim Markley that despite concerns, no students currently attending Williston Middle will be moved next year.
            It took former NHC School Board member Nick Rhodes to ask the bottomline community question.
            “…[W]hen we start moving students, why is it the black kids are the only ones moved?” Mr. Rhodes asked, adding what he bluntly thought of the whole arts school idea.
            “I think we need to come up with another solution, because I don’t think a performing arts school is the right solution for this community!”
            Other proud Williston            Senior High alums, like Kenneth Chestnut, Linda Pierce and others, further drove home the point that a strong academic/vocational curriculum is crucially needed if Williston Middle is to become a high school again.
            “I think that we are missing the opportunity if we don’t consider the vocational component here at Williston,” Mr. Chestnut said.
            There were also questions about what would happen to students at the International School at Gregory if Williston Middle is changed.
            There is little question that when NHC School Board Vice Chair David Wortman’s Williston Exploratory Committee Meets again this afternoon at 3 at the Spencer Annex, the community’s almost unified opposition to his arts high school concept must be factored in.
            When that committee met last week, it considered questions, according to discussion points supplied to The Journal, about graduating from the arts school with employment opportunities; keeping Williston a neighborhood school; and dealing with student overcrowding.
            It is clear though that from this point forward, the community expects its school board to be transparent in its decision-making about the future of Williston.


            [WASH., D.C.] When Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, goes after President Donald Trump’s heretofore unseen tax returns, she’ll have help from North Carolina. 12thDistrict Democrat Rep. Alma Adams has been assigned to the committee. “I am pleased to welcome Congresswoman Alma Adams to the Financial Services Committee and the Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee,” Chairwoman Waters said in a statement.

            [RALEIGH] Dr. Everett Ward, president of St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, has announced that he is stepping down at the end of this school year, so that a new leader can assume the reins for the next academic school year. Dr. Ward has presided of St. Aug’s since 2014, replacing Dr. Diane Boardley Suber. ““It’s now time for the Saint Augustine’s Renaissance to continue with a new chapter,” Ward told the school’s board of trustees, according to a news release. “I’m extremely grateful for the commitment exemplified by our students, staff, faculty and alumni. Together, along with friends of the university, we conquered significant challenges with our eyes on the prize.”

            [RALEIGH] The NC General Assembly got down to business for its Long Session yesterday, this time with a different twist. Gone is the Republican super-majority in both the state House and Senate. While the GOP still hold majorities in both chambers, thanks to a Democratic surge of voters during the 2018 midterms, those Republican majorities aren’t veto proof, meaning Democrats now have more input into legislation than before, and if there’s something they don’t like, they can signal to Gov. Cooper to dust off his veto pen to stop it. The expected haggling many drag this session well into the summer before adjournment.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing Writer

