Wednesday, July 10, 2019

You be the Judge!

     So the rumor has been confirmed.  It took six months of requesting public information from the Guilford County School System to accomplish what should have taken a day.  Some requests were made more than once.  The law dictating and defining the release of public information was sent to me in an effort to deny a request, only to be returned by me with the specific law high lighted to complete the request.  In the end, it took giving a final deadline to return the information.  Six months; Why?
     During my campaign for election to the Guilford County School Board in 2018, I was informed that two people were being paid as Guilford County School teachers but were not teaching.  In fact, both were working for outside organizations not affiliated with GCS.  As I began to inquire with my sources inside the school system, not once was this information "denied".  In fact, some confirmed it by stating that "the organizations for which they are working are reimbursing the school system for their salaries".  That made no sense to me.  If these organizations can afford to pay their salary, why would we agree to this type of arrangement?  Why were they not working as employees of these organizations?
     Being a member of the North Carolina State Retirement System myself, that answer seemed very obvious to me; benefits and retirement.  Are these organizations reimbursing GCS and more importantly Guilford County and North Carolina State taxpayers for everything?  And even if they are, how do you quantify time in service as a teacher if you are not teaching or even working within the system that is paying you?  In fact, one is not even working inside of Guilford County.  I found this to be incredible.  I also did not believe that there was any way GCS would confirm this information through a public information request but I decided to try.  It was quite the process.
     At first, I was proceeding with my inquiries with the assumption that the current administration and board may not have any knowledge of this because it had been reportedly going on for quite some time, and that the arrangement would predate most every board member and certainly current school staff.  I am now not so sure but I will let you decide.  I apologize for the time line being long.

January 6, 2019.  My initial request for GCS staff roster with current assignments.

January 7, 2019.  Acknowledgement of the request by Connie Mayberry, GCS Media Relations.

January 22 and February 10, 2019.  Follow up emails by me regarding request status.

February 11, 2019.  Response from Wanda Mobley, GCS Director of Communications.

     (This was a roster that omitted the names of the two individuals I was searching for.)

February 11, 2019.  Follow up email regarding two names that had been omitted from the roster.

April 10, 2019.  Follow up email regarding request status.

April 15, 2019.  Response from Mobley that now includes both names with assignment "on loan". 

April 15, 2019.  Follow up requesting names of immediate supervisors for the "on loan" employees.

April 16, 2019.  Response from Mobley stating "supervisor information was not public information"

     As you can see, when Wanda Mobley became involved the process slowed to a crawl.  I am certain by this point she or other administrators may have realized what I was after.  I disagreed with Ms. Mobley's assessment of supervisor information.  However, I decided not to pursue this information (because I knew the answer) and ask for specific information.  I requested both employee's date of employment, last school/teaching position they were assigned to prior to their assignment changing to "on loan" and their yearly salary beginning with the last year assigned to a classroom until their current salary. 
     With no supervisor and not performing in their hired position of "teacher", how were they being evaluated on performance and what criteria was being used to give salary increases?  Who would handle any "complaints" or complete administrative investigations on them if they have no immediate supervisor?  Are they being held to the same requirements and standards as teachers that are actually in a class room teaching?
     On April 29, 2019, Ms. Mobley sent via email a "salary sheet" on both employees with their date of hire but not their date of reassigned status.  Their status had also been changed on these documents to "Leave of Absence".  I found this to be at least "curious".  I requested the reassignment  information yet again on April 30, 2019.  On May 15, 2019, I emailed Ms. Mobley requesting a status update.  Ms. Mobley's response was to deny my request based on North Carolina General Statute 115C-320, which is the statute defining public information.  A copy was provided in an attachment.  Ms. Mobley explained that "the salary sheet meets the requirements of NCGS 115C-320, and that my request for date of reassignment was not public information".
     On May 17, 2019, I again requested this information and highlighted Ms. Mobley's attached law that states in section 9;

     "date and time of each promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation or other change in position classification with that local board of education".

I believe this section perfectly describes the information I was requesting.

June 14, 2019.  Follow up email regarding request status. 

July 2, 2019.  Another follow up with July 15 dead line imposed for Ms. Mobley's response.

     On July 9, 2019, I received the original dates of reassignment from teacher in a classroom to "on loan" I had requested.  Why the mystery?

