FROM STAFF REPORTS
The Statesville Branch NAACP on Saturday expressed concerns about the Iredell-Statesville Schools Board of Education following news reports that board members have been meeting in secret for more than five months via group text and making “racist” and “hurtful” comments about students.
Branch President Todd Scott, in a statement issued Saturday, encouraged residents to contact the N.C. State Board of Education and State Superintendent of Instruction Catherine Truitt and make them aware of the I-SS Board’s conduct.
“The Statesville Branch NAACP #5454 President and Executive Committee are concerned, frustrated, and have mistrust of the Iredell-Statesville School Board of Education,” Scott said. “Without a doubt, we believe some individuals have violated N.C. School Board policy and made statements both to the public and in group text phone messages that are ‘racist in nature and discriminatory!’ “
Iredell Free News reported earlier this month that the I-SS Board violated North Carolina’s open meetings law more than 30 times by meeting via text message after new board members Mike Kubiniec, Anita Kurn, Brian Sloan and Abby Trent took office in December. Six of the seven board members participated in the text messages; only Charles Kelly refrained.
N.C. law, which makes no distinction between in-person meetings and “electronic meetings,” requires public boards to meet in public to discuss the public’s business.
I-SS Board members have denied any wrongdoing.
In the long string of text messages, which covers 123 pages, board members regularly discussed school district business, including how to fund new school construction, legislative proposals that have the potential to reduce the district’s funding levels, and their views on whether LGBTQ advocates should be allowed in I-SS facilities.
In a discussion about student discipline problems at Statesville High, Kurn and Sloan joked about possible solutions, including teaching students to kickbox and erecting a “Thunderdome” for student fights on the football field. Kurn even joked about charging admission to the fights.
Scott said the comments illustrated the board’s lack of concern for students.
“It is a clear picture, to the Statesville Branch NAACP 5454, that some of you care little for your position, care little for our minority children who come from low poverty and traumatic environments,” Scott said of the board members. “Your statements have created mistrust of your ethical standards to make the right decisions and to lead the Iredell Statesville School System.”
The school board’s actions, Scott said, amount to a breach of generally accepted ethics standards.
The N.C. School Board Association outlines specific expectations of board member in its legislative policy, including a code of ethics and guidelines for board members.
The expectations include:
♦ The need to uphold the integrity and independence of the board member’s office;
♦ The need to avoid impropriety in the exercise of the board member’s official duties; and
♦ The need to conduct the affairs of the governing board in an open and public manner, including complying with all applicable laws governing open meetings and public records.
Furthermore, the board’s policies stress:
♦ The need to endeavor to make policy decisions while always keeping in mind the objective of providing students the opportunity to receive a sound basic education and only after full discussion at publicly held board meetings;
♦ The importance of modeling civility to students, employees, and all elements of the community by encouraging the free expression of opinion by all board members and engaging in respectful dialogue with fellow board members on matters being considered by the board;
♦ That the board refrain from investigating or attempting to resolve complaints received personally, but instead direct the complainant to follow the board’s complaint or grievance process to resolve concerns; and
♦ That the board take no private action that will compromise the board or administration.
Scott said the I-SS Board had failed its students and staff.
“You have made racist, discriminatory remarks and comments!” he said of the board members. “You Got Caught! Might we remind you that is year 2023, not 1953, 1963, nor 1973! Your statements matter. What you say matters!
“You are not the representation of what high ethical standards are, nor do you qualify to be a representation for our North Carolina School Board,” he added.
The NAACP encouraged residents to share their concerns with:
NC State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis
P.O. box 26246, Raleigh, NC 27611
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt
NC Dept. Public Instruction
6301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-6301