            Today, Jan. 31st, is the day that the new five-member State Board of Elections (SBOE) convenes, and the most pressing item on its agenda is resolution of the nagging Ninth Congressional District alleged election fraud controversy involving Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready.
            Harris, of Charlotte, unofficially won that November 2018 contest by 905-votes. But according to published reports, allegations of absentee ballot tampering have clouded an unofficially declared outcome.
            That outcome can’t become official until the new SBOE votes 3-2 to accept the results and certify the race. There are three Democrats and two Republicans on the SBOE.
            Certification is what state Republicans want, regardless of the facts. The NCGOP has said unless it can be proven that the 905-vote margin of victory is not genuine, it wants Mark Harris certified.
            Harris took that argument to a Wake Superior Court judge last week, and lost spectacularly, because, the judge ruled, the SBOE investigators were still probing the case.
Attorney Irving Joyner, who represents the Bladen Improvement Association, the African-American political action committee that Republicans falsely accused of election fraud after Gov. Pat McCrory lost re-election in 2016, applauded the judge’s decision.
“Judge [Paul] Ridgeway's decision not to interfere with the investigation by the NC Board of Elections into illegal conduct in the Ninth Congressional District is a major step to uphold the rule of law in North Carolina,” attorney Joyner said. “This effort by the Harris campaign and the Republican Party was designed as an "end-run" …to thwart the ongoing investigation.”
Joyner continued, “Presently, the SBOE is engaged in a thorough investigation to determine the extent of illegality in Bladen, Columbus and Robeson Counties and that investigation should be allowed to conclude. It is clear that illegal acts were committed by Republican operatives and that the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina has failed since 2016 to prosecute McCrae Dowless for prior illegal conduct which was committed [before] the 2018 elections. North Carolina citizens deserve to know exactly who was involved in these illegal acts and all of the wrongdoers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
The Wake County District Attorney’s Office has been tackling the criminal end of investigation, along with the FBI. But what investigators with the SBOE uncover is crucial in determining what happens next. A final determination is not widely expected today, especially since an evidentiary hearing is expected.
At the end of the process, one of two things can happen – either the SBOE votes to indeed certify the Ninth District results, or the board declares a new election, which will take a 4-1 vote, meaning that at least one of the two Republicans on the five-member SBOE will have to vote with the three-Democrat majority.
And the NCGOP maintains that that isn’t likely to happen.
“Chairman (Robin) Hayes and our team are confident that our nominees . . . will come to the only reasonable conclusion,” Dallas Woodhouse, NCGOP executive director, told The Charlotte Observer this week.  “That is (the) race should be certified because Dr. Harris won more legal votes and we believe no evidence can possibly show otherwise.”
If the SBOE doesn’t vote to certify, Harris is likely to go back to court. But even if he does, the Democratic majority in Congress has already made clear that they will not seat Harris unless they’re satisfied he won fair and square.

                                                                SEN SMITH
                                                       TREVOR FULLER

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            District 3 Democrat State Sen. Erica D. Smith (Northhampton, Bertie, Edgecombe, Hertford, Chowan, Martin, Tyrrell, Washington) announced on Twitter Saturday that she will challenge first-term Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis’ re-election bid.
            “It’s official,’ Sen. Smith tweeted. “I’m running for the U.S. Senate in 2020. I’m committed to serving Senate district 3 with continued excellence throughout my term at the NCGA (North Carolina General Assembly). But I hope to soon have the honor of serving all 100 counties of the Old North State as North Carolina’s next U.S. senator.
Now serving her second in the NC Senate, Sen. Smith joins Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller, an African-American; and attorney Eva Lee, who was the first to announce her candidacy in 2017. Both Fuller and Lee are also Democrats, so a primary can be expected to determine who ultimately will face Sen. Tillis next year.
            Sen. Smith is an ordained minister, former public school teacher, and trained engineer. She is also an alumna of NC A&T University.
            “I’m excited to share more with you in the coming months about why I want to serve the people of NC,” Sen. Smith continued. “As a former engineer, minister and high school teacher, I’m equipped to tackle NC’s toughest challenges and get to work to stand up for our most vulnerable neighbors.”
            “But most importantly, this will be a campaign powered by the people and driven by your beliefs and values. I am honored to be serving in the NCGA, and I hope I’ll have your support as I embark on this journey to become your next U.S. Senator! Stay tuned for more.”
            Even though Democrats are considered to have a definite momentum electorally across the country and here in North Carolina, Sen. Smith, Commissioner Fuller and Attorney Lee are all considered longshots against Sen. Tillis.
            The former NC House speaker has become a conservative stalwart in Congress, and considers himself close to Pres. Donald Trump, supporting the president on the lion’s share of his policies, including the recent partial federal shutdown which concluded January 25th.
            None of the three announced Democratic challengers are well-known beyond their regions, and thus, do not have a strong, statewide following yet. That, in turn, observers say, will most likely affect their ability to fundraise effectively against a Republican incumbent senator who is not likely to have much problem raising money for his re-election campaign.
            And that’s just the general election.
            Sen. Smith, Commissioner Fuller and Attorney Lee would have to first compete in a Democratic primary, requiring strong fundraising to become the party’s U.S. senatorial nominee.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019


By Cash Michaels
Staff writer

            When concerned parents, staff, school board members and others come together next Tuesday night, January 29th(6 p.m. in the media center of Williston Middle School) for a community forum on the controversial NHC School Board proposal to change Williston into a arts high school, ultimately two key questions must be asked, opponents say:
1.    Whose children does the proposal help?
2.    Whose children does the proposal hurt?