     The two employees being paid by Guilford County Schools as teachers are Mark Jewell and Todd Warren; the state North Carolina Association of Educators and local Guilford County Association of Educators presidents respectively.  These organizations are 501(c) non profits that are not associated with GCS in any form.  Their representation does not include half of our state teachers.  The local GCAE includes bus drivers and custodians in their membership and only has approximately 350-400  total members.  Both organizations are associated with the National Educators Association.  Unions are not legal in North Carolina but affiliation does occur.  Mr. Jewell and Mr. Warren are running these organizations while being paid as GCS teachers.  As a parent of a current and past student, a former SRO and a supporter of teachers, I find this troubling.  I have no issue with either of these gentlemen heading up these organizations.  My issue is that they are not teaching, do not represent the majority of teachers, are lobbying in many cases against school boards yet are being paid as teachers and obtaining time of service in the teacher's retirement system.  They are not earning those benefits.  Even if GCS is being reimbursed for their salaries by the NCAE and GCAE (and I have seen zero evidence that they are), how are they reimbursing time in service, insurance benefits, tenure, etc?  What monetary value is assigned to these items of benefit that have been designated for teachers?
     For the record according to the information provided by Guilford County Schools, Mark Jewell was employed on July 9, 1997.  He was last assigned to teach in a classroom during the 2003-2004 school year as a 4th grade teacher at Murphy Traditional Academy.  His listed position is teacher as well as his job title.  His current salary is $75,780.00 per year.  He receives a salary increase of $100 per month that became effective on July 1, 2018.  His current office or station currently assigned is now listed "Leave of Absence" after being reported as "On Loan" as recently as April 15, 2019.
     Todd Warren was employed on August 22, 2012.  He was last assigned to a classroom during the 2016-2017 school year as a Spanish teacher at Guilford Elementary.  His listed position is teacher as well as his job title.  His current salary is $58,630.00 per year.  He receives a salary increase of  $615.00 per month that became effective July 1, 2018.  His current office or station is now listed as "Leave of Absence" after being reported as "On Loan" as recently as April 15, 2019.

     Should our tax dollars be spent to pay lobbyists?  And though unions are not legal in North Carolina should we be paying two people as teachers to basically play union chief?  Personally, I'm not in agreement with it but I leave this public information for you to decide for yourselves.  These two individuals now are being credited for a combined 17 years of service toward a state teacher retirement that they were not in the classroom or working within a school system.  Is it fair to our teachers who are experiencing over crowded classrooms, school violence and poor working conditions here in Guilford County for these individuals to receive the same salary and benefits, monthly raises and time in state retirement, yet not be subjected to the same standards, evaluation processes, everyday classroom experiences and administrative, parent and school board scrutiny as teachers who are actually teaching?
     As a parent and tax payer I know my position. What's yours?              
     
     

           


 
                 

5 comments:

  1. Initial response is “what?”.
    How can we hold whom ever was allowing this to happen responsible? This has to be breaking the law and then trying to correct it at the last minute?
    Why is Guilford County not auditioning as you have?

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  2. This information seems to be at least somewhat inaccurate. When I returned to GCS as a classroom teacher after grad school in 2010, Mark Jewell was one of my GCS Right Start instructors. He specifically led a session on classroom management. I still have the documents somewhere, I believe. I think he was employed as an induction coordinator at that point. As a central office employee, he would’ve been paid on the certified salary scale, just like teachers. As far as why take a leave of absence rather than resign a position, that would occur because you must be an educator to be a member of NCAE or an affiliate (at least until recently- they just voted to allow non-educators to join). When on a leave of absence, you must pay for your own benefits, etc. I don’t think this is as nefarious as you may think but I certainly respect your thorough investigation. If only more citizens were active and informed.

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  3. This information is entirely from GCS. The leave of absence status has just recently been added as it was “on loan” as of April 15th. GCAE absolutely includes bus drivers and cafeteria workers in their membership. And as I peruse the 990 tax forms I have on both NCAE and GCAE I see no evidence the tax payers are being “reimbursed”. Thanks for your response.

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  4. Other state and local govt employees are not allowed to simply "buy into" the retirement system without actually working for the govt.

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  5. It appears the state attorney generals fraud division needs this imformation.

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