To alums of the historic Williston Senior High School, and retired teachers from
Williston Middle like Mr. James Hankins, the answers are academic.
            “I say we need a vocational center,” the former vocational educator said in a “Letter to the Editor” in the Journalthis week. “The [school] board needs to stop pretending that most of our students are going to college because they never have, an they never will.”
            “Job opportunities in the arts are very few, about the same a in professional sports,” Hankins continued. “A public school is supposed to prepare all students for higher education, trade school or the world of work.”
            Mr. Hankins then recalled how his old alma mater, Williston Senior High School – the legendary all-black New Hanover County high school that the school board abruptly closed in 1968 in an over-reaction to a federal desegregation order, not only properly prepared its students academically to go on sterling careers in a segregated world, but also taught pupils marketable skills in auto mechanics, electricity, commercial cooking, horticulture, tailoring, etc. 
            “Over 95% of our students graduated and are successful leaders today,” Hankins maintains.
            In last week’s Journal, another Williston Senior High alumna and former Williston Middle educator, Ms. Florence Johnson Warren, agreed that the sixth, seventh and eighth graders there now, and in the future, need a curriculum modeled after what the original Williston Senior High offered – strong academics with skills training.
            “You, the school board approved the district lines with a certain purpose in mind,” Ms. Warren told The Journal last week, alluding to the contention that the school board’s redistricting policies have created high poverty – low performing, overcrowded schools like Williston Middle to placate demanding, anti-busing white families in the county.
            “Fine Arts [high] school is appealing to what population?”
            According to NHC School Board Vice Chairman David Wortman, the primary force behind the Williston arts high school proposal, “85%” of parents surveyed across New Hanover County like the idea. He’s moving ahead with an exploratory committee today at 3 p.m..
            Wortman may want to speak with those not as excited about his vision as he is. Especially the teachers at Williston Middle who knew nothing about the proposal beforehand because their principal was not informed until the proposal was made public. Those teachers work with the students there, know their needs, and are extremely concerned, not only about the future of the school and what will happen to the children, but their own futures there as well.
            One educator who spoke to The Journalon the condition of not being identified, was clear that despite public declarations, the best interests of the students at Williston were not the priority in the Wortman proposal.
            For starters, current Williston sixth and seventh grade students would be moved to Myrtle-Grove, Roland Grise, Noble and Holly Shelter, in various capacities, by the 2019-2020, 2020-2021 school years. In Wortman’s mind, this would address overcrowding concerns.
            But the Williston teacher countered, “I’m not sure how closing a middle school helps that problem. The teacher also noted Williston Middle is a Title 1 school, meaning that a considerable percentage of its students are low-income, and thus, need certain special community services that are federally funded like mental health counseling, grade specific guidance counselors and free/reduced lunch. Having access to those services in a school right in their community is key and important, the teacher notes.
            This teacher also takes issue with whether a fine arts school walls ‘ould be the proper “fit’ for the community that Williston is currently in.
            Wortman is basing his proposal on he calls “successful” arts schools in Durham and other places. But various recent studies have shown that a significant percentage of students who attend those schools do not go on professionally to further their instruction into trades.
            According to a Dec. 2017 article in The Atlantic Magazinetitled, The Irony of Specialized High Schools, “A recent analysis conducted by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project, an organization run out of Indiana University that surveys those who attended arts institutions, found that only about half of the respondents who graduated from arts high schools currently hold a full- or part-time career as an artist. (The project’s data does not distinguish between the visual and performing arts, but approximately 80 percent of high-school respondents were focused on the performing arts.) Of those who pursued a degree post-high school, most did study some form of the arts—but a noteworthy number (almost 25 percent) did not.”
            The Williston teacher The Journalspoke with is concerned that the proposed Williston arts high school will amount to a magnet program for just some select students, and then standard school for “everybody else” who would happen to be the majority.
            The Williston facility would also have to be completely rehabbed to conform to the demands of the new arts curriculum. Where would that funding come from?
            “We don’t have studio space? We don’t have electronics and lighting. We have two stages, but one of them is in the gym?,” says the teacher.
            And then, given the proposed Wortman timeline, should teachers at Williston Middle now immediately start looking for jobs elsewhere? 
            The manner in which the school board has handled the Wortman proposal, effectively locking the community out of the discussion/decisionmaking process, has now made any positive outcome from all of this very difficult, the Williston teacher said.
            Indeed, the teacher added, the NHC School Board is not trusted.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Looks like Republican Mark Harris will have to wait for the new State Board of Elections (SBOE) to certify his tentative victory in the controversial Ninth Congressional District race, once it convenes next week on Jan. 31st.
And there’s no guarantee that the new SBOE will, in fact, do that, let alone order a new election if the Nov. 2018 race proves to be tainted.
            A Wake Superior Court judge on Tuesday, after a full morning of arguments from attorneys representing Harris, his Democratic opponent Dan McCready, and SBOE, decided that there is still an investigation underway by the SBOE staff, and as long as that’s the case, he should not disrupt the process by certifying the race before all of the facts are in.
            Judge Paul Ridgeway ruled that there was no imposing timeline for certification to occur, therefore the five-member SBOE is the appropriate body to determine certification, if appropriate.
            Harris, a Republican minister from Charlotte who asked for Tuesday’s hearing, was not in the courtroom for the ruling. But his attorneys had argued that Harris’ 905-vote victory was indisputable, despite rampant press reports of alleged illegal mishandling of possibly hundreds of absentee ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties, which make up parts of the Ninth District.
            Even though Harris admitted that he hired the person alleged to have masterminded the absentee ballot plot for his campaign, McCrae Dowless, Harris says he was unaware of any wrongdoing.
            The state Republican Party buttressed Harris’ claim, urging that he be immediately certified the winner so that he can be seated representing the Ninth District in Congress.
            But Democratic House have made it clear that they will not allow Harris to be officially seated until all questions about election fraud in the Ninth District race have been answered, and that can’t happen until after the SBOE completes its probe.
            NC Democrats were elated by the ruling Tuesday.
            “From day one, North Carolina Democrats have maintained that we need a full investigation into Republican Mark Harris’ efforts to silence voters across the Ninth District,” said NCDP spokesman Robert Howard in a statement. “ We’re pleased that Harris’ frivolous request has been denied and that North Carolina can get back to investigating allegations of systematic electoral fraud committed on behalf of Harris’ campaign.”
            “Only a full, public investigation can begin to repair the damage Mark Harris and North Carolina Republicans have inflicted on our state and our voters.” 
NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes, obviously, was not pleased with the court’s ruling.”
“Nothing about today’s court hearing changes the fact that @MarkHarrisNC9won the election, has more legal votes, and no public evidence has put the outcome in doubt,” Hayes tweeted. “We are confident Pastor Harris won, will be Certified and will be seated”
Meanwhile, NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse confirmed that Chairman Hayes will be submitting names to Gov. Roy Cooper for selection to serve on the SBOE by Friday, if not before. Cooper had asked both the state Democratic and Republican parties to submit names. 
Gov. Cooper will select three Democrats and two Republicans to serve on the SBOE. It will take at least four members to decide on granting a new election.
By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

As the partial federal government shutdown enters its second month, Democratic congresspeople from North Carolina, like Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC-12), have joined behind their leader, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in demanding that Pres. Trump reopen the government so that 800,000 federal workers – may of whom are black – can get back to work before any serious negotiations can begin on border security.
“Today’s announcement was an embarrassment,” Rep. Adams said in a statement issued Saturday after Trump announced that he would extends protections for so-called “Dreamers” immigrants, in exchange for $5.7 billion for his controversial “wall” at the Mexican border.
The Republican president and his party, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have vowed to keep the federal government shuttered until Pelosi and the House Democratic majority give in. McConnell has refused to allow a Senate vote on House ratified measures to fund affected federal agencies, unless Trump signals otherwise.
“President Trump and Senator McConnell must stop the antics and reopen the government now,” Rep. Adams continued. Thousands of families are suffering, and our nation’s security and economy is at risk.”
Adams then reminded all that Trump had earlier ended the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) immigration program for those who came to the country as children. “Today he backtracked and proposed three-year, temporary protections for Dreamers and those seeking TPS (Temporary Protected Status) in return for his permanent wall. This is unacceptable and offensive.”
Last week, Rep. Adams was joined by North Carolina congressional delegation colleagues congressmen G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-1) and David Price (D-NC-4) in expressing outrage over the shutdown that has forced many unpaid federal workers, especially in North Carolina, to go to food banks just to feed their families.
More than 7,000 North Carolinians who serve as federal employees are currently furloughed or working without pay because of President Trump’s petulant demands to build a border wall and Senate Republicans’ kowtowing to the President’s wishes over the needs of their constituents,” the joint statement said. “These workers, many of them veterans, include essential national security and law-enforcement personnel, critical air traffic controllers and TSA agents, and hard-working employees responsible for ensuring tax returns are processed in an accurate and timely fashion, among other key services.”
The statement continued, ““As the shutdown drags on…, critical Hurricane Florence disaster relief funds cannot be disbursed to the state, federally-supported research at our local universities is now stalled, lines at major airports across the country are increasing every day, and housing for seniors, veterans, and the disabled is at risk.”
In her own statement issued Saturday, Rep. Adams  did not mince words.
“Democrats want stronger border security and we are willing to work with this Administration to achieve it. However, an ineffective and unnecessary physical barrier that symbolizes hate will not be tolerated.”
Rep. Adams continued, “ It is time for McConnell to end this political grandstanding and bring the House passed appropriations bills to the floor for an immediate vote and send them President’s desk.”

            [ASHEVILLE] Recruiting flyers for the “Loyal White Knights” of the Ku Klux Klan began showing up in residential areas of West Asheville and Montford, according to Asheville police. After saying that the Loyal White Knights “wants you,” the flyers go on to say, “ Rest well knowing that the Klan is awake!” Many of the flyers were found in ziploc bags in the yards of various residents. Residents believe the flyers were thrown from a moving car. Police, who note that the hate literature was distributed during the weekend prior top the federal and state Martin Luther King holiday, are asking residents with tips to call the local Crimestoppers line.

            [ROCKY MOUNT] Rocky Mount’s city manager, Rochelle Small-Toney is under fire after serious allegations of fiscal mismanagement. Reportedly Small-Toney hired a friend in January 2018 who allegedly still lives in Virginia a year after employment, and made errors in the funding of a local housing project that cost taxpayers 
$182,000. Add to that a claim that Smalls-Toney spent $90,000 decorating her office. The City Council met in special closed session Monday, but came to no agreement about Smalls-Toney’s future employment with the city. The council will meet again next Monday.

            [CHARLOTTE] The former chairman of the Mecklenburg County Commission Board, Trevor Fuller, a Democrat and African-American, has announced that he will seek to unseat first-term North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis in 2020. Fuller is now the second Democrat to announce. Attorney Eva Lee of Raleigh first announced in 2017. Fuller, 52, says Tillis “…refuses to stand up for North Carolinians,” and is too close to Pres. Donald Trump. Fuller is an attorney, and a native of Buffalo, NY.



Monday, January 14, 2019



            [CHAPEL HILL] Originally she was supposed to step down after Spring commencement. But after she ordered the pedestal to the controversial Silent Sam statue removed Monday evening, outgoing UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt will be leaving her post in two weeks. Her unannounced action apparently caught her bosses, the all-Republican UNC Board of Governors by surprise, which voted to end her employment Jan. 31st.. In a statement, Folt – who has been at the helm at UNC – CH since 2013, said the safety of students on campus was her highest priority, and given that the statue (forcibly removed last August and currently held in an undisclosed location) represented white supremacy, she saw no choice.

            [ASHEVILLE] A 51 year-old white male from Black Mountain has been charged with assault on a 12-year-old girl after an altercation Saturday evening outside of an area shopping mall. David Bell, who is said to stand 6” 1’ and 250 lbs, is also charged with two counts of assault on a female after violently striking the black female pre-teen. 
A video of the alleged incident shows Bell in the middle of a group of teenage girls outside one of the mall’s entrances, angrily exchanging barbs. A young black girl approaches Bell yelling at him . He shoves her back hard. She then rushes back, raising he right arm as if to punch him, but before she does, he braces, and punches her with a crushing left closed fist. The girl hits the ground immediately, apparently stunned. An off-duty police officer later arrested Bell. The girl refused medical attention. At least one onlooker said Bell was trying to break up a fight, and stepped in, pushing the teens away. He is scheduled to be in court on Feb. 5th.

            [RALEIGH] The hearing in Wake Superior Court requested by Republican Mark Harris, the candidate in the controversial Ninth Congressional District race that was marred by alleged illegal absentee ballot handling, has been set for Tuesday, Jan. 22ndat 10 a.m. at the Wake County Courthouse in Raleigh. Harris, who unofficially won his race against Democrat Dan McCready, asked for a judge to certify the race when the State Board of Elections twice declined to certified the result. Harris is expected to maintain that as long as the vote count was not affected, the race should be certified.

By Cash Michaels
Staff writer

            Florence Johnson Warren proudly graduated from all-black Williston Senior High School – “The Greatest School Under the Sun” – in 1963, five years before the New Hanover Board of Education vengefully closed it down in retaliation for a federal judge ordering the system to desegregate its high schools.
            Williston Senior High was shuttered, later to be resurrected as a middle school, as it remains today.
            Now, in the wake of news that the school board is considering a proposal to turn Williston Middle School into an arts high school, alums of Williston Senior High, like Ms. Warren – also a former Williston instructor, and Barbara Smith-Walker, class of 1955, say they’ve seen this movie before, and do not like the ending, especially if it does little to help black children achieve the skills necessary to succeed.
            “We are very concerned about this proposal,” Ms. Smith-Walker, a member of the Williston Alumni Association, toldThe Journal. “I object that it should be a school of the arts.”
            “What does that mean, exactly?” she continued. Our students need a curriculum that will give them a job, such as technical studies along with liberal arts courses.”
            Ms. Smith-Walker ended her reaction saying that she hoped to learn more about “…what seems to me to be another railroad tactic.”
            The Williston Alumni Association is already on record, per a letter issued and read at the Jan. 8thNHC School board meeting, as formally opposing the proposal.
Ms. Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the NHC NAACP, is not an alumna of Williston Senior High School, but the idea of transforming it into an arts high school still disturbs her.
Not in favor of this [arts] school personally as it was almost cloak and dagger the way it was thrown at us,” she told The Journal
   In the various forthcoming community meetings and forums that will be held on this controversial proposal, NHC School Board members can expect to hear much of the same, especially from the African-American community, which historically has had its fill with school system leaders politically manipulating the education of black children against their ultimate welfare.
The school system closed Williston Senior High, not only the county’s only black high school, but academically considered one of the finest high schools in the South, in 1968, refusing to bus white students there to keep it open.
In the interim, Williston has served in various capacities, including a ninth-grade center and math and science magnet school, in addition to its current status as a middle school.
Supporters of the arts high school proposal argue that despite those numerous changes, the school has not performed beyond a “D” per state evaluations.
Critics counter that numerous redistricting plans that assigned a large percentage of high poverty students to the school, along with a considerable lack of resources, has mightily contributed to any deficiencies.
In published reports, NHC School Board Vice Chair David Wortman, the originator of the arts high school proposal, says he’s starting an exploratory committee “immediately,” based on survey results that “85 percent” of county parents support the idea of a performing arts high school. Other board members, however, say given the level of community concern, especially in the wake of adoption of the new school redistricting plan last week.
The Williston arts school proposal was discussed, and it was clear that if later adopted, its middle school students currently attending, would be transferred elsewhere.
Why fine arts?” Williston Senior High alumna and former teacher Florence Johnson Warren asked rhetorically. “Normally, when the budget is cut, on any level, fine arts is the first curriculum/project deleted!!  So, if this pattern continues, Williston High School no longer be in existence at all!”
“I ultimately retired while at Williston Middle School,” Ms. Warren continued. “Because of my experiences, I strongly feel this proposal in not geared for the success of all students.”
            “Therefore, one recommendation being offered is a traditional school with a poly-tech focus.  Students would be able to be job ready upon graduation and more likely of getting employment.”
            “Concerns registered:
o  Community involvement should have been initiated before the first announcement about a Fine Arts HS
o  Use 2-3 years to plan, research and implement.  
o  A state of the art, financially sound quality program
o  Have a Plan B
o  The faculty & staff

So we need to implement diversity in the schools.  Why move the black students from Williston?” Warren continued. “Where will they go?  To an existing crowded school?  You, the school board approved the district lines with a certain purpose in mind. Fine Arts School is appealing to what population?”
The school board discussion on the Williston proposal is expected to continue next week.

                                                       REP. BUTTERFIELD
                                                           ATTY . JOYNER

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Even though a new five-member State Board of Elections (SBOE) – appointed by Gov. Cooper – takes over in two weeks on January 31st, and, based on the alleged illegality in the 2018 midterm Ninth Congressional District race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready, is likely to order a new general election race (assuming that four of the five members indeed vote for one), it is pretty certain that the US House of Representatives can, and very well will, have the final say as to who ultimately represents the Ninth in Congress.
            In a letter dated January 11, 2019 from Chairperson Zoe Lofgren of the Congressional Committee on House Administration to Kim Strach, SBOE executive director, Strach is told the U.S. Constitution empowers the U.S. House, “…to be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members.”
            The letter went further to state that constitutionally, the Committee on House Administration has “jurisdiction” over what ultimately happens in the Ninth District race after the state has finished its inquiry, and in fact, may decide to conduct its own inquiry.
            “…[T]he House may become involved in the determination of the rightful claimant to [the Ninth District seat]….,” and may review all of the evidence collected by SBOE investigators. 
            “We are watching very carefully what is happening in North Carolina,” assured Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D – NC-1) says.
            This is key not only because the five-member SBOE may not be able to come to a decision about ordering a new election (with state statute mandating a four -member vote to do so, one of those would have to come from one of the two Republican on the SBOE, and that’s unlikely to happen, say observers), but also because Republican Harris is asking a Superior Court judge to certify his race, despite the investigations, so that he may be seated.
            Harris told the conservative Carolina Journal last week that “…he expects a state court will certify him the winner of the disputed 9th U.S. Congressional District election. He will go to Washington despite what he considers political interference by a Democratic-controlled state elections board to scuttle his victory.”
The state Republican Party wants certification of Harris as the winner as well, saying that any alleged absentee ballot fraud found in Bladen and Robeson counties – two of the districts that make up the Ninth, ultimately did not affect Harris’ 905 vote victory.
            But according to state law, it didn’t have to.
            Under NC General Statute 163-182.13, one of the qualifying reasons for the SBOE to order a new election is the fourth listed – “ irregularities or improprieties occurred to such an extent that they taint the results of the entire election and cast on their fairness.”
            “There is no doubt, but that the election of Mark Harris was tainted by illegal activities committed by those who directed his campaign,” says Irving Joyner, attorney for the Bladen County Improvement Association. “Illegal activities had an impact on the outcome of the congressional race and other races in Bladen, Robeson and Columbus Counties. “
If the SBOE’s three Democrats believe, based on the evidence, that there was enough illegal mishandling of absentee ballots to call the entire Ninth election into question, they’ll most likely push for a new election. The two Republican SBOE members, however, may not agree, and stop any move towards a new election by simply voting “no,” thus setting up a judge to then certify Harris’ victory since the SBOE won’t do it, observers say.
            Rep. Butterfield cautions, however, that “If the process breaks down, then the House always has the prerogative of deciding who is seated in [the Ninth Congressional District seat,” he says. “So the House has the final say.”
            “You would think that Harris, an ordained minister, would not want to be seated in this seat with this cloud of illegality hanging over his head,” says atty. Joyner. “This effort will not go unchallenged either with the State Board of Election, whenever it is seated, or on Capital Hill when he seeks to be sworn in.”


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            The president of the NCNAACP vows that if Pres. Trump re-nominates  Raleigh attorney Thomas Farr to become a federal judge in North Carolina’s Eastern District, that the civil rights group will be right back in the fight to defeat his U.S. Senate confirmation once again.
            Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the NCNAACP, was responding to reports that now, with South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, one of Pres. Trump’s most loyal Republican supporters, now the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, recent published reports say he’s met with the White House recently to over a list of Trump’s judicial nominees who were not taken up by the republican-led Senate for confirmation in the 115thCongress.
            Farr, a former campaign attorney for racial segregationist Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) who is documented to have coordinated a so-called “ballot security” program for the Helms campaign against black Democratic voters in the 1980s and 90s, was nominated by Trump in 2017, and had his nomination voted out by the Senate Judiciary Committee in early 2018, only to have it temporarily shelved before going to the full Senate before the midterms.
            After the November midterms, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell scheduled Farr’s confirmation, only to have a damaging Washington Post piece expose Farr’s role in the Helm’s campaign ballot security scheme exposed, followed by members of the NCNAACP, led by Dr. Spearman, to go to Washington, D.C. and lobby vigorously against it.
            One of the several Republican senators they lobbied was Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate’s only black GOP member. Ultimately it was Scott, along with the outgoing Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who announced they would not vote to confirm Farr, thus crippling Farr’s chances of passage because the GOP slim majority had eroded.
            But Republicans in the Senate did very during the midterms, padding their number to 53 to 47 Democrats, meaning that at least four Republicans would have to buck Farr’s re-nomination in the new Congress.
            Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), strongly supported attorney Farr before, and says he would do it again.
            “We’re looking at it right now,” Tillis told McClatchy [Newspapers] last week.
            That is not something that Dr. Spearman is pleased to hear.
            “In light of recent events, the possibility of Tillis and (NC Sen. Richard) Burr resurrecting Farr's nomination is certainly viable, especially with Graham's urging,” the NCNAACP leader said. “However, this would fly in the face of the only seated African American [Republican] senator [Scott] whose broken silence is speaking powerful truths.” 
“Will the Republicans declare themselves outright racists?” Dr. Spearman continued, asking rhetorically? “If so, the NC NAACP will not stand down. We will stand strong and endure.”
The Eastern Judicial District is where at least 30 percent of North Carolina’s black population resides, yet an African-American judge has never presided over federal court there in its 145-year history.
Dr. Spearman, along with other civil rights leaders, say it would be a mockery to have someone with Attorney Farr’s reported racial history – which includes defending  the NCGOP’s racial gerrymandering and voter ID laws – serve a lifetime appointment to the bench